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Happy Brexit Day, errbody!




This is a bottle of proper British sparkling wine. The vinyard isn’t far from us. Like many of the best English wines, it’s been winning international blind taste tests, which really pisses off the French. So, perfect.

It’s going to take a year at least to work out various trade and travel agreements with Europe, and everyone assumes Boris will sell us down the river in the end. He’s very much a member of the ruling class, after all, and probably a Remainer in his secret heart.

Nonetheless, it is a Very Big Day, Not To Be Ignored.

I think I managed to dissuade Uncle B from setting off a rocket at 11 (midnight in Germany, the official Brexit). He wanted to aim it over the house of our neighbor who took to her bed for a week after the results of the referendum were announced.

Geez, dude, she’s insufferable enough as it is!

Oh, and we got our first two confirmed Coronavirus cases today.Have a good weekend, everyone.





January 31, 2020 — 6:36 pm
Comments: 15

Muh homies

I’ve always been a fangirl of the Neanderthals — even back in the days when science said Neanderthals absolutely, positively never interbred with modern humans. I was delighted when my 23andme results came back with an unusually high percent of Neanderthal genes (no doubt where I get my psoriasis).

In a cave in the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia, they’ve found a cache of Neanderthal relics — upwards of 4,000 tools. They analyzed the tools and decided the style was more in keeping with known European Neanderthal groups, 2,000 miles to the West and not so much like known Siberian groups.

So either a group of Ogs hiked it that far 60,000 years ago, or they had a network along the route they traded skills with.

Neanderthals died out maybe 30,000 years ago and history begins about 5,500 years ago. I’m not going anywhere with that, I just like to think about timelines.

Coronavirus update: there are now five confirmed cases in people who haven’t been to China, including a new one in the US (bringing the US total to 6). That’s still an astonishing low infection rate, compared to Mainland China. Fingers crossed. Oh, and having the flu jab may make you more susceptible to other respiratory viruses, including this one.

January 30, 2020 — 9:18 pm
Comments: 7

Looks like naugahyde

Behold, the highest-resolution images of the sun ever taken. Each of those knobbles is about the size of Texas. These are the first pictures from the brand new 12-foot Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope at the the National Solar Observatory in Hawaii.

But that’s just the beginning. NASA launched a probe in August of 2018 and the European Space Agency has another one going in February, both intended as long-term solar observatories. Among the questions: why is the atmosphere of the sun a million degrees hotter than the surface? They also hope to observe the sun’s magnetic poles flip, a thing it does every eleven years.

I’m personally hoping they can find some sun spots. I don’t want to eek out my old age in record cold.

Coronavirus update: numbers continue to climb in China while remaining curiously flat in other affected countries. One theory (observation, really) is that Asians are more susceptible. And men more than women, by about four to one. No, I don’t have any citations for that. It came across my Twitter feed and made me go hmmmm.

January 29, 2020 — 9:11 pm
Comments: 11

More virus blather

Anyone who’s following the coronavirus (and I assume it’s most of you) has seen this map. It’s updated once or twice a day with the most orthodox numbers. I’m putting it here so I have a handy bookmark. Most people probably don’t go upstream to find it’s put out by Johns Hopkins. They write more about the details of what they’re tracking here.

So far, I’m heartened by the fact that cases outside mainland China haven’t exploded yet. My chances of surviving a lung bug this year are not awesome.

That’s an odd thing, too. This chest bug I caught; we’ve talked to people all over Britain who clearly have the same lurgie. It’s starts like a normal cold, but a nasty, productive cough lingers for months. Mined turned very ugly; more like a mild pneumonia, really. It’s not hard to imagine this thing carrying off someone otherwise weakened.

Clearly it’s not a normal cold. I wonder what the public health threshold is, that makes the authorities take notice, take samples and identify this particular bug as a thing with a name and a history?

When I was a teenager in rural Tennessee, a bunch of us came down with a bad one. By ‘us’ I mean teenagers — I don’t think any other age group was affected. So the medical establishment decided it was mononucleosis. Because teenagers.

Not a single one of us tested positive for mono — and I suspect most of us were tested, because it was a long one. In my case, it started with painful sores inside my mouth. To this day, I sometimes have a flare-up of mouth sores when my immune system is low.

