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A message from Weasel’s liver: I’m okay. Really.

My mother used to say, “all I have to do is tell you not to put molasses on the cat, and they next thing I know, you’ll be putting molasses on the cat.” Then, really, the best thing she could do was stop telling me not to, don’t you think? Sticky, sticky cats. So in honor of this thread at Ace’s — the one about how people who blog their personal lives are rewarded with very low traffic — I’m going to tell you about my trip to the doctor.

It’s annual physical time. Yes, that glorious day of the year when my middle-aged nakedness is examined up close and in detail by a stranger with boundary issues. My doctor is an elderly Jewish man. That was quite deliberate on my part. I couldn’t bear to have some young smartass sticking shiny chrome instruments where metal objects Do Not Belong and hectoring me to eat more green leafies. (And the Jew part? Smart enough to run the world, smart enough to manage my hypertension. ‘Nuff said).

It looks like my strategy of living on vodka and cocktail shrimp is paying off. My good cholesterol is now so freakishly high, he’s pretty sure my heart is incapable of stopping. After I blow the brain aneurism, they’re going to have to cut my heart out and whack it with a broom to calm it down a little.

We’ve got a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about alcohol. At least, as long as my liver numbers are good. And my liver numbers are excellent, thankyouverymuch. In fact, ALL my numbers are smack in the middle of the dial. I ran right out and had a roast beef and cheese sub with sweet potato fries.

What I’m going to do when old Doc Jew retires and I have to see some impertinent puppy who doesn’t know the difference between a physician and a celebrity lifestyle coach, I do not know. Whip out the Mighty Heart of Weasel and smack him with it, I suppose.

There. Because it doesn’t matter what anybody says, I know you care.

February 28, 2007 — 5:38 pm
Comments: 8

The very first smack riff, maybe

Everybody knows guitar heroes and smack habits go together like peanut butter and Elvis, but did you know the very first smack riff may have been for banjo?

Soldier’s Joy is a banjo tune of the Civil War era. I remember it from childhood (Soldier’s Joy, not the Civil War. Jesus). I always thought the tune sad and sweet; like being inside a music box. One (unconfirmed) explanation for the title is that “Soldier’s Joy” is morphine — first used in this war. That would make Soldier’s Joy…yes. Exactly.

Here’s a nice drop-thumb version of the tune Google found for me several years ago. The banjoist is Donald Zepp. I’ve just reGoogled and found that Zepp has a MySpace page with this and a few other tunes.


You can thank Enas Yorl for this. Thank him good and hard.

Bonus: here’s a clip of it the way I remember it. This is from the album The Three Pickers (that would be Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs).


Does anybody know how long a clip you can publish and still be covered under “fair use”? I kept this under 30 seconds to be on the safe side, but I’d like to know the real, official answer.

February 27, 2007 — 6:54 pm
Comments: 12

Brass Knuckles

I hate jazz. I mean, jazz of the squeak-blatt-toot variety. I know that makes me Mayor McCheese of Squaresville, but I always felt like jazz was an inside joke and I was definitely not inside. It’s all smack and sunglasses and a smug sense of its own coolness.

But somehow I love ragtime, jazz’s crazy grampa in the attic. Ragtime is a joke, too, but I’m in on it. It’s wild, exhuberant bullshit; it’s showy and silly and just this side of stupid. It’s whorehouse piano — poor old Scott Joplin hisself died of syphilis.

My very favorite ragtime piano tune is by two moderns, William Albright and William Bolcom. Yes, this is self-conscious smarty-pants clever-boots well-nigh-atonal modern crap and I ought to hate it, but I don’t. It’s one of those rare pieces of music I’d give a non-vital body-part to be able to play, and then I’d waste my life playing it all day.

Okay, I know what you’re going to think: “You’ve got to be shitting me, Weasel! This is complete crap. He’s just mashing keys there at the beginning, and then it goes downhill.” Well, yes, but give it a chance. Clinical psychosis is the charm of this piece.

The tune is all over the place, the timing is all over the place, but it holds itself together just well enough to keep you listening. Anxious, but listening. It goes haywire and, right before you click it off in disgust, it turns sweet. Drift along on the sweetness of it, and suddenly it’s in your shower waving a knife around.

It’s like bringing home that new person you’ve been dating for dinner with the folks. You know, that new person with Tourette’s Syndrome. Or listening to a very important speech delivered by George Bush. Or being called upon unexpectedly in a meeting, when you were all hungover and daydreaming. You close your eyes, whisper the please-keep-it-together prayer and hope for the best.

