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Bad day, defined

Okay, compared to this guy (man, that croc is an evil looking bastard, isn’t he? Photo via NZ Herald), my day was a dawdle. But I had to deliver the coup de grâce to an injured squirrel on my morning commute, and that’s never an auspicious sign. How come road-injured squirrels always lie in one spot jerking and flipping out like that wounded Daryl Hannah replicant thing in Blade Runner? Horrible.

I dug out the old work laptop I use to test programs, plugged in the wifi dingus…and discovered I don’t have admin privileges on that machine. So I put it on the network and called the Helpdesk. It hasn’t been on the company net in a couple of years, so it’s all screwed up for updates. Turns out, that model was “retired” a while back and I was supposed to turn it in. I thought for a moment it was going to get confiscated, but someone dutifully picked it up for a re-image. I should have it back tomorrow.

Somehow making IS complicit in the circumvention of their own rules pleases me.

I wrote the above sentence about forty five minutes ago, then Damien came in and laid a large, fine woodrat at my feet. Pity it wasn’t dead. It jumped up, shrieked, ran across my feet and disappeared under the radiator in the livingroom. We could see it dashing back and forth underneath, the perfect cat-tease. Every time Damien hooked a paw in its direction, it would let out another squeak. Rodents don’t squeak like squeak toys. They squeak like forks raked across dinner plates. You hear it with your molars.

I held a cardboard box against the radiator with my knees, got a bamboo back-scratcher in one hand, an empty paper towel roll in the other, and tried to spook it toward captivity and ultimate freedom. But it was not to be. It leapt over my backscratcher and holed up under a big armchair, behind a pile of old comics. It’s quiet now.

Damien is curled up in front of the chair, placid as the Buddha. Fuck it. I’m going to drink. I’m not offing two adorable rodents today. Death is going to have to sort itself out this time. I just wish it wouldn’t do that whole “red in tooth and claw” thing on the wall-to-wall carpets.

April 30, 2007 — 5:56 pm
Comments: 11

Friday, April 27


April 27, 2007 — 10:00 pm
Comments: 11

A weasel in the wires

Today I sat at my desk and wrote a screed (in notepad!) about how the forces of goof-offery always triumph over the armies of bossage. Then I realized I should probably actually triumph before I do the happy predator dance on the corpse of my enemy. That’s what you call discretion. I don’t have much of it; please savor this small sample.

That Buffalo long-range wifi adapter McGoo found is the best idea I’ve seen. Unfortunately, it’s vaporware. Everybody’s talking about it, nobody’s selling it.

Somebody on eBay is selling a “wardriving” kit, which is a Buffalo long-range PCMCIA wifi card and external antenna. Looks good, but getting on for $75. That would be fine if I were sure it would work. I can afford to spend that kind of money, but I can’t afford to waste that kind of money.

I know my own laptop’s wifi falls about twenty feet short of the signal. But I’ve got a work laptop and a PCMCIA wifi card I bought for my last rig, so putting those two things together is the next step before I start spending money.

So if those of you who blog don’t see quite so many weasel tracks in your usage logs lately, it’s not for want of trying. I’m a-coming. Or, as Hillary would say, “yo yo yo, me am ain’t not noways tarrrrrrd, y’awl.” Now it’s Friday and time for happy beverages!

— 5:36 pm
Comments: 21

Damn! Blast! Fie! Piffle!

My boss informed me, casual-like, that a new, strict directive on work-time websurfing is about to be handed down. They sent him the draft a few weeks ago.

Oh dear. I am ever so annoyed.

Does this mean an end to daytime websurfing? Will I actually have to buckle down and do my job?

Pff! Please. If they wanted me to do my job, they’d make my work more interesting. Some days, it’s like they don’t even care if I’m entertained. So, you know, if they’re not even going to try to compete with the internet, what do they expect from me? I’m not made of stone!

Still, I’d better stay off their crummy, poopy, stinky, lousy servers. The building next door has a wide open wifi signal. If my office were twenty feet closer, I could nick a signal on my laptop, no problem. I sometimes wander out into the stairwell and check my personal mail at lunch that way. I could try to get a job in the department on the other side of the building, but that’s Training. Training people have cooties. Big giant ones.

So, anybody know anything about wifi reception boosting? Obviously, I can’t do much about boosting the signal. And I have a lot of unusual things in my office, but I think a parabolic antenna might get noticed. I don’t have a clear line of sight to the other building, anyway.

C’mon…think. Otherwise, you’re only going to hear from me on my own time. You know: the Not Sober hours. And I’m a sloppy, boring drunk.

April 26, 2007 — 4:42 pm
Comments: 26



My Laguiole arrived! It’s a beautiful piece of work, and wicked sharp. They didn’t quite buff out all the tool marks; perhaps that’s to show it’s really hand made. I like the little engraved curlicues down the…hmm…do they call it the “tang” on a folding knife?

I spent some time pressing on that knob at the base of the blade (the bee; it’s a trademark) and thinking I was weak or stupid when I couldn’t get it to release. Both, it turns out — it’s not a locking blade.

I’ve been waving it around and shouting, “I weel CUT you!” but nobody else seems to find that funny. Buncha sourpusses.

April 25, 2007 — 4:23 pm
Comments: 15

Ack! I’ve brokened it!

Messing with my sidebars last night apparently pissed Explorer off. My content is all shoved down below the right sidebar, and I didn’t realize it because I don’t fire up IE at home unless I have to. I can’t fix it from work, because something in the firewall times me out when I try to access my bloghost control panel. Not something I’m inclined to complain to the Helpdesk about, know’m mean?

