Archive for August, 2006

Today’s So You Thought YOU were hungry URL

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Magicians are interesting, except when they make you ill, like this one does.

Today’s He Got Out of the Wrong Side of Someone’s Bed URL

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Baptism usually is a laid-back affair, with only the baby getting splashed. Not here, though.

Today’s Unique Sleepwear URL

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

While these are not footie jammies, I’m sure that some of our denizens might find a use for them…

Today’s Six Feet Under URL

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

I know that one of my lj friends loves to bring her dog everywhere, but I would leave PL at home when going to a place like this. You could end up with a real hot time.


Monday, August 28th, 2006
Or maybe you are a mosquito, you certainly can’t be human.

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that I can hear is 21.1kHz

Find out which ringtones you can hear!

Journalists freed in Gaza forced to “convert”

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

The news has been reporting that the two journalist hostages just freed in Gaza had been forced to “convert” to Islam at the point of a gun. They seem to have stated that the conversion was not valid as it was done out of fear of their lives.

I was intrigued by all this and did a Google on “forced conversaion to Islam”. There seem to be two broadly different types of hits for this Google. The first type is of Christian websites detailing forced conversions in Egypt, Pakistan, and especially Indonesia. These conversions are usually performed under pain of death and involve forced circumcision of both males and females (I wasn’t aware that Islam required circumcision of women…) In Egypt they often took the form of young Coptic women being separated from their families through kidnapping and then denied contact with them, with the official excuse that they had converted and no longer considered themselves part of a Christian family.

The second type is Islamic websites, which invariably state that Islam does not permit forced conversion, quoting the Koran and various other sources with which I am not familiar.

I find something spine-chilling about forced conversion. It could conceivably happen to almost anyone who finds themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. And although the same Islamic sites I mention above normally also deny that there is any death penalty for “apostacy from Islam”, there are numerous historical precedents saying that this is indeed the penalty applied. One website was frank enough to say that if an apostate from Islam threatened the community (unspecified, but I suspect it would even be through his or her presence in it as a convert from Islam to something else) then a civil death penalty would be appropriate.

So will these journalists, who I believe are repudiating any “conversion”, now be under fear for their lives for being “apostates” from a religion which they seemed to join but did not? Or will they be under threat of death because their “conversion” was not sincere? Only time will tell.

I admit that forced conversions to Christianity have been practiced from the time of Constantine the Great for centuries. I don’t believe it normally occurs nowadays (perhaps the forced conversions of the Jews and Muslims in Spain after the Moorish rulers had been forced back across the Straits of Gibraltar were the last major occurrence) but the fact that it did does not obviate the fact that forced conversion of whatever kind is wrong and a contravention of a person’s human right to believe in anything (or nothing) and to change his or her beliefs without coercion.

Today’s Hey guys, cross your legs! URL

Friday, August 25th, 2006

From YouTube comes this story about the candiru fish that we all thought was just legendary…

Today’s Obituary URL

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Those of you who have a taste for Rocky Mountain oysters might want to shed a private tear today: Bruce Ruth, the owner of Bruce’s Bar in Severance, Colorado, has died at the age of 73. The bulls in the area, however, are crying tears of relief, I think.

Update: The original obituary has disappeared but an appreciation of Mr. Ruth’s establishment replaces the dead link.

Today’s new product URL

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

I was one of the “early adopters” of The Complete New Yorker. As the New Yorker was one of my favourite magazines from my earliest years in New York until I moved to London, I felt that the Complete New Yorker, with every page of every issue since 1925 up to early 2005, was something I had to have. So I bought it, and was only slightly miffed that the price came down as people balked at the large price and the large folder containing DVDs. The search function is nifty: the index is on your computer, and once you’ve narrowed down what you want to see, the program instructs you which DVD to load up to see your choice.

Well, I guess that wasn’t enough for the New Yorker (I miss William Shawn). They have now come out with this product which is along the same lines. I think it’s probably a first. Has 20 GB remaining on it for future issues! Get yours today! Preorders can get it personally inscribed!! Oh dear, the choices one has to make. If I bought this HWMBO would kill me. But, I really want it.

