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Don’t forget…

Photo nicked from this EarthSky.org schedule of 2013 meteor showers. Photographer: Jason Gunders, Queensland, Australia.

This weekend, the Perseid meteor showers peak. The best days should be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday after midnight.

The Perseids are everyone’s favorite, because they’re a very good shower and they happen in August. So, no freezing your ass off to see the purty shootin’ stars.

Of course, even the very best meteor showers, you can stare at the sky a long time before you see one. It’s not like a roman candle, for goodness sakes, so take plenty of patience-enhancing alcohol along!

Good weekend, everybody!

August 9, 2013 — 10:28 pm
Comments: 30

Where the jam sammiches at?

Well, well…lookee what turned up in my front yard last night.

We’ve caught glimpses — or imagined we’ve caught glimpses — of badgers before, but this is the first one to turn up on the naturecam. And a big fat boy he was, too.

After a cooler than normal Summer, we’ve just had a few days of blazing heat. Well, blazing heat for England. And they call it Indian Summer too, poor dears, without knowing why (they think it has something to do with the Raj).

But last night the spell broke, and the world remembered it’s October, the wind shifted, the cold blew in and — voilà — badger in the garden. There’s a sett about three quarters of a mile from here, but if he’s a bachelor, he may be setting up housekeeping nearby.

Oh, that’ll do wonders for Uncle B’s pansies.

October 4, 2011 — 9:20 pm
Comments: 15

Note to self: don’t piss off Farmer Brown

deadfox

Okay, I’m no Marlin Perkins, but I’m pretty sure that there’s a fox. And I’m damn sure it’s dead. And I do not believe foxes habitually climb trees to die, ergo…the French must have perfected the foxapult at last.

Kidding!

We drove over to see Farmer Brown (not his real name) this afternoon. Mrs Farmer Brown, actually. Very important people ’round these parts (we invited them to our wedding on the general principle of suckuppery). As we turned into the lane, we saw this jaunty fellow smiling at us from the hedge. I didn’t ask, but I would guess the country folk regard corpse-festooning as a deterrent to others.

Between you and me, I doubt it has the slightest effect on fox behavior. Makes the farmer feel better, at most. If the gibbet didn’t work on people, with our honking huge fearful brains, what is this supposed to do for Mister Sneakyboots McCleverpants?

Our local town still has a cage gibbet, by the way. And a pillory. Neither has been used in a couple of centuries, but there’s a piece of the last guy still stuck in the gibbet. I think you have to make an appointment to see it. I don’t know. It’s busy, I guess.

March 31, 2009 — 7:46 pm
Comments: 24

Moss!

mosses

I love moss. Flop down beside a trail anywhere (a thing I do often) and you’re sure to find a clump of moss. Which, on closer examination, is doing something spectacular. But really, really small.

The Audubon Society in New England is famous for building boardwalks all over their properties, so you can hike right out onto landscapes you couldn’t possibly reach on foot otherwise. Like great heaving waist-high landscapes of rolling primordial moss and fern, as far as the eye can see. Positively prehistorical. I loved those things. I would sit there for hours. It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit if a brontosaurus had come galumphing down the boardwalk.

I spent the nicer days last week relaying the low unmortared brick wall around the garden that had been knocked about when the new shit farm was installed. Some of those bricks have fine mosses on them. Fine mosses.

And I got to thinking how much I’d like to encourage mosses to grow in all the moss-appropriate places on Badger House. And I got to thinking how I’ve moved to the wettest, geekiest, gardeningest island on the whole planet (with the possible exception of Japan). So I wasn’t at all surprised Google turned up the British Bryological Society.

Mosses are simple souls, I gather. Keep them wet and keep them acid and they will…thrive, you hope. They are also unpredictable.

Anyhow, Project Moss is going to be fun! It’s sort of uncharted territory. Groups like the BBS are more about finding and identifying mosses in the wild. The few definitive books, like Fletcher‘s, are about keeping field-collected specimens alive in pots. Making existing mosses flourish with gay abandon is going to require original science.

Weasel science!

February 24, 2009 — 6:59 pm
Comments: 17

Nature is so freaking relaxing

mount tom

These things always look so easily do-able on the trail map. A short, sharp climb from the car and then a gentle meander along the ridge-top to Mount Tom.

