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You say amoebae and I say amoebas

I’ve written about my microscopy habit before (actually, go read that post instead — it’s got lots of cool links and stuff), but I was going through some old photos and disk and found this montage of amoebas and it brought a tear to my eye.

It took me twenty years to get an amoeba, no lie. And I wanted one so badly.

See, my mother used to talk about her professor in nursing school who had a hay infusion that was decades old. One drop from that was so full of critters, she said, it was more protozoa stew than pond dip.

So I was, like, “right. Got that. The secret is old.” And I made aquariums full of stinky, crusty, nasty hay and bean infusions and nursed them along for months at a time.

These things went through a predictable cycle, even if I fed them fresh ingredients. At the start, I’d get all sorts of interesting, active, sparky protozoa. Then it would degrade to bacteria and boring wormy things. Then it would die and smell like it.

Sooo eventually I rigged up a jar on a string, went out to a local pond and did a proper pond dip. And got an amoeba, first try! I was so excited!

But the next day I was supposed to fly home and visit the folks for two weeks. Arrgh! I did the best I could to preserve it; I put the sample in a bowl in the basement (cool and damp), covered it and hoped for the best.

When I got back, first slide…dozens and dozens of amoebas. Bloody things had been dividing and subdividing for a fortnight. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

Really.

Oh, god.

sock it to me

May 17, 2011 — 10:58 pm
Comments: 27

It’s a fête worse than…oh, whatever

Hooray — the fête season is upon us! Uncle B and I are utter fête hags; we scour the local paper for them all Summer long (though some of the most memorable are those we ran across by accident driving down country lanes).

You might think the appeal of drifting around dark churches drinking weak tea and eating digestive biscuits looking at bad oil paintings flogged by rich old ladies might wear off after a while. You’d be wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s the churches. Beautiful, tiny jewels of ancient architecture, lovingly tended by generation after generation of old ladies flogging bad oil paintings and weak tea. Every little village has its church, and they present a real strain on their communities, keeping the buidings clean and tended, whole and sound, and open to passers-by.

The thing in the picture? Can you make it out? This was behind the church, and it gave me a chill.

It’s a yew tree (on the right) and an oak (on the left) so ancient their trunks are entertwined and the two have completely permeated each other, a confusing jumble of oak leaves and yew branches sticking out in all directions.

Both the yew and the oak were hallowed here long before the coming of Christianity. The early church embraced local beliefs, choosing to co-opt instead of conflict (with an occasionally strange result). Many old churches have an elderly yew growing in the grounds. All the sources I’ve read agree that the yew was there before the church, the church was deliberately built on sacred ground.

This church is almost a thousand years old.

sock it to me

May 16, 2011 — 11:24 pm
Comments: 27

Round 14: your dick, on the line


Happy Friday the 13th! Last round went down in four hours and twenty four minutes (not the fastest ever. Round Seven — Tawny, with Gary Coleman, in the library — went in two hours and forty two minutes. Something fishy about all those twos and fours). Carl took the prize (not literally; he’s apparently not a spotted dick fan) with Seve Ballesteros (an extremely famous golfer of whom I had never heard). Onward!

As per usual:

1. Pick a celebrity. Any celebrity — though I reserve the right to nix picks I never heard of.

2. We start from scratch every time. No matter who you had last time, or who you may have called between rounds, you have to turn up on this very thread and stake your claim.

3. Poaching and other dirty tricks positively encouraged.

4. Your first choice sticks. Don’t just blurt something out, m’kay?

5. It’s up to you to search the thread and make sure your choice is unique. I’m waayyyy too lazy. Popular picks go fast.

6. The pool stays open until somebody on the list dies. Feel free to jump in any time. Noobs, strangers, drive-bys and one-comment-wonders — all are welcome.

7. If you want your fabulous prize, you have to entrust me with a mailing address. If you don’t want the fabulous prize, you’re too smart to be a regular. It takes me forever to put them in the mail, packages go by slow boat, typically take minimum eight to ten weeks and lose the will to live along the way.

8. The new DeadPool will begin 6pm WBT (Weasel’s Blog Time) the Friday after the last round is concluded.

The fabulous prize? Sweasel dot com’s unofficial sponsor, Aunty’s Spotted Dick! Mmmmm…it’s dickalicious!

sock it to me

May 13, 2011 — 6:00 pm
Comments: 105

Attencion!

Oops! Forgot to tease it yesterday. Dead Pool Round 14 starts at
6pm WBT. This time, it could be your dick!
sock it to me

— 9:41 am
Comments: 16

Smile!

Got a Kindle for my birthday. w00t! I’ve been lusting after it since I sat next to one on a plane (there might have been a person attached).

The Kindle was invented for ME. I spent the first 35 years of my life, every spare minute, reading. I suppose that makes me sound all thinky ‘n’ stuff, but the kind of obsessive, indiscriminate reading I do is no more intellectual than, um, promiscuity is romance.

I’m a book slut. I’ll read anything. Fiction. Non-fiction. Instruction manuals. Corn flake boxes. Make me sit still for a second, and I’ll pick up the nearest object and read it.

The Kindle doesn’t disappoint. It feels wonderful in my hand. It downloads books in seconds. It holds a shitload of them. It’s easily readable, adjustable and intuitive.

And there’s gobs of books out there for free.