Today must be obituary day!

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

From the New York Times come an obituary of a modern-day Wimpy who seems to have captured one of the essentials of being American: eating hamburgers.

August 24, 2006
NY Times
Douglas Martin

Jeffrey Tennyson, 54, Hamburger Devotee, Is Dead

Jeffrey Tennyson, an artist whose obsession with hamburgers – equal parts gastronomic, folkloric and satiric – resulted in a book on burger history and a hoard of thousands of burger knickknacks, died Aug. 18 at his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 54.

The cause was complications of infection with H.I.V., said his sister, Lisa Tennyson.

Mr. Tennyson’s love affair with hamburgers sprouted from fond childhood memories of neon-adorned fast-food temples serviced by ponytailed carhops laden with trays of chocolate malts and juicy deluxe burger platters. He told The Washington Times in 1995 that the burger bug irrevocably bit in the early 1980’s when he was living in New York and noticed a burger stand on almost every corner while taking a bus down Broadway.

“The real American icon is not apple pie,” he realized. “It’s the hamburger.”

So he started to collect hamburger memorabilia and artwork, and collected and collected and collected: hamburger juggling sets, hamburger teapots, hamburger cookie jars and hamburger salt-and-pepper shakers, along with the predictable posters and photographs of hamburgers.

There was a hamburger organ on which he tried to learn to play Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” There was the Canine Burger Chef, a toy that flips and seasons burgers. A statue of Big Boy, mascot of the chain that originated the double-decker hamburger, was a particular prize.

In all, Mr. Tennyson accumulated more than 2,000 hamburger things, then lent them to the town of Seymour, Wis., where the hamburger may or may not have been invented. (Seymour residents’ certainty of municipal bragging rights is suggested by their not exactly unpublicized collaboration in cooking a very large burger, usually about the size of a two-car garage, at the town’s annual Hamburger Festival.)

Mr. Tennyson’s donations formed the core of the collection of the Hamburger Hall of Fame, which opened in Seymour in 1993, a year when the town’s annual burger weighed four tons. The museum closed several years ago, and Mr. Tennyson’s hamburger stuff was returned to him in California.

His book, “Hamburger Heaven” (Hyperion, 1993), was a natural outgrowth of the collecting, and took a highly visual approach, reflecting Mr. Tennyson’s background as a magazine art director. A review in The Chicago Sun-Times called the pictures “enormously distracting,” clearly meaning that as a compliment.

The total effect, the reviewer said, was to “chronicle a history of our clothing, our architecture, our cars, our tastes – along with our most relished sandwich.” (Relevant relishes include ketchup, mustard and the secret Big Mac sauce.)

Judging by the large reaction the book received from the news media, Mr. Tennyson’s words resonated almost as much as his art. He appeared on numerous television and radio programs to theorize, rhapsodize and, occasionally, sermonize on hamburgers.

In particular, he discussed the arcane, emotion-charged debate about the origins of the sandwich, usually without taking a definite stand. Sometimes he would back Seymour’s claim that Charles Nagreen made the first true hamburger sandwich when he slapped a meatball between two slices of bread in 1885.

He told National Public Radio that the hamburger’s birth was “bound to happen at the turn of the century” because of “a new breed” of immigrant workers who were short on time and money for lunch. His book did not neglect the burger’s earlier culinary history, tracing beef-eating to Tatar tribes who liked it raw in the 13th century through the listing of Hamburg Steak on the menu of Delmonico’s restaurant in Manhattan in 1834 to Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” advertising campaign in the 1980’s.

Mr. Tennyson told CBS how hamburger chains evolved from the first White Castle restaurant in Wichita, Kan., in 1921. At CNN, he brought his music box modeled on J. Wellington Wimpy, the burger maniac born in the “Popeye” comic strip in the 20’s. It played “Popeye the Sailorman.”

“Hamburgers are the one thing that unites us as a people, as Americans, uniquely American,” he said in his interview with The Washington Times.

