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Snake: it’s what’s for dinner

Dave in Texas shared his rattlesnake story, so I’ll share mine.

The local rattler where I come from is the Mountain Rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus — short, fat, shy and not terribly venomous. Compared to its Western cousins, anyhow. Despite growing up galumphing about in the woods, I’ve only seen one living rattlesnake. Naturally, we killed it.

Well, it was in our front yard, snoozing in the sun — which was cheeky. My friend took it out with one .22 shot to the head.

We had a strict “you shoot it, we eat it” policy in my family.

“Mother, there’s a dead goat in the sink.”

“Your brother shot it, we have to eat it.”

I have flirted with vegetarianism ever since, out of a weary “dear lord no, not another shattered furry bleeding out in the sink” feeling. I favor meats that look nothing whatever like the animal that made them. Sausages. Paté. Spam. As god is my witness, I will never eat groundhog again.

I didn’t dream the YSIWEI policy would apply to snake.

“Rattlesnake goes for fifty dollars a pound in Texas. Of course, we’ll eat it!”

Well. Back outside, I guess. Our snake — as snakes are wont — would not stop moving. Even decapitated and soaked for an hour in a bucket of salt water, it continued a slow, reflexive coiling and uncoiling. Jesus, no wonder our ancestors thought these things were supernaturally evil.

Apparently, the correct way to skin a snake is to tack one end to the shed and peel the skin off like a gym sock. We did not know this. We are ignorant boo-boos. My friend got scissors and cut it up the belly. Every time the scissors snicked closed, the snake would buck and jive. Ohhhhh, pleasepleaseplease make it stop. Finally, we put the skin in a Mason jar full of instant tea, hoping the tannins would…you know. Tan it. What actually happened, it turned up several months later as a jar of scaly brown diamond-back jell-o.

Meanwhile, back in Mama Weasel’s Kitchen, she washed our handiwork and cut it into small sections. That’s better. I could convince myself these were, like, squab breasts or something. Then she rolled them in cornmeal and pan-fried them, like catfish.

You couldn’t not eat it. My mother was master of the Double Dog Dare. I was the only kid in my circle who continually got in trouble doing stupid stuff my mother dared me to. Frankly, I think that was behind the YSIWEI policy, more than anything. It wasn’t good animal husbandry, Mother just liked watching her children eat absurd things. It was like her own personal showing of Jackass.

Rattlesnake tasted pretty good, actually. Not so much like chicken; more like lobster. It had the same translucent, striated texture. If you could forget what it was, it was probably worth fifty dollars a pound.

Only, you couldn’t possibly forget what it was. Mother would wait until somebody got a big mouthful and blurt, “I heard dying rattlesnakes whip around and bite themselves to poison the meat!” or “say, this isn’t bad FOR A SNAKE!!

Urp. Excuse me. I feel a bout of vegetarianism coming on.

March 13, 2007 — 9:20 am
Comments: 10

Invasion of the Waschbären

Oooh, I did not know this. Germany has a raccoon problem. They deliberately imported the first breeding pair in 1930 for the fur, which was both prized and expensive, and being diabolical evil freaking genius animals, raccoonlets soon escaped into the wild. The Krauts call them “Waschbären” (wash bears), because they wash their food with their hands (and their clever opposable thumbs).

How big a problem? In Brandenburg, the area around Berlin, hunters killed 41 of them in 1990 and 5,712 in the most recent season. A total of 30,000 were killed in the country at large — that’s triple six years ago. But being the diabolical evil freaking genius animals that they are, the raccoons packed up and moved to the city, away from the hunters. Now there are far more urban raccoons than country ones.

We kept several as pets when I was a kid. It was legal then. Easily the smartest animal I’ve ever handled, including monkeys, most small children and all my relatives. Scary smart. There aren’t many latches those evil little fingers can’t pick.

The raccoon I got when I was 16 was raised largely on raisins and scrambled eggs and other delicious people food. When he was fully grown, I wanted to switch him over to dry dogfood, but he hated it. So I tried mixing raisins in with his dry food. He took one sniff, dumped the bowl on the floor, picked out the raisins and ate them, and swaggered off, leaving me with a mess to clean up.

Raccoons open latches, love people food, live anywhere, carry diseases, are incredibly destructive and — bonus — adorable.

Jerry? You are so screwed.

March 12, 2007 — 11:42 am
Comments: 13

Diplomat gone wild

Via Times of India, Israel’s ambassador to El Salvador, Tzuriel Refael, was found naked and drunk in the street recently.

