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Joy and wonderment

Yesterday I did my taxes, today I threw out the Christmas tree. Hey, it’s early for us – we traditionally wait for Candlemas (we’re neither of us Catholic, just super lazy).

This is it. This is the absolute bottom of the year to me. After Christmas and before Valentine’s. Things start to look a little hopeful halfway through February, but now it rolls on day after day, gray and dark and damp.

Happy Burns Night everyone. I shall give the neeps and tatties a miss, the haggis a wide berth and go straight to the whisky.

January 25, 2023 — 7:40 pm
Comments: 9

Can’t talk. Doing taxes.

My taxes aren’t onerous, as you might imagine, but it’s always nerve wracking to interact with government.

I love the chummy “tell us about you.” Oh HMRC, I like barbecue and long walks on the beach. And puppies.

I have actually come to a screeching halt because it asked me for a line item from my P60. I haven’t the faintest fucking idea what a P60 is, but I guess it’s something the accounts people send me. I take pretty good notes every year in self defense and I don’t see any mention of a P60.

I’ve sent payroll a note.

January 24, 2023 — 7:58 pm
Comments: 6

It’s a chickenspiracy!

Okay, here’s one of the stranger conspiracy theories on offer. The woman in the video at the beginning of this thread says she’s been keeping chickens for thirty years and her chickens have never completely stopped laying in Winter. But this year, she didn’t get a single egg after October.

Until she switched from commercial chicken food to a mixture of corn, sunflower seeds and commercial goat food. Now they’re laying again.

But that’s backed up by tweet after tweet down-thread and some reposted Facebook threads saying the same thing. Lots of backyard chicken keepers say their hens stopped laying in September/October this year while eating commercial layers pellets. Not enough protein, some speculate.

A few years ago, one of our neighbors gave up keeping a few pigs for market. The government had mandated that commercial pigs be raised on commercial pig food. No more kitchen scraps. That was a red flag for me at the time, because it meant the government effectively controlled the price of pork.

It didn’t occur to me it also gave them an avenue to put something in the feed and hence the food supply. You know, tell the manufacturers that thus an such a chemical was a required de-wormer. Like something to make pork taste less awesome, or statins or a vaccine or an anti-fertility drug.

Okay, okay…I’m getting carried away. But who puts anything past the bastards now?

My chickens? My fancy little hens never lay from October to March, though they did stop earlier then usual this year. I’d be surprised if the conspiracy hopped the pond and contaminated a good old British brand like Marriages.

January 23, 2023 — 8:14 pm
Comments: 9

Lookit the tree!

The Majesty Oak in nearby Kent. It is the oldest maiden oak in Britain – meaning it has never been pollarded – but as huge old oaks go, it isn’t that old. 500-700 years. It’s plenty huge, though.

I know, I know…Lavendergirl had Lisa Marie in the Dead Pool. Oooo…this is a tight one. Lisa Marie was taken to the hospital alive Thursday morning and was pronounced dead later. The timestamp of the pick is 10:45. I heard about the death just before I went to bed. I usually go to bed at 10:30, so I’m going to say the death announcement preceded the pick by minutes. So it’s a no.

However, I will give Lavendergirl the benefit of the doubt that she hadn’t heard it yet. Also, valiant effort.

Finally, I give to you a gift: a thing I learned on the Tweeter today. When you are typing text on your phone, you can slide your finger along the spacebar to move the cursor back and forth. Yes, I tried it. Yes, it works. Oh, the time I’ve wasted trying to plop my cursor in the exact spot to fix a typo!

Have a good weekend!

January 13, 2023 — 8:21 pm
Comments: 5

“Oh shit – I haven’t posted!”

My exact words to Uncle B just now. A Google Images search of “oh shit I haven’t posted” calls up, among other things, this hilarious ancient meme.

Oh, well. Wednesdays are my day off. Nothing happened. I cleaned out the vegetable crisper drawer on the fridge and got rid of all the pre-Christmas vegetables I didn’t eat. Wondered how you can tell if a parsnip is really off.

Oh, and my dreams of a nautical life are crushed. Uncle B said that boat probably doesn’t have a motor.

And I’m like – “at all? How does it move around?”

And he’s like – “it doesn’t.”

And I’m like – “wait, you just sit around tied to the dock? What’s the fun in that?”

And he’s like – “oh, yeah – it’s great.”

It doesn’t sound great. It sounds stupid. But then, I have to admit, that thing doesn’t really look seaworthy, does it? And there weren’t any pictures of a wheel or an engine or anything. I’ll be damned.

January 11, 2023 — 8:01 pm
Comments: 9

Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A Pirate’s Life for Me!

Uncle B sent me this real estate listing today:

Property description

This remarkable houseboat has been recently commissioned and has never been occupied since her rebuild.

*** She is prohibited from Air Bnb use ***

The structure is based on a 40ft Bourne hull and has two floors with access from the stern into a stylish galley. This is really more of a kitchen/diner – 10ft x 8ft 6in – featuring four burner cooker, refrigerator, stainless steel sink and splash backs and loads of storage space.

Have a look. It’s adorable.

I must say, it’s very appealing, but I grew up a thousand miles from the sea and that old moving water scares me.

When I was a child, we had a good-sized houseboat on the Tennessee River. We spent many sunny days fishing and swimming and zooming up and down the river. It was a wonderful thing.