Behold! Brass Knuckles:

Dear Music Industry Goons: this is a completely illegal music ripoff, but I tried. Really I did. I bought this thing over twenty years ago. I don’t remember the name of the album. I don’t remember the name of the artist. I think it might have been from a label called “American Heritage” — or something like that. It was one of the few pieces of music I bothered to digitize off cassette (hence the dubious sound quality in spots), and even that was many years ago. I did a diligent Google search for “ragtime” and “brass knuckles” and “American Heritage” (in the course of which I found — and bought — a couple other albums with Brass Knuckles on, so you got a piece of me). This particular recording is nowhere to be found. I would happily have given credit (and excerpt and link). So before you cart me away to the hoosgow, would you at least tell me where this comes from? I want to buy the CD.

— 9:06 am
Comments: 7

Damien sez: more global warming, please


February 26, 2007 — 5:06 pm
Comments: 2

Shall we play a game?

I read a lot of True Crime. The first thing I do when I pick up a TC title is page to the middle and look at the pictures. Then, not knowing anything about the story, I play a game I call “Victim, Perp or Copper?” You know, look at the faces, not the captions, and see if I can tell who’s who in the melodrama.

Most murders involve lowlifes who kill other lowlifes, but those don’t tend to have books written about them. Unless it’s a serial killer of the hooker-slaying variety. So, you know, just because the picture is a mugshot, doesn’t mean it’s not a victim.

It’s axiomatic that murderers don’t look like the monsters they are, but it ain’t necessarily so. Some murderers do us all a favor and look explicitly batshit insane.

“Is the man you saw in this lineup?”

“Yes, sir. That’s the man. The hunchback with the pentagram tattoo. The one singing ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ while driving a salad fork into his temple. I never forget a piece of silverware.”

White collar mayhem is a little harder to pin down. Nice people keep their batshit crazy on the inside.

The three people pictured here are all Britons. Brits have a very low murder rate, but they make up for it in quality. British murders are either very twisted or weirdly pointless (well, not today — it’s mostly drug dealers shooting it out these days).

So, let’s play a short round of “Victim, Perp or Copper,” shall we? These three people are from three different incidents. I flipped through Ye Giante Booke of Murther and picked three that (as you may have guessed) look nothing like what they are.

When you’ve made up your mind who’s who, click on each picture to find the answer.

Hm. Okay. This one works in Opera and IE, but not Firefox. Also, it looks like the code change I made to the Milkworld post causes FF to lose its shit completely from there on down. The logs tell me a surprising amount of traffic is using Safari. Is that Mac? Linux? Is it working in that? When you click a picture, does it change? Testing the script is kind of what I’m up to here. It’s a javascript. Perhaps I should stick to PHP.

— 6:31 am
Comments: 11

What did YOU do at the office today?

I built this thing. It’s not the only thing I did today, but it’s the only thing I did today that made me go “eee!” It’s a ripple displacement. I’ve never done one with this software before. “eee!” (If it’s making you nuts, right click and uncheck “play”).

This would be an intermediate step in most 3D animation, this slightly off-white, textureless place. I call it Milkworld. A lot of the things I build never make it out of Milkworld; I’m usually called upon to explain stuff rather than re-create a photorealistic scene.

I’d like to live in Milkworld — it’s very soothing here — but I’m such a slob, I’d probably get some color on it.

Have a good weekend. I’m going someplace with my new camera. “eee!”

Update: Huh. Doesn’t work in Opera or Firefox. Just IE. That’s odd because Damien’s Jaunty Balls works fine.

Update II: There. Don’t know what was wrong, but I fixed it by paring the embed code down to the minimum. Of course, now you can’t right click and uncheck “play” — you have to watch it loop. Bwahahaha! Wait! What? Close this window…? Nooooo!

February 23, 2007 — 2:21 pm
Comments: 8

It’s here!

I’ve been agonizing about a new digital camera ever since mine started to go screwy a year ago. So far, I’ve bought good quality point-and-shoot cameras, and I’ve been happy. But I use a camera enough to merit something better. I’ve been teetering between high-end point-and-shoot and low-end digital SLR (even if I could scrape up the money for a high-end DSLR, I’d be scared to use it). Here’s what it came down to:

Sony Cybershot DSC-H5. Somebody at work just bought one of these. It’s slick. It’s a high-end point-and-shoot, so you can compose with the LCD (only one digital SLR will do that — I love to shoot using the LCD, not the viewfinder). Plus, it’s got a 12X optical zoom Zeiss lens with image stabilizing. Plus, it takes regular old AA batteries, which is sweet. Downside? Sony. They make beautiful stuff, but they abandon product lines, leaving you stranded. My poor Clié was traumatized when they bailed on the PDA market.