Citing media reports, Israel Radio said that police found a man about two weeks ago in an inebriated state with hands tied, mouth gagged with a rubber ball, and carrying accessories that implied he had been involved in sexual activity.

“Diplomatic immunity” — the ultimate safe words.

Update: he got fired for it, anyhow. More, not suprisingly, from the JPost.

— 8:30 am
Comments: 3


This was Bill Paying Weekend, a monthly trauma I endure under the soothing alfluence of incohol. I have the money to settle my accounts these days, but I still dread this ordeal…sorting through a month’s worth of special offers from credit card companies cleverly designed to look like overdue notices so I’ll open them for sure (thus pissing me off so thoroughly they’d have to be Pretty Damn Special offers before I’d take a second look) and all the other irritations and stupidities that fall through my mail slot in thirty days.

Like this thing. This is a thirty page questionnaire from the Census Bureau. Why am I getting a questionnaire from the Census Bureau in 2007? Presumably because I blew them off in 2000.

I know, I know…I’m a Constitution-humping ‘winger and the Constitution says the government must do a census every ten years. I wouldn’t mind being a part of a head count. But I got the long form in 2000, too. Remember that? Some people got the usual few questions, and a random selection got a thirty page beast that asks nosey junque about years of schooling and income and how long my commute is and a bunch of other nunya bidness stuff. Oh, and about twenty different precise choices for race, of course. I’m an Eskimo princess, fuck off.

I wouldn’t, perhaps, be quite so set against it, if it weren’t marked “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.” And inside there’s this “title blah-blah-blah of the US Code, section blah-blah-blah, imposes a penalty for not responding.” Without, of course, mentioning what that penalty is.

OH! Threaten me? They can smooch silky weasel ass. I ain’t doing it. I assume the penalty is a fine, but you guys’ll visit me in the pen if I guess wrong, mmm?

Then I get four more pages of nosiness from Blue Cross. Do I smoke? Did my doctor tell me that’s bad? Naw, I gave up cigarettes so I could afford more heroin. Jesus.

So it was like a breath of warm Spring sunshine to get this in the mail. It’s NRA sweepstakes time again. I love the cheerful, breathless way the NRA flat-out fails to comprehend it’s supposed to be ashamed of itself. Guns, guns and more guns! Get one for grandma!

Though I prefer the one where they give you a page of stickers with photos of guns, and you have to peel off ten of your favorites and stick them on the Grand Prize page so they know what to send you when you win. I can spend a happy hour working out the logistics of that, maximizing the flexibility of my arsenal but minimizing the different kinds of ammo I’d have to keep in stock. Plus, colorful stickers!

Ooo! Mustn’t forget a shotgun for Grandma!

— 7:12 am
Comments: 5

Friday, March 09


March 9, 2007 — 4:24 pm
Comments: 7

Hiccup in the luncheon meat market

Fed crackdown on spam scam

According to the story, the SEC has suspended 35 of the companies mentioned in those irritating “set to explode!” spams.

The tactic does work, it says. One company saw its shares quadruple briefly after a flurry of spam went out. But it also says it’s unclear whether the companies themselves did the spamming.

It seems obvious that the companies did do the spamming, but I wonder if that’s true. Or will be true from now on. If these are boiler room operations set to snatch a quick profit in the brief period of time a stock is inflated, it doesn’t matter whose company they pump, right? And if they pick someone else’s company, what do they care if it gets a trading suspension after they’re done?

Most of the spam I get isn’t spam, it’s bounce messages from mailer daemons because some asshole spammer used a domain of mine as a return address. They don’t care who they snarl up on their way to a buck (or a yuan or a ruple or a quatloo).

I’m all for killing spam, but this strikes me as a dandy thing to do to a complete stranger. Or a competitor.

— 8:56 am
Comments: none

Tell me a story, Dr Fang

Okay, now I feel bad for dissing scientists. The ones I’ve known all share at least one excellent characteristic: they’re natural born explainers. No scientist would dream of letting me draw something until he was sure I had a basic grasp of the science.

This probably does result in a slightly better illustration than they could’ve squeezed out of me otherwise, but I don’t think that’s why they do it. They do it because they can’t stand to be around ignorance. And for the sheer joy of explaining things.

To do science takes all sort of depth and, like, math and stuff. But the underlying concepts are usually pretty accessible. All you need is one excitable scientist with a pencil and a lunch napkin. Some of the top scientists in their respective fields have sat at my workstation and told me stories. Lordy, I love that.