Brian Jeffrey Tennyson was born in Chicago on July 26, 1952, and reared in Niles, Mich. He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Bowling Green State University. He moved to New York City, where he worked as art director for After Dark, Skiing, Christopher Street and other publications. In the early 1990’s, he went to California to become a design consultant.

Mr. Tennyson is survived by his sister, who lives in Massachusetts, and his parents, Donald A. Tennyson and the former Elizabeth Rowland of Dowagiac, Mich.

If there are indeed hamburgers in heaven, Mr. Tennyson, who could not imagine eating a burger without onions, has placed his order. In an interview with The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 1999, he said his dream was to travel back in time to the original, long-defunct Big Boy restaurant in Glendale, Calif., and ask a carhop to bring him one of those first flavorful, fabled double-deckers.

There’ll Always be an England, Obituary Department

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

From the Telegraph.

Lord Deramore

(Filed: 24/08/2006) Telegraph

The 6th Lord Deramore, who died on Sunday aged 95, was an example of that breed of mildly eccentric hereditary peer whose presence for generations embellished, informed and entertained the “unreformed” House of Lords.

Deramore was a man of diverse talents and enthusiams. As a young man he won the 1

Today’s Six Feet Under URL

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

…comes from the BBC, reporting on a curious funeral practice being outlawed in China.

I think I’ll ask HWMBO to book one for my funeral.

Today’s Faux-Nostalgia URL

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

…comes from Beloit College, which each year posts its Mindset List, consisting of items that the entering freshman class has always taken for granted.

Sobering. I’d love to see a list for the Class of 1974. Can we come up with one, O old-timers?

Update: They’ve changed the URL, but luckily I found it again. Darned academics!

My Demon account is no more

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

I’ve finally deleted my Demon account. It was the second email account I had here in the UK, and it served me well for a long time. However, BTinternet has been providing my broadband service for nearly 3 years now, and I have moved my webpages. The only email I have been getting at the Demon address is spam, mostly. I let it go for quite a while in order to ensure that all the entities still sending non-spam email to it could be changed over. Now that most of them are, I waved a fond farewell to my Demon account and will save around

Today’s 419 letter

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

In my inbox today I discovered the following letter. The email address is deleted in case someone feels so moved by this that they want to contact Ms. Minoff. I especially like the fact that she is dying of “cancer of the lever”. I wasn’t aware that levers were either part of human anatomy or susceptible to cancer. Her husband died after a “Cadiac Arteries operation”. Ms. Minoff’s spelling is so atrocious I can only say that if she was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the schools there must not be very good.

From Joy Minoff.


With Due Respect And Humanity, I was compelled to write to you under a humanitarian ground.
My name is Joy Minoff. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, I am married to Mr.Jean Claude Dramane director J.C Industries Cote d’Ivoire.We were married for 36 years without a child. He died after a Cadiac Arteries Operation.
And Recently, My Doctor told me that I would not last for the next six months due to my cancer problem (cancer of the lever and stroke).
Before my husband died last year there is this sum $2.8 Million Dollars that he deposited with a Private Finance Company here In Ivory Coast. Presently this money is still in the Vault of the Company.
Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to any good God fearing brother or sister that will utilize this fund the way I am going to instruct herein.
I want somebody that will use this fund according to the desire of my late.husband to help Lessprivilaged people, orphanages,widows and propagating the word of God.
I took this decision because I don

Hitler-themed restaurant

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Someone in India has started a Hitler-themed restaurant. But, someone on another list has fantasized about what would be on the menu:

  • Arbeit macht fries
  • Luftwaffles
  • Gestapotato pancakes
  • From the sandwich board: Hito-heros
  • Sweeties:
  • Kraft durch fruit salad
  • Eva Brownies
  • Chocolate Mousse-o-lini torte
  • All entrees served with Vichy water

Notes to our menu:

  • All meat is treated with Adolph’s meat tenderizer.
  • Swiss chocolate is not used in any of our desserts (wink-wink nudge-nudge)
  • Borscht was added to the menu in 1942 and removed in 1944. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Death takes a holiday

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

This is today’s good-news story, I think. A slow news week.

I presume that running this story will mean a rush to the mortuary by a good proportion of the elderly population of North Adams, Massachusetts though. Always happens.