Olympus Evolt. Low end DSLR. The newer versions support composing on the CRT. Also, they sell it bundled with a wide lens and a long lens, so you’d be all done buying gear. All my early digital cameras were Olympi, and they make splendid optics. Downside? All my Olympi eventually broke on me, so I think their stuff is delicate. And a complete kit it may be, but at getting on for $700, it’s a little more scratch than I want to fork out.

Some flavor of Canon. In the days of film, it was Canon for me. My A1 was a dinged-up, ruggedized thing of Road Warriorific beauty. They’re certainly a major (maybe THE major) player in the digital market. It’s what they’re using at work right now. But…I dunno. My last point-and-shoot (the screwy one) was a Canon, and defective from the get-go. To be fair, I know someone else who got brilliant pictures out of the same model, but I didn’t and I’m inclined to be grouchy about it.

So I went for the Nikon D40. Not because I had any blinding insight, but because I missed a shot last weekend on account of my duff camera, and I thought, “Shit! Get off the pot! Choose now!”

This one has gotten great reviews. It’s Nikon’s newest, and its most entry-level. The image quality (everyone says) is equal to better models, but with some of the (so complicated I would undoubtedly never use them) bells and whistles stripped away. Around $550.

It’s beautiful to hold. Much smaller and lighter than any of the other SLRs I tried (which relieves me of one worry — that I’d so hate lugging around all that camera, I wouldn’t). All the controls are in easy reach of the index and thumb of the right hand — I started to feel at home within minutes. Big, clear LCD (even if I can’t compose with it), and a great menu system (I’m allergic to product manuals, so this is a must).

I haven’t had much chance to shoot with it yet, but I think I did the right thing. Expect more searingly observant photo essays of the alienation of young people in urban society adorable cat pictures.

February 22, 2007 — 7:00 pm
Comments: 8

Here’s something cute. Now fuck off.

Damien at about ten weeks. Click the photo to see the big color hardcore Cat Lady version. He still has magic testicles at this point, albeit rudimentary.

Started out with the best intentions today, but I got all jammed up. Stupid work. Stupid deadlines. Stupid not-being-born-rich.

Oh, and Thursday’s Weasel sucked. So I killed it.

February 21, 2007 — 7:31 pm
Comments: 6

Has anybody noticed that the TTLB Ecosystem is busted?

Been dead for at least a month. Some of the buttons work sometimes, kind of. Some of the data will display. But the headlines in the Hot Topics section are from late December, and nobody’s blog is moving. It’s like the automated bits are chugging along, but slowly falling to pieces without human supervision.

My WordPress site barely made it into Wiggly Worm territory, so it’s hardly a bragging rights thing for me, but I did find the charts handy. And I liked to check out my neighbor Worms.

What I find creepy about this, though, is the silence. Google and Technorati only yielded a couple of brief mentions on small blogs. I would’ve expected the collapse of the Ecosystem to make a big splash in Blogonia.

February 20, 2007 — 9:43 am
Comments: 20

Gong hay fat choi, y’all

Happy Year of the Pig. Actually, Chinese New Year started yesterday, but they celebrate for two weeks, so we haven’t missed much.

The first day is the welcoming of the gods of heaven and earth. I hope you did that. The second day (today), you pray to your ancestors AND the gods (hi, Grammy!). Also, you have to be very nice to dogs, because it’s their birthday. All of them. No, I don’t get it, either.

After that, it gets muddled. I got different advice from different web sites. Mostly, you gamble, wear red and give away envelopes of money to children. So it’s like your blowsy Aunt Irma times a billion. (Yes, I really had a blowsy Aunt Irma. She once answered the door wearing three eyebrows, two on the left and one on the right. A little makeup table accident. Could happen to anyone).

The idea is to maximize luck and prosperity in the new year by doing lucky things and avoiding unlucky ones. The Chinese love money without shame. How they went communist is anyone’s guess.

Like, you mustn’t buy pants or books or shoes, because those words are homophones for “bitter,” “lose” and “rough.” A “homophone” is a word that sounds like another word. Please stop thinking about other, alternate definitions of “homophone.” People in the Far East often make an explicit association between words that sound alike.

New Year’s is also called guo nian — literally means the Passover of the Nian. The Nian was an ugly monster that came out of the hills and ate people in Spring, until they figured out the drums and firecrackers would scare it away.

A holiday with a monster. How cool is that?

We once wandered into London’s Chinatown quite by accident on New Year’s. They were doing the Lion Dance in the street, with the slinky monster and the drums and the firecrackers and the bok choy and everything. It was very exciting.

I like celebrating other people’s holidays. If I keep learning about other cultures, it hastens they day I won’t have to work at all.

“Oooh. Sorry. Can’t come in. It’s the Shoton Festival today. Yeah. You know. The traditional Tibetan yoghurt banquet. Right.”

February 19, 2007 — 10:28 am
Comments: 3