My favorite scientist was an elderly Chinese. Call him Dr Fang. Everyone hated to work with Fang, because he was a high-strung chap with a completely impenetrable accent. And yet, he was a popular public speaker on the science circuit. That’s because he was fizzing with excitement. Old Fang was chuffed to buggery about science. But it was especially important for him to have good art, because otherwise no-one could tell what he was gabbling so happily about.

I always got stuck with him, because I have a good ear for Chinglish (and Indianglish, for that matter). Being, as most Chinese are, a fun-sized human being, Fang could barely peer over my head as I sat at the work station and he stood behind my chair barking instructions.

“Make it blue! No, make it yellow! No, make it green! No, blue! No, delete the whole thing! Ahahahaha! No, bring it back again!” That last order was especially off-pissing, as the software we had then didn’t undo.

I never heard how Fang got to the States. But the first time he was allowed back into China to visit his family, they had been disappeared. People, furniture…everything gone. Nothing was left but empty houses. Next trip, everything was back where it should be and no-one would talk about it. Spooky place, China.

On one of those trips, he brought me back this piece of artwork. He says these are ubiquitous in rural homes in China (he didn’t actually use the words “ubiquitous” or “rural” — I think his soft palate would’ve exploded). It’s a thin, translucent sheet of black and white marble and something that looks very like a Chinese ink painting of a landscape can be picked out of the dark streaks. An appropriate poem is painted on them. I asked what my poem was, and Fang said, “Ohhhh, I dunno. Rain, somethingsomethingsomething.”


He carried that thing in his hand-luggage all the way from China so it wouldn’t break. Very touching.

Dr Fang died this year. I was shocked. I didn’t even know he was ill. He retired several years ago, but he kept an office in our building and he was working on a book. I’d seen him around.

I hope he finished his book. I wouldn’t be able to read it, but he knew more about the thing he knew about than anyone in the world, they say.

Goodnight, Dr Fang. I shall forever hear your voice in the “rain, somethingsomethingsomething.”

— 8:20 am
Comments: 4

Wherein Weasel makes a fancy party hat

Sarah D. to the rescue. She teleported me out of the naughty scary place and into a community college for Second Life newbies. Here you can click on various kiosks and posters to download notecards explaining how to do stuff. There are live classes. Nobody is wearing exogenitals. It’s cool.

Then she took me to the closest sandbox. A sandbox is an area in which you may create and manipulate objects. She reached into her inventory, flung a ballpark frank on the ground, scaled it to the size of a sofa and sat demurely on the edge of it, typing explanations at me with hairy paws.

I should mention, communication is by ascii text (for now). When you hit the chat button and type, you hear clickity-clickity sounds and your avatar hands rise up and play air-keyboard. You look like the silly boo-boo you truly are. It’s hysterical.

Then my hour was up and I had to go.

Next afternoon, I went directly to the sandbox. Right click on the ground and choose “Create” to get the modeling menu. This resembles, not surprisingly, a cut-down version of an application like 3D Studio Max. You got your shape primitives (“prims” in SL-speak) — spheres, cubes, toruses, whatever — that you stick together and carve
away from and apply textures to in order to build stuff. There are many textures already in your library for free, or you can upload new ones of your own (for a $L fee). There are also particle systems and atmospherics (fire, water, smoke) and behaviors (scripts), but basics first!

First, I jammed a red sphere onto a marble cone and made a pretty party hat. Whee! I’m a beautiful fairy princess!

When I model something in Max, I typically see four windows simultaneously: my object from the front, the top, the side, and the camera’s point of view. Here, you have to pan your camera around continually to get the same 360º understanding. Working from the front, my hat appeared to be jammed firmly on my head, but the overhead view revealed that it was flying fifteen feet out in front of me. Mmm. Rookie mistake.

Next, I applied one of the textures I found in my inventory. It was called moss-something. It was a mostly alpha (i.e. transparent) rendering of some hanging Spanish-mossy stuff and, applied to my compound object, the red stayed red, the green stayed green and transparent transparent.

Neat. This was a jaunty, plumey effect. I look like Koo Koo the Bird Girl! Thus, delighted with myself, ended day 3.

Wednesday is, apparently, Retarded Day on Second Life. They do system overhauls on Wednesdays, after which nothing works for shit. Or so I gather from reading the angry comments on their blog. Never mind. My task today was a simple one: build a hat better suited to my dignity and station in life.

See you soon! Why? Because we like you!

March 8, 2007 — 2:14 pm
Comments: 9

On the grid, off the grid

I’m only allowing myself an hour a day on Second Life. I know my obsessiveness too well. Let’s not wake up that monster.