Hahaha. Idiot.

It was an evil mile and a half of basalt towers, crumbly shale and thousand-foot plunges. This section of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail runs right along the Western edge of this huge pile of rock to Mount Tom. I’m mildly acrophobic (my hiking buddy is slightly more so, lucky for me or I might have been dared into something stupid).

There were parts of the trail we both blinked at in stunned disbelief, while clinging each to a tree twenty feet away. One memorable section was a rock three feet long and eighteen inches wide on which half of the white paint blaze had crumbled away and fallen into the abyss. I did some bits on my hands and knees, and some bits on my butt and a lot of it nowhere near the official trail markers.

None of my pictures show the full horror, as I was generally yards inland, clinging to something and making low moaning noises, so I stole a more representative picture from somebody else (and I didn’t even have the grace to note who I stole it from). I mean, c’mon…this is a trail?

So we got all the way down to the toe and suddenly realized it had taken us three and a half hours to get where we were, there was an hour and a half before dusk and the closing of the gates, and there was no way on God’s crumbly basalt earth we had the stamina to turn around and go back the way we came. In the dark. With a pocket flashlight.

I voted we go West, to the foot of the hill. There was a paved forest road at the bottom that would make an easy walk back to the car in plenty of time. I mean, sure, it was 1,200 feet down, but I felt certain we could find a tree-line spot where we could safely butt-surf to the bottom.

But no. We went down the gentler slope East and landed on the main road several miles from the car, half an hour before gate-closing. We didn’t exactly hitch-hike, but we found a man walking in the woods with several children and made with the doe-eyes until he gave us a ride to the car.

And that was the stupidest day hike I have ever done. The end.

November 3, 2008 — 10:35 am
Comments: 22

Is it chilly in here, or is it just me?

(Just in case there are any of you that don’t read Ace’s), don’t miss this Aussie scientist discussing climate change via YouTube. I’ve only watched part one this morning, and dude has already convinced me we’re headed into the next ice age.

Brrrr…somebody throw another environmentalist on the fire…!

November 6, 2007 — 7:17 am
Comments: 9

B-b-birthday b-b-b-banjo

Happy Weaselfest! I nominated today, first sunny day of the trip, as my pretend birthday.

In the morning we walked through town and picked up some shopping (Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top on sale! How’s that for coinkydink?) and visited Mr Whippy. Because I’ve been very, very naughty. And it’s my pretend birthday.

Then we drove out to the country and had a walk along a public footpath. The whole island is criss-crossed with these footpaths. They’re ancient, traditional rights of way for foot (and sometimes horse or vehicle) traffic. The libertarian in me is horrified that landowners have to put up with — and maintain! — a network of paths across private property to accomodate a steady stream of trespassers. The bunny hugger in me considers them a national treasure. Even if I did put my hand in a stinging nettle.

mrwhippy.jpgIf ever you visit this country, make sure you somehow wangle a drive away from town. The Brits have done a remarkable job not crapping up their countryside. It’s a lush green sheep-encrusted rolling treefest, especially in May, punctuated with 11th Century pubs and shepherd’s huts and thatched cottages and ruined castles. I’m pretty sure they got the Disney guys in for the preliminary design.

Then it was back home for the traditional Showering of Gifts. I got such a lot of excellent loot this year; the surprise hit was this sporty little traveling banjo. Now everywhere I go, I can carry with me the beautiful, evocative sound of tomcats flossing their anuses with razor wire. Why anybody would voluntarily hand me this loaded weapon, I do not know. Mr Whippy could probably tell you.

Then it was out to my favorite restaurant and home to a nice brew and…I’m pretty sure I’ll fall down the something and break my something later. This is just way too good.

May 18, 2007 — 7:35 pm
Comments: 16

http://www.carboncreditkillers.com/

The commenter Entropy posted this OT gem in a thread over at Ace’s, and it totally deserves a thread of its own, so here goes. Looks like they’ve registered both CarbonDeductions.com and CarbonCreditKillers.com. Wouldn’t want anyone horning in on the lucrative carbon credit nullifying market, I reckon.