Update: As of September 2007, this is a dead link. How appropriate.

I wave bye-bye to another email list

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Over the last 12 years I’ve been involved in lots of email lists, both as contributor and as a list-owner. I’ve seen everything go by: flamewars that would knock your socks off, passive-aggressives who “accidentally” reply-all to the list with a post that is pretty critical of someone else. I’ve unsubscribed members who were abusive to other people and watched other list members unsubscribe themselves in sympathy with the person I’ve unsubscribed.

Well, I just unsubscribed from a list myself, for that very reason. I must be getting old. A list run by a lesbian and gay religious group here in the UK (not LGCM) has a Yahoo! group. There has been some criticism of the moderator and of the Archbishop of Canterbury on the list, which criticism has been fairly well deserved, I think. I have written reasoned criticism of the Archbishop for his wishy-washy cowardly stand on issues and his savaging of Jeffrey John. However, as the moderator is a former student of the Archbishop’s he feels that everything will be just fine if we don’t criticise the Archbishop and let him do his work.

So, in my long history of not trying to teach pigs to sing (because it wastes my time and annoys the pigs), I’ve unsubscribed from the list.

While LGCM has its own set of problems, which this group has gone some way to redress, I just have the feeling that there is an intense conflict-avoidance syndrome running through this group, which makes it difficult to operate a list. The skill needed is conflict resolution, not conflict avoidance. I don’t have time to read or contribute to a list of that nature. I’ll probably stop my financial support as well; we’re already paying

Today’s Potable URL

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Still at the BBC, we find that a sewage-polluted river in India is thought to have changed just a bit, here. I shan’t be testing the waters, you?? Just goes to show you that images of the Blessed Virgin in chocolate and on toasted cheese sandwiches are part of a phenomenon common to many religions.

Today’s Confectionary URL

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

And how many of us would give our pancreases away to be in this man’s shoes?

Note especially the very British thoroughness of the story, in the last line. Admirable. I wish I could eat a chocolate bar these days…

Bad hair day?

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Not mine, as I don’t have enough to have any sort of hair day (perhaps a hair second, I suppose). I subscribe to an email list called “Freecycle” where people who have stuff to get rid of that’s still useful and people who want something that someone else might have post and exchange their stuff to keep it out of the landfill.

Under “Miscellaneous” the following was posted to give away today:

Barbie Stuff – Have 1 more medium box of Barbie & other similar dolls and clothes. OK conditition, good for play, some Barbie “hair” accidents.

I have a vision of Ken as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street standing over a seated Barbie who is waiting for a “haircut”.

Today’s High NRG Religion URL

Friday, August 18th, 2006

A family in Germany makes too much noise unto the Lord.

Today’s Mary-on-a-Toasted-Cheese-Sandwich-Substitute URL

Friday, August 18th, 2006

This time it’s chocolate drippings from under a vat. I’m not kidding.

It looks like an eagle to me, but then again, my Mariolatry days are far far behind me. Thanks to for the heads-up.

P.S. They’d better keep it in the freezer or it’ll end up as a puddle on the table or eaten by a kid in the shop for something else.

Everyone needs to read this article

Friday, August 18th, 2006

While I hold no brief for those misguided people who want to blow us all up, the media have been pretty facile, on the whole, about the possibility of combining various liquids to form a bomb, which they would then detonate. This Register article gives some of the facts about the substance most likely to have been envisioned as the bomb material and how difficult it is to actually make and use it.

One might remember that several years ago a plot to do this type of thing in the Philippines was thwarted. However, after that there was no ban on liquids being brought on board. The reason is that it’s so difficult to make this stuff and carry it around that it’s not particularly likely that anyone will be able to do it.

If you see someone walking down the aisle of your airplane headed for the toilets with a thermometer, a beaker, and a cooler filled with ice packs, be concerned.

I’m feeling better today

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

For the last few days I’ve been feeling decidedly sub-par. I had muscle aching, was very listless, had a slight cough (but nothing much), and difficulty sleeping (which could be a side effect of that dratted beta blocker). I was so listless that I could hardly move out of the chair, and had little or no appetite. I actually watched daytime TV.