So, we’ll have to crouch down here below the fold today. C’mon. It’ll be fun. We can build forts out of blankets and couch cushions and eat grilled cheese sammiches and watch cartoons.

Update: Fixed! But the sammiches and cartoons are still on!

— 7:53 am
Comments: 8

My frightening brush with Lladro

I have exactly once in my life lusted after a porcelain figurine. It was a fake Lladro. In a Kmart, I think. Some upmarket joint like that.

It was a goose girl, in that horrible, shiny, willowy Lladro style. They must have cast the goose separately, then cast the girl, then finished the two together. It was supposed to be snug in her arms. The problem is, slipcast porcelain has a memory. When fired, it likes to revert to the original shape it was cast in.

So when this one was fired, the arms peeled away, leaving the goose improbably stuck to the girl’s stomach and her hands flung out in a classic Ta-Dum!! gesture. The weird thing is, that happened in the preliminary firing, and whoever it was went ahead and glazed it and finished it.

Maybe they had a “no throwaway” policy in that factory. Or maybe the Chinese think Westerners are so mind-bendingly weird that it wouldn’t matter.

Which, actually, was true. I wanted that thing badly.

But it was something like $15 at a time when I was living on Ramen noodles at five packets for a buck. Still, I stood in front of it for ages, staring at it with a terrible longing.

I was going to call it, “and now for my next trick.”

April 24, 2007 — 9:15 am
Comments: 6

Define “precious”


You know, this thing is so vomitously godawful, I feel cheap laughing at it. Lucky for you, I’m pretty comfortable feeling cheap.

Sam Butcher is an illustrator, in the venerable Big-Eyed Children school of American art. Don’t feel bad for him. He might be aesthetically retarded, but he must also be terribly fucking rich by now. Perhaps those two conditions are not entirely unrelated. His ’70s grotesques are the basis of Precious Moments figurines — one of the Holy Trinity of the Church of Knick-Knack, along with Lladro and Hummel. In gratitude for his success, Sam built for us all the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri.

This is not mere weaselsnark. Sam hisself claims he was inspired by the Sistine Chapel. Possibly in the same way one would be inspired by an industrial pressure cooker accident: there is shit all over the walls, the ceiling…everywhere.

On the lefthand wall, the Old Testament As Acted Out by Precious Moments Figurines. On the righthand wall, the New Testament As Acted Out by Precious Moments Figurines. The far wall, the Last Judgement, both cuter and yet somehow more horrible than I pictured it, Acted Out by Precious Moments Figurines. On the ceiling, big-eyed angels sing thee home to rest.

Since I am not only cheap, but also lazy, let me nick the description from Roadside America:

People reverently look up at magical scenes covering nearly every surface. Scenes from Genesis — two baby angels with flash lights illustrate “And God said let there be Light.” And god created Earth — several dead baby angels, including one of two black angels, play basketball with the earth.

At the back wall of the Chapel is its defining mural, Hallelujah Square. It depicts a new dead child being welcomed to heaven by Timmy Angel. Other dead children angels hold signs saying “Welcome To Your Heavenly Home.” The sign with “Welcome” written on it is held wrong side up, as cute children will sometimes do. Others in Hallelujah Square romp and frolic. In the exact center of the mural is a ministering Christ. He is the only adult depicted in the chapel.

The effect of the work (including a Michelangelo-like painted ceiling) on the assembled crowd is haunting. No babies cry (“They never do,” says our guide.) Adults looking at the cartoons are stock still.

One mixed-media mural shows “The Second Coming,” in which painted clouds part and a painted Jesus appears to a collection of Precious Moments porcelain miniatures, some driving tiny cars.

In a pew-filled back room — still part of the tour — past stained glass Precious Moments windows, is a shivering tribute to Butcher’s son, Philip, who was killed by a drunk driver. On the wall is a large painting of Philip’s bedroom when he was a child, featuring Philip surrounded by his siblings. Above them on puffy clouds, baby angels hold signs saying “Welcome Home, Philip.” Philip was 30 when he died, but nowhere in the room is he shown as an adult.

I’ve never been there. I’m not sure my kitsch gland is strong enough to take it I found this websurfing last night. I woke up this morning smelling of cotton candy and bile.

Further reading: Read the whole rest of Roadside America — it’s always fun. Peteena‘s covered it — that whole site is fun, too. This guy has a very thorough photo album of his trip to the Chapel.

— 8:36 am
Comments: 28

One discarded shell at a time


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.”


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

Friday, April 20


Yes, that’s right. Another Contentless Friday! Hooray!

It was a mixed bag of a day. On the one hand — field trip! I got to go to the place that made the kiosk I’m building that multimedia dingus for. On the other hand, my dingus didn’t work. And they were supposed to crate the whole thing up and ship it to the venue today.

Not my fault. The hooj wide-screen monitor they bought for the occasion refuses to run at any resolution above 1024×768, though the manual says it’ll go to 1360×768 (which is what the dingus is designed for). So it does what a 16×9 monitor does when it gets 4×3 content: it stretches it horribly. And then slices off the bottom.

But it makes no difference whose fault it is, I gotta fix it. And the clock, she am ticking.

So I built a little test thing for the kiosk guy to use as a diagnostic and emailed it. Then I got worried — it was an .exe file and spam filters often block those. So I wrote a follow up message. Which bounced. So I wrote another from a different address. Which bounced. So now I’m pretty sure my IP is on the naughty list. Phoned him, he’s out. Rrrr.

On the other hand — Friday! And it’s going to be a gorgeous weekend! And I own a convertible! So, on sober reflection, work can smooch weasel butt.

April 20, 2007 — 3:26 pm
Comments: 13