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That cruel thing I did to Debbie Wasserman-Schlutz’s eyeballs

I ran across this Mashable series of photos of inmates from a Victorian mental hospital in Yorkshire. It’s a sad browse, but interesting. I was particularly struck by this woman.

The caption says she suffers from “general paralysis of the insane” but it’s more usually called general paresis. It’s a sudden onset bugfuck crazy that used to be blamed on bad character but was ultimately recognized as the third and final stage of syphilis, when the bugs finally eat the brain.

It was tricky to work out because the madness strikes abruptly as much as thirty years after the initial infection, so the bad character explanation made as much sense as anything (a Victorian with syphilis being the very definition). But somebody got a Nobel in the thirties curing paresis by infecting patients with malaria (the syphilis bacterium can’t take the heat, so one good fever can kill it off).

My mother describes seeing a tertiary syphilis sufferer on Bourbon Street, stumbling along the road suddenly freezing with one foot in the air, having forgotten how to walk. The diagnosis comes courtesy of my grandmother being a nurse and jazzmen being no better than they should be, *sniff*.

Anyway, I mention it because this condition informs one of my most cherished phobias: Lyme disease. On account of it’s a very similar disease with a very similar progression: spirochete causes a small rash, disappears, roars back with a leather mask and a chainsaw thirty years later. Except Lyme is a lot harder to kill.

Summer is coming. Tick check, people!

March 17, 2015 — 9:05 pm
Comments: 9

PICTURED: Rudely shaped carrot grown in allotment in Lower Belvedere

Actual headline. For the blind, this helpful description is provided:

It bears a resemblance to two human legs, with a growth between them that leaves little to the imagination.

It leaves everything to the imagination. It’s a flipping carrot.

Also discussed, a strawberry shaped like a penis and a carrot shaped like a foot that “caused a social media sensation.”

This isn’t the Sheep Testicle Gazette out here in the ass-end of nowhere. That’s a London paper that somehow found room for this snuggled between the muggings and burglaries.

A hard people to understand, at times.

Anyway, I broke my good camera this Summer, so Uncle B loaned me his one and I’ve now broken that too. Down-twinkles. I’m cameraless. That leaves me at the mercy of any old rude vegetable I can dig up until I buy a new one.

March 16, 2015 — 10:24 pm
Comments: 23

Remembering Ric Locke

So, do you? Remember Ric Locke?

He was a blogger and occasional commenter here who self-published an entertaining scifi book called Temporary Duty.

It sold well enough that he spent his last days arguing with the IRS. Yes, sadly, that rat bastard cancer got him in the Summer of 2012.

Welp, I got an email earlier this week from a dude called Yuris Daudish, who read Ric’s book and thought it deserved a public fandom. He put out the call for anybody who might have had dealings with Ric who could share anecdotes or insights into the man or the book. Or might want to join the discussion forum. I promised to go through what emails we traded back in the day to see if anything interesting turns up — and to spread the word to any reader here who might have had some interaction.

The fan site is http://temporaryduty.org. Contact Yuris at master@temporaryduty.org or through his site. Or here in the comments, if you like.

I can’t help thinking how pleased Ric would’ve been. Good weekend, all!

March 13, 2015 — 9:05 pm
Comments: 28

I’ll see your woodpecker-riding weasel…

Nope. Not my work. Oh, also there is this (which is apparently real).

We’re starting to see the new lambs appearing in the fields, which cheers me up no end. We haven’t had a bad Winter at all (sorry ‘Merkins), but I’m still ready to see it go.

March 12, 2015 — 10:19 pm
Comments: 12

Oh, grandma!

In the previous thread, geoff axed for a P’shop of Hillary and the iconic phone. Happy to oblige, but I couldn’t come up with anything better than riffing on her pretend inability to comprehend the cellphone. I’ve got all the bits and pieces still open, if you can think of a better take.

Seriously, did they believe this one would fly? Like, “c’mon, honey — you know grandma can’t operate simple modern gadgets. But you still want her for President of the United States in 2016, right?”

Some of these errors are so awful and unforced, you have to wonder what the Clintons are playing at. Whether they know she can’t win, but they’ve decided to swing the big Clinton dick around and ruin 2016 for their party, because…fuck you, we’re the Clintons.

I can honestly see that bunch of sociopaths doing that.

Oh, here you go, Deborah — my big color Hillary! 2016 poster, the little black and white witchy one, plus some assorted Hillary ‘shops.

March 11, 2015 — 9:18 pm
Comments: 34

Don’t touch our ‘Butthole’, say residents

Yeah. Actual headline. I only posted it for that. I suppose I could do a post on funny English road names, but that’s been done to death.

So, instead, I’m going to post about corvids. Couple of weeks ago, the BBC ran a story about a little girl in Seattle who leaves food for the crows. They pay her back in bits of junk and shiny trinkets.

At the end of the story, they asked readers for any similar experiences and got back some amazing stories. All of them were crows, I think. Worth a read.

We had a couple of pet crows when I was little. My mother was good with animals, so we had lots of them. The crows really impressed me as personalities — smart and alert and a little wicked. They loved to tease the cats.