Today I was a little better, so I went to the supermarket after dinner to get a few things and some cash. I bumped into one of the owners of my gym. After we abused each other (we have a friendly banter that seems quite vicious, but is actually playful), he asked me why I hadn’t been to the gym this week. I told him what I’d been suffering from, and he said, “Ah, that’s what’s been going around. One of the staff is so ill he had to stay home all week.”

So now I know what I had: “The Thing That’s Going Around”.

I hope to return to the gym tomorrow.

Sometimes you just bang your head against the wall…

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

I like to listen to some of my favourite US-based music stations occasionally over the ‘net. I tried today to listen to WNUA, Chicago and KKSF, San Francisco, and found that they have blocked overseas computers from listening due to “copyright restrictions”. This really sucks. As the BBC does it too (blocks non-UK addresses from listening/watching online) I suppose tit-for-tat, but jeez, Louise.

Today’s Darwin Award runner-up URL

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

He’s a runner-up only that he failed to remove himself from the gene pool after trying this stunt.

Today’s Academic URL, Number 2…

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

…reveals that going to college in Florida can leave you chasing more than paper…or being chased, rather.

Today’s Annals of Petty Crime URL

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

Seems like Lincoln, Nebraska isn’t a very safe place. And this guy is only about halfway to the record!

Today’s Academic URL, Number 1…

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

…combines with George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words…scroll down to What Cannot Be Said On My Posting
. George Carlin grew up on Morningside Heights too…perhaps he used to sneak into Barnard at night.

Today’s Religious Bons Mots URL

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

is here, from Overheard in New York. Who knew that statistic about bibles?

Todays spam message

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

…sounds quite literary, even if it makes no sense whatsoever. I have deleted all the links and the like so, enjoy!! I especially like the last sentence of the first paragraph. I shall bold those parts I find particularly funny, but YMMV.

The snooty fighter pilot is mitochondrial. When you see a hairy burglar, it means that some fundraiser beams with joy. The stovepipe beyond a tornado overwhelmingly befriends some girl scout for a cough syrup. A foreign ski lodge knowingly gives a pink slip to the soggy stovepipe. When you see the vacuum cleaner of the rattlesnake, it means that some scooby snack dies.

The turkey beyond a girl scout writes a love letter to a statesmanlike umbrella. A stovepipe, the jersey cow, and a fruit cake are what made America great! Furthermore, a hole puncher beyond the salad dressing returns home, and a cough syrup is a big fan of the umbrella. If a ski lodge trades baseball cards with a miserly football team, then the pork chop reads a magazine. When a ball bearing for the line dancer is moronic, the cocker spaniel living with the minivan tries to seduce the wedge from the tornado.

A burglar behind a support group steals pencils from a moronic recliner. Indeed, the knowingly statesmanlike scythe inexorably cooks cheese grits for a sheriff. Now and then, another earring living with a pit viper underhandedly recognizes the turkey from a grand piano. When the fundraiser is mean-spirited, a tabloid living with a chess board overwhelmingly buries the paper napkin. Another tomato earns frequent flier miles, because a stovepipe organizes another carpet tack of the CEO.

A reactor near a razor blade ruminates, but some grain of sand near the abstraction gives a pink slip to a mating ritual living with the demon. Indeed, the overwhelmingly most difficult cashier befriends a nation. A righteous rattlesnake negotiates a prenuptial agreement with a minivan over a buzzard. Furthermore, a mating ritual related to a fruit cake feels nagging remorse, and a South American tuba player plans an escape from the worldly rattlesnake the judge over the bartender. A microscope defined by the earring derives perverse satisfaction from an asteroid inside a mortician.

Today’s Culinary URL

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

Does anyone who reads my journal except me remember The Automat? Horn and Hardart used to run many of these restaurants, up until 1991 when the last one closed in New York City. You provided yourself with change, went to the wall of little doors, selected what you wanted and put coins in the slot. Then you turned the knob and, presto! The door opened and you got your food.

Well, Bamn is opening