Why We Do It

The reason we sell Carbon Debits is simple – we want to take away the pathetic excuse of Carbon Credits from those liberals who hide their shame filled lives behind money-bought lunacy. Carbon Credits are simply a way for the rich (Al Gore) to continue to hypocritically live lives that look nothing like what they try to enforce on everyone else in society. We want to take away those excuses.

Our goal is to completely wipe out every Carbon Credit ever bought by selling their nullifying opposite – the Carbon Debit. The guilt and shame that caused people to buy Carbon Credits in the first place will be placed back on them as we let them know that their actions caused us to nullify their credits. They are the cause of us killing trees; they need to face up to their guilt.

This message is important for one reason – Far Left Liberals are lunatics that operate solely on shame of themselves, their success, their country, and their wealth. It is time to expose their ideas and self-defeating idiocy – and selling Carbon Debits is the best way to do that.

 

Oh, man. I’m in.

May 11, 2007 — 7:03 am
Comments: 2

One discarded shell at a time

onatatime.gif

I was feeling pretty out of sorts Saturday, until a friend called and asked this happy question:

“Want to go explore an abandoned Victorian insane asylum crematorium?”

And I go, “this isn’t like that abandoned military installation, where Security drives up and down in a white van looking for us, and we have to keep flopping down in the bramble bushes when they pass? Because that right there sucked pretty hard. I’ve still got scars.”

“Oh, nonono. This one’s along public nature trail and everything.” It is, too. That’s a little brain-hurty.

The Westboro Insane Hospital was built in the late 19th C as a homœopathic mental hospital: Beds, 1,235. Number of patients treated during last fiscal year, 1,855. Death rate, 6.5%. Most state hospitals had cemeteries on the grounds, plain and sad as they were. Westboro didn’t. This old American Journal of Psychiatry report on the condition of Westboro’s lunatic brains at autopsy makes me think the place indulged in another common practice: using the unclaimed bodies of inmates for medical research. In fact, the grand house on the grounds that I assumed belonged to the director was, in fact, the pathology lab and library. Afterwards, the empty husks were fed into the apparatus pictured above. Where the ash went is anybody’s guess.

Saturday was a hot, sunny day. At last. (Global warming has really let us down this Spring). A top-down-on-the-Weaselmobile kind of day. I think I was fighting some kind of bug. I felt all floaty and disconnected, like my head was drifting around all by itself, tethered to the rest of me by a long, colorful ribbon. Not an entirely inappropriate state for the day at hand.

It was about a thirty mile drive.

Parts of the complex are still in use as psychiatric facilities. Other buildings are boarded up. Typical 19th Century Dickensian madhouse architecture: half fru-fru gingerbread charm, half nightmares and leather restraints. There didn’t seem to be any outside security or gatekeeping at all. The parking lot was fullish, and something about it gave me a sudden wave of the creeps.Then I realized the cars were in a variety of colors, but every one was the identical make and model. Ah. State-owned fleet, then.

The road to the trailhead went down and around and ended at the shore of the pond. Sure enough, there were boats in the pond and civilian cars in the dirt lot and proper Department of Environmental Management trail markers nailed to trees around the water. It must have been — probably still is — land belonging to the hospital. Facilities of that kind were once self-contained communities, with farmland and woodland and industrial areas. It seemed an odd place to deliberately draw the public.

Beautiful forest, though. Lots of big, spooky, gnarly old-growth trees. The path we wanted was a smaller side path off the main path, a half mile away and on the opposite side of the pond from the hospital, but still a proper, marked public footpath. I suppose the idea was to isolate this outbuilding as far away as possible, but it must have been an eerie trip driving that particular cargo.

We came upon a slab of cement flush to the ground — maybe twelve feet by sixteen — with two manhole covers set in it and a bit of old wire around the perimeter. That, as it turns out, was the roof. Beside it, a ramp with a rail (all the better to steer your gurney, my dear) led down into the earth. Hang a left at the bottom. We stared into the dark for a minute without quite grasping what we were looking at.

“Ohhhh…it’s an oven, see? Just big enough for one person. No coffin or anything, I suppose. And there below it is the hole where you’d rake out the ashes.”

“Jesus.”

It was a small room with a puzzling arrangement of ducts and piping. There was open space behind the oven, and I wanted to work my way behind it, but I hadn’t worn my proper heavy boots and we didn’t bring a good flashlight. The floor was covered in broken glass and old bricks and about six inches of filthy water.