Why didn’t they try to identify it for real? I guess because there was only one death (if I recall correctly, a fifteen year old girl who fell asleep on the couch and never woke up).

Sometimes I think an illness has to be some scientist’s pet bug to get any attention.

January 28, 2020 — 8:22 pm
Comments: 7

Expensive creepy machines

The Met has got a show on at the moment called Making Marvels. It’s about two hundred years worth of eye-wateringly expensive things European royalty commissioned between 1550 and 1750. If you click either the catalogue or the picture album links on the page I linked above, you get a 404 error.

Boo, the Met.

Fortunately, I found their YouTube playlist. Don’t miss the famous draughtsman — with his clothes off, no less.

Lots of cool things to see on their Twitter hashtag, as well.

Yes, I’m still haunting Twitter for news of the coronavirus. Today in town, a family of Chinese tourists stopped me to ask directions and I ’bout came out of my skin. If one of the buggers had coughed…

January 27, 2020 — 9:15 pm
Comments: 7

Landshark, for reals

Scientists have discovered nine species of walking sharks. They mostly ‘walk’ along the sea floor, but they’re capable of walking over the tops of coral reefs, out of the water, to reach new feeding grounds. Only a matter of time.

I was going to use the picture from the NatGeo article, but when I right-clicked to copy I got a pop-up warning me to be respectful of copyright. I don’t think that’s right — once you’ve put an image in a tweet, I believe you lose exclusivity per the TOS. Otherwise, you could sue people for retweeting stuff.

Eh. I’ll be honest. I’m just sitting on Twitter following the #coronavirus hashtag again.

Have a good weekend, y’all!

January 24, 2020 — 9:29 pm
Comments: 9

Wash your hands, kids

I paid my taxes this evening. No, strike that — I filed my taxes. I am too poor to owe anything. Still, it’s a stressy little exercise to go through every year.

Now I’m just sitting here following the #CoronavirusOutbreak hashtag on Twitter.

There some weird footage coming out of Wuhan. Who knows if it’s real. That thing where people are walking down the street and suddenly collapse? That happened in the 1918 pandemic.

And there the resemblance does not end.


January 23, 2020 — 9:15 pm
Comments: 15

Eye see ewe

They’re cleaning the Ghent Altarpiece, a spectacularly beautiful and important early oil painting. If it doesn’t ring a bell, you’d definitely recognize bits of it if you saw them.

When they gave the panels a good high-tech examination, they were shocked to find about 70% of it had been overpainted a hundred years later, nobody knows why or by whom. It went unnoticed for so long because the techniques and materials were so close to the original. So they decided to peel off the later additions.

And they discovered THE LAMB OF GOD IS SCARY AS HELL. This is such a weird departure for the Van Eyck brothers, who were famous as the first painters who carefully observed and faithfully reproduced the natural world. Their original lamb is just acll kind of wrong. Though it does explain why the lamb had four ears in the overpainted version. (Comparison of the before and after).

It’s apparently going viral on the Internet now. Because of course it is.

Articles about it here, here and here.

January 22, 2020 — 8:53 pm
Comments: 3

Scooby doo made flesh

Neat article about super realistic silicone masks. It isn’t that they’ve gotten better, it’s that they’ve gotten cheaper. Used to be, only a big movie studio could afford them. Now you can get one for under $1,000.

Still a lot of money, but worth it if you were something like a bank robber. Which might be the back story to this guy, who robbed sixteen banks. He was either old or wearing an old man mask.

Nice selection to be seen from these people, who seem to be charging $799 for they typical mask. Hair included.

Turns out, changing the subject, that it’s Squirrel Appreciation Day. My Twitter feed has been fluffy and useless all day.

January 21, 2020 — 8:29 pm
Comments: 5

Any pilots in the house?

What is this weather pattern? Picture doesn’t show it very well (I nicked from someone else’s social media).

The sky was relatively clear on one side, rumply clouds on the other. But the line between them was…well, a line. A sharp line of demarcation from horizon horizon. Slightly curved.

The weather had been mostly sunny today. It dipped below freezing last night for the first time this season, and it will again tonight.

Never seen this before.

Oh, and happy MLK Day, which falls on Blue Monday this year.

January 20, 2020 — 7:36 pm
Comments: 4