After I got dressed, I was whisked away to a place called Orientation Island. Unfortunate name; I wondered if I was being sent to take gay lessons. But no, it’s a series of twelve basic skill tutorials. You get a star for completing each one, after which, the instructions say, you are given a passport and allowed to wander freely around the world.

I got eleven stars, but it wouldn’t give me the twelfth. Flying. Yes, you can fly…very cool. But I flew through that stupid tutorial six times and it wouldn’t give me my goddamn star. “Stuck,” I thought. These programs do get stuck. Maybe if I asked it to teleport me home — wherever that is — and back again, it would reset itself.

Uh-oh. When I got home (where is that, anyway?), I did a search for “Orientation Island” to teleport back. It returned, like, a hundred of them. And I was refused permission to enter every one I tried. Did I have to find the particular Orientation Island I started on?

Just for shits, I tried going someplace totally different, at random, and it let me. I found myself standing in some kind of public square, empty but for me and a person with breasts and an enormous set of male genitalia worn on the outside of its pants. Golly, Toto. I don’t think we’re in the tutorial any more.

I’m free!

But I don’t have a passport.

Swell. I’m an undocumented avatar.

— 8:08 am
Comments: 1

Life sucks. May I have seconds?

I was a fool to think I could resist Second Life forever. I’m not made of stone.

I can’t remember when I first heard of Second Life. It bobbled to the surface most recently last month when John Edwards’ virtual campaign headquarters was vandalized by some merry anarchists (Their statement: “We simply did it for the lulz… The fact you were so bent out of shape to make a blog post on the OFFICIAL JOHN EDWARDS BLOG about how some people placed a bunch of shittingdicknipples on your lawn is mighty telling.”)

I’ve played MMORPG‘s before. In fact, I played them before they were massive. Electronic Arts had a very primitive online game platform in the early eighties — I forget what it was called — which included crude modular, build-yourself-yourself avatars.

The current crop are beautiful to look at, but the gameplay tends toward repetitive and boring. Especially if, like me, you don’t particularly want to interact with other people that much. I spent a lot of my Anarchy Online time running across the desert watching the sun rise over fantasy alien landscapes. Cool, but finitely interesting.

SL isn’t that sort of game. Aside from the ground under foot and the basic body shapes, every object there was created by its users. Clothes, buildings, furniture. These can be made, copied (or copy-protected), bought and sold in the local currency, and the local currency can be exchanged in both directions for US greenbacks (though how it goes from Linden dollars to realworld dollars, I have no idea via whatever credit/debit/PayPal you set up with them. Current exchange rate $L1,000 = $US4.04). And Linden Labs has wisely declared that all things created in-world are copyrighted by their creators.

There’s a basic built-in 3D modeler included, and a simple scripting language that goes with. So you can build physical objects and give them behaviors. Yeah, that’s what I’m after. A second life that’s identical to my first. Come home from a long day 3D modeling and Photoshopping and coding to an evening of the same.

I’m not being sarcastic. That sounds really fun.

Basic account is free (you have to pay money if you want to own land apparently, non-paying members can own land, but not on the mainland), so…here we go. Avatar creation first. Initial appearances are grouped in broad classes such as goths or nightclubbers, M and F. My first thought, naturally, was a furry…but then I thought, ugh. Furries. (I have since learned there are many on SL who wear animal costumes that aren’t furverts).

Physical appearances can be changed at any time, so it doesn’t really matter. It’s just fun to play with the buttons and knobs. I decided to start out as a small Japanese woman with no hair. I’m going for a “leave me the hell alone” look. In addition to broad body types and clothing, SL breaks physical features into a number of fine sub-categories that you can play with, too. Arch of the eyebrows, tip of the nose, length of the chin. I wanted something that says “I’m as sexless as the angels” (I really, really don’t like grownup games), so I twiddled the knobs until I realized I was the spitting image of a shaved Michael Jackson. That freaked me out, so I shifted male and bulged my jaw and forehead. Hootie-hoo, Monkeyface! Oh, well. I’ll fix it later.

So, behold! Monkeyface McShavedaperson! Looks like a gray, no? I’m pretty sure that tattoo on my arm says, “I’m a giant dweeb for getting mixed up in this.” Either that, or, “ow! Holy shit! Compound fracture of both arms!”

That’s not really my SL name. That, I’m not telling. I remember on the old EA site, the high experience players in the D&D section waited by the cave entrance to whale on newbies. No shittingdicknipples for this little weasel, thank you!

And thanks very much to Sarah D. for the hotdog ‘n’ stuff.

March 7, 2007 — 9:58 am
Comments: 7