The small room directly ahead at the foot of the ramp was puzzling. There were curious openings to the sky, and trees growing up through them. It looked as though it had been half filled with dirt at some point. There were a couple of chunks of an old terra cotta tiled floor leaning against piles of bricks and rusted pipes and grates and other rubbish.

At the far end, bricks had been loosely placed in the dirt to form a small flat surface. On top of this, a few dozen bottles. Not the usual smashed whiskey bottles you find in the woods, but medical vials of various sizes. No labels. One in particular looked old and slightly melted. There were a number of microscopy slides, unbroken. One pair had a wad of human head hair pressed between them. Not a properly prepared specimen; a loose hunk of hair.

Dead people don’t need medicine. What were these doing here? I guess they must have used this furnace to burn medical waste, too. We met a dozen dog walkers and joggers on the path; why were these old things still here, lying in plain view while the world passes the door every day and the room around them falls to bits?

All in all, as urban explorations go, a small, sad adventure. Sadder still: we saw no the real live inmates out in the sun today.

Tomorrow: something really spooky. (If I get time. Going to be a real tight sphincter of a Monday for Weasel).


Further reading. Every morning, I wake up grateful to be alive in an era when such a thing as the Abandoned Asylum Web Ring could exist. All of those links are worth a click. Opacity.us has some good shots from inside old hospitals. So does Abandoned Places. A Google search of “urban exploration” pulls up more fantastic stuff than you can shake an Instamatic at, but in particular I’ve been having fun exploring Sleepy City lately. These guys go to cool places and take excellent pictures.

April 23, 2007 — 7:35 am
Comments: 9

Gaia stole my new tripod!

See, on Saturday, Weasel really does go for a little tramp in the woods. This is made possible by a hand-held GPS device — I own the same make and model those British sailors apparently had, but let’s not talk about that or I’m going to want to nuke somethin’ — without which I can get lost on the way to the little stoat’s room.

Mine is set to record a ‘bread-crumb’ trail as I hike. I usually upload this and superimpose my path over Google Earth when I get home, to scope out what the hell just happened to me. So it is that I can tell you right when Gaia hooked her sticky fingers in my pack and stole my brand new tripod on its first outing.

I know where I stopped to take a picture of my butt in the woods, like I promised you guys (I erased it. Only thing worse than a picture of one’s butt in the woods is an unflattering picture of one’s butt in the woods). I jammed the tripod in one of the water-bottle pockets of my pack after that.

The gaps are where I spread my stoaty wings and flapped serenely into the warm upcurrents of a Spring morning. Or maybe where the GPS lost signal. Lousy signal day, this. That angry knot at the top is where I left the path and attempted to bushwhack across to another path. It isn’t marked “swamp” on the topo. But it is one.

Have you ever hiked swamp? Uff. Little humps of soggy sphagnum moss, each with a sickly tree in the middle, separated in the winter by ice, in the summer by stinky puddles, and in the spring (what it is now) by puddles of stinky ice. Navigation is by island hopping, judging distances and leaping from one quivering, insecure hummock to another, clutching at trees that won’t take your weight and landing on solid ground that isn’t and won’t, either. Rot-nourished scrub everywhere, grabbing your jeans, pulling off your hat, tearing at your pack.

My pack…

Somewhere in that vile soup an innocent-looking young rhododendron shoot wrapped a tendril around my gorillapod and nicked it. I started to re-trace my steps, but my heart wasn’t in it. I felt like I had just had an all-body floss with a blackberry bush. Stupid, spiteful nature.

Want a free tripod? Go to N41.93488, W71.75488. Wear good boots.

Mobbed by tits

On my way back to the car, a little bird landed on a branch right at my elbow. I stopped and stared at him. Another, identical bird landed next to him. I lifted my camera slowly, and two more landed on the ground to my left.

Soon, six or eight of them had gathered. I stood still, and they hopped and twittered all around me. I suppose it might have been some kind of territorial aggression, but it didn’t look it. It looked like plain old curiosity. Or the sheer pleasure of being a gang of small birds in the woods.

So, what is this? A tit? A chickadee? I swear I’m not asking so I can keep saying “tit.”

April 2, 2007 — 11:41 am
Comments: 12