Then one day – when my mother badly needed the insurance money – it sank. She swore blind she didn’t do it. But it gave me the willies, thinking of a happy, familiar place under thirty feet of cold dark water.

Still gives me the willies. I hate dark water.

January 10, 2023 — 7:52 pm
Comments: 6

Zoom and enhance…

I found it – my old gym. There’s no doubt about it, looking at Google Street View, though it appears to have been a Chinese restaurant in 2019 when the Google van drove down Branch Avenue. I think I remember that Chinese restaurant being there, so the gym was next door (offtopic trivia: did you know the house Queen Elizabeth II was born in is now a Chinese restaurant?).

The Wikipedia article on the neighborhood is illustrated with the picture above, taken in 2014, and you can clearly see Gameday Fitness on the fence (obligatory link to the Wikimedia entry for the photo). I think that’s a different name, but still a gym.

But how on earth did I not remember it was in a historic building? Wanskuck Mills, built in 1862. In the 1880’s, the company spent $20,000 to install electric lights – the first mill to have it.

In my defense, I was only ever there before or after work – in other words, in the dark – and the gym was in what I think was a later addition. It was always apartments above, I think.

In 2015, the feds found 1,400 marijuana plants spread over seven apartments and put the building owner William Ricci in jail for this and other crimes.

But wait! There’s more! Digging behind the mill in 2017, the FBI found the body of Steven A. DiSarro, manager of the Channel nightclub in South Boston, who had been missing since 1993. In 2018 mob boss “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was convicted of the killing. He died last month in prison, age of 89.

I don’t suppose those names mean much to you, but they resonate. Howie Carr (who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston mob) was always going on about them. Providence was rumored to be the biggest mafia stronghold in the States (yes, little Providence).

And that’s the story of Weasel’s gym. I kept missing it because I hooked a left on Charles Street. Should have been Branch Avenue.

January 9, 2023 — 7:58 pm
Comments: 3

It was around here somewhere

Well. The thing I was looking for in Providence yesterday was my old gym. I want to tell a story about it.

I started to put on weight in my thirties. This panicked me, so I looked around for a gym. I found one nearby, not very expensive, so I joined.

It was a kind of grubby gym. All the machines were in good working order, but the upholstery was patched with duct tape. That kind of grubby. They had the full range of equipment, but not too many machines – you sometimes had to wait a few minutes for the one you wanted.

And it was dead serious. Everyone was there to do work. Everyone kept himself to himself – mostly men, but there were some women.

I remember one very old lady, bowed over with age, who came in on the regular. She used to get on the stair stepper and murder that thing. I mean, she’d go at it for half an hour. I’ve never gotten over it. I couldn’t do five minutes.

There was a trainer to show me the proper form for any machines I wanted to use and then leave me to it. I felt invisible.

I loved it. I went faithfully several mornings a week for, maybe a year?

One day I got there and they had walled off a space in the back of the gym as a woman’s area. There was a subset of brand new machines in there. Upon my honor, the upholstery was pink!

I was horrified. I wanted to use the old, familiar machines. But if I did, I’d be taking them away from the men. But if I used the women’s machines, they’d think I supported the whole idea.

I stopped going. Then I quit. I probably should have told them why, but I didn’t. If there’s a motto to the story, you’ll have to work it out for yourself.

I’m still looking for it on the map.

January 5, 2023 — 8:43 pm
Comments: 5


I was trying to find a particular shop in my old neighborhood, which I did by driving around Providence using Google Street View.

Do you ever do this? It’s a lot of fun. (It’s even more fun in Google Earth VR, but I didn’t bother).

So I get to this bridge near my house and it’s blocked at both ends by concrete barrier. From the look of it here – all grown up – it’s been there a while. (In point of fact, it was put up in 2017 and this shot was taken in 2019. I got that from date stamps on the images).

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today reopened the Hawkins Street Bridge in Providence, which was completely replaced. The bridge had been closed since October 2017 after the results of an inspection found that the bridge was so badly deteriorated it could not remain open to traffic.

Eep! I drove over that thing at least twice a day on my daily commute. I hate to think the route I would’ve had to take with it closed – though I suppose it would’ve been preferable to driving over a collapsing bridge. That’s a highway below.

Never found the shop I was looking for, but the old neighborhood is looking sad. The really excellent Italian deli appears to be a generic food mart now and next to it is a mosque that looks like a gymnasium

Truly, you can’t go home again.

January 4, 2023 — 8:16 pm
Comments: 10


First day back to work and I filled and filed yet another grant application. That makes four, of which three successful so far.

I do not like this process. I do not like the language, I do not like the angle (“which ethnic groups will your project benefit?”). Above all, I do not like that there are pools of (nearly always taxpayer) money sloshing around for opportunists (like me!) to grasp at.

We don’t need the money. But if not us, some other grubby parasite will get it. Grants like this seldom trickle down to fill a genuine need in society.

Speaking of, I once read a book about parasites and nearly lost the will to live. You can get a taste of it from this string of Tweets by the author, Carl Zimmer.

The image is an Ophiocordyceps, taken from this NYT article by Zimmer with the charming headline, “After This Fungus Turns Ants Into Zombies, Their Bodies Explode.”

Sweet dreams!

January 3, 2023 — 7:41 pm
Comments: 10