Which, when you’re a book slut, is Good. E. Nuff.

sock it to me

May 12, 2011 — 10:51 pm
Comments: 64

I wonder if he dotted his squiggles with hearts

They’ve got Osama’s diary. The jokes just write themselves.

At least, I hope so. I didn’t write any.

sock it to me

May 11, 2011 — 9:45 pm
Comments: 18

Tick another box, pls

Please pardon my ruinous neglect of the blog in the past few days; I’ve been cramming for an exam.

At my age. The shame.

Before I get my next (and final) visa, I had to pass a thing called the Life in the UK Test — a Brit trivia test that (by common consent) most Brits couldn’t pass.

It’s only 24 questions (and you only have to get 18 right), but it’s pulled (randomly, by computer, when you sit down to take the exam) from a pool of a thousand possible questions. I had to Hoover up a lot of material in a short time (because if I tried it over a longer time, I’d just freaking forget everything. I remember that much from school). Given that the test was invented under a Labour government, it’s a lot of women’s rights and ethnic issues and how to apply for benefits and what to do with all the reliably Labour-voting babies you’ll be popping out as a new citizen.

So I took the train to Maidstone all by myself today and sat for my exam. I got 24 ones I knew, blew through them in 4 minutes and got 100%. I think. They don’t actually give you a score, just pass/fail.

Anyhoo, now I drink! I’ve got a hell of a lot of statistics to forget…

You can take a sample test here or here. I just pulled those links randomly off a search. I can’t vouch for the sites. You’ll probably get a virus, but you won’t have to emigrate to the UK!
sock it to me

May 10, 2011 — 9:47 pm
Comments: 37

I wore gaiters to church!

Our parish did the Rogation walk yesterday. Not, technically, Rogation Sunday (that would be April 25), but this service is one of the many that wadded up Roman customs with pagan rituals, put a little Jesus sauce on it and called it a Christian festival…so punctilious observance seems unnecessary.

“Rogation” comes from the Latin rogare — to ask. In rural areas (like what we are) the priest asks a blessing on the fields and the animals. It’s also associated with the ancient custom of beating the bounds — a ritual in which all the boys were marched along the parish boundaries while the men threw them into ponds and briar patches and slammed their heads on boundary rocks and markers.

Hey, no Google Earth. It was the best way to ensure they never, ever, ever forgot the property line.

Sadly, we didn’t have any boys. We didn’t even walk the whole boundary line. We did lead a whole herd of bluehairs across a good few fields of sheep (also, unexpectedly, cows) and we blessed the bejesus out of the lot.

We recited the Benedicite Omnia Opera at them.

Yeah. It was one wand short of a Harry Potter.

sock it to me

May 9, 2011 — 8:11 pm
Comments: 19

ROUND THIRTEEN: will not be as cool as Round 12

Never have I been so delighted to fork over a dick. Never will the Dead Pool sparkle with such joy. All hail Montenegro who sailed to the win with Osama bin Laden.

Let the anticlimactic Round 13 begin:

1. Pick a celebrity. Any celebrity — though I reserve the right to nix picks I never heard of.

2. We start from scratch every time. No matter who you had last time, or who you may have called between rounds, you have to turn up on this very thread and stake your claim.

3. Poaching and other dirty tricks positively encouraged.

4. Your first choice sticks. Don’t just blurt something out, m’kay?

5. It’s up to you to search the thread and make sure your choice is unique. I’m waayyyy too lazy. Popular picks go fast.

6. The pool stays open until somebody on the list dies. Feel free to jump in any time. Noobs, strangers, drive-bys and one-comment-wonders — all are welcome.

7. If you want your fabulous prize, you have to entrust me with a mailing address. If you don’t want the fabulous prize, you’re too smart to be a regular. It takes me forever to put them in the mail, packages go by slow boat, typically take minimum eight to ten weeks and lose the will to live along the way.

8. The new DeadPool will begin 6pm WBT (Weasel’s Blog Time) the Friday after the last round is concluded.

The fabulous prize? Aunty’s Spotted Dick! Dick — it’s what’s for dessert!

sock it to me

May 6, 2011 — 6:00 pm
Comments: 102

Funny — it’s not mentioned in the real estate listing

Great news — H.P. Lovecraft’s Shunned House (AKA 135 Benefit Street, Providence) is for sale! And for less than a million bucks!

Benefit Street is the oldest residential street in the US of A (Williamsburg is older, but is no longer residential); most of the houses along it are 18th Century. So I was surprised to read — if this article is correct — that the street was widened and a whole row of even earlier houses razed to build the current street.

Ol’ 135 really did have a creepy history from the get go. It was built over the graves of a couple Huguenots who had lived on the earlier site. A subsequent mistress of the house went mad and babbled in French — a language she didn’t know. Pesky dead Huguenots — didn’t these people see Poltergeist?

Benefit Street was a dangerous slum for most of the 20th Century. It was just pulling itself up in the late Seventies, when I moved to Providence to go to the Rhode Island School of Design. My apartment was a block from the Shunned House, up a little blind side street called Bowen Street. It was a row of three or four Depression-era houses, each with three identical flats, one above the other. If you got drunk at a party in one, it was the very devil trying to work out where you were.

The whole street is very done-up and posh now, so I’m sure #135 is very nice. Plus — learn French without studying!


Dead Pool is all set up and ready to autopost tomorrow at 6 sharp, Weasel Blog Time. Be there or…don’t be there, I guess.

sock it to me

May 5, 2011 — 8:00 pm
Comments: 15