It’s very birdy where we live now, including a lively colony of rooks. I like the rooks. A few years ago, I was walking home along a busy road and I spotted a rook on the sidewalk. Or maybe a crow. Not sure. Anyway, it was limping badly; it had probably been grazed by a car.

I thought, “awwww…I will throw my coat over him and take him home and nurse him back to health and we’ll be bestest of friends.” I took one step in its direction and it squawked and flew straight into the path of a gravel truck and disappeared in a cloud of feathers and red mist.

I still feel shit.

March 10, 2015 — 11:05 pm
Comments: 9

Yay! Plague pit!

Crossrail is an astonishing engineering project; they’re boring a big-ass new subway tunnel straight across London. Like, 26 miles worth of new track, going through infrastructure, under foundations and within inches of existing tunnels and roads. It’s Europe’s largest construction projects — one of the biggest construction projects EVAH.

If you love big machines and amazing feats of construction, if you sometimes wonder whether we’ve totally lost that audacity the Victorians had so darned much of, you really should follow the link and spend some time exploring. Try their YouTube channel (at least check out the eight ginormous tunneling machines).

Digging a huge trench across London, as you might imagine, is turning up all sorts of ancient junk. They’ve just run across the Bedlam plague pit — 3,000 skellingtons worth — and they’ve got sixty archaeologists on site beavering away at it so construction can continue soonest.

Earlier Underground lines took a stomach-crunching jog to avoid digging up plague pits and taking the chance of unleashing something. But, as it turns out, it’s pretty difficult to extract y. pestis out of old bones. They’re going to do their best.

March 9, 2015 — 9:43 pm
Comments: 12

What weasels is made of

So, my DNA is winging its way to a lab in the Netherlands (I think) even as we speak. It was inevitable, once I got interested in the DNA of the local population, that I would start wondering what was in my own. BTW, dredging up 1cc of spit is surprisingly hard to do. Bubbles don’t count!

I looked around at different services and decided 23andMe suited me best. They report on ancestry (i.e. ethnicity) but also genetic risk factors, inherited conditions, some genetic traits and drug responses. I understand some people really, really don’t want to know those last few things, and for them there’s ancestry (the DNA testing service of ancestry.com) which only does ethnicity.

It’s worth having a poke around and see what they can find in your genes these days. Eye color, birth weight, baldness. Yeah, I know you know all those things about yourself, but knowing we can identify the genes means we can tell so much more about the people whose bones we dig up. Or the people who commit crimes and are careless enough to leave DNA behind.

Even more interesting, in a way, is what they can’t tell: they can’t measure Jewish or Native American ancestry. Well, they can trace Ashkenazi Jews, but not Middle Eastern lines, which are just semitic. And American Indians show up as generic Far Eastern (and ha! ha! to the indigenous campaigners who denied this obvious fact).

My family’s been in the States a long, long time, so I’m not going to be a purebred anything. This post represents my pledge to you: if something distinctly unWASPy shakes out of my family tree — say, a gypsy or hottentot — I will freely confess. And then I’ll start applying for all that sweet, sweet government aid to minorities.

Good weekend!

March 6, 2015 — 9:51 pm
Comments: 22

I found my grandma!

When I was about 18, I was driving around an unfamiliar part of Nashville and I ran across the old city cemetery. I’m a cemetery hag from an old Nashville family, so I absolutely had to stop and have a look around. Very eerie it was, too — all overgrown and neglected, with the stones leaning at all angles. The perfect creepy Deep South cemetery.

I was astonished to find my great-great-great grandmother buried there. Had to be her because she had an unusual name — one that was given to me as a middle name and has dogged me ever since. In fact, much as I love the silliness of it, I tried to drop it when I married and use my old last name as my new middle name. Her Maj would have none of it and the name appears on all my official correspondence. I think when I take my citizenship (soon, by the way) I’ll give up and adopt it officially.

Anyway, I was astonished because I know she died in Louisiana in 1850-something and I hate to think how they got her home to Nashville and what kind of condition she was in. There was an inscription on the stone I couldn’t read, and the grave was surrounded by a high wrought iron fence. I briefly considered climbing over for a closer look, but thought of how many different kinds of hell my father would give me if I got knicked doing something I oughtenta in the City Cemetery.

So yesterday, somebody on FaceBook *spit* mentioned the City Cemetery and how well it’s kept now and what a good website they have. And, sure enough, I went there found my grandma. Her grave has been cleaned, the stone has been restored. It looked nice. I sent them a thank you note.

Point is — as I’m discovering, working for an historical society — more and more stuff is being conserved all the time. And more and more of the stuff that is conserved is coming online. If you have a particular family interest, it’s worth rechecking on a regular basis.

Bonus read: visual guide to gravestone symbolism.

March 5, 2015 — 10:56 pm
Comments: 15

I hope you weren’t eating

Romance novel covers as recreated by ordinary-looking people.

I was struck by how often the woman is clothed and the man is buck nekkid. I know romance novels are hardcore porn for women, so naturally would leave her with a little more dignity, but it seems like story mismatch for them not to be in a similar state of undress.

When I see a naked man in a clothed situation, I expect him to be snapping a towel, waving his winky about and bellowing “WAAAAUUUUGH!” or “woowoo!”

No, I have not just told you something you didn’t know about Uncle B.

March 4, 2015 — 7:36 pm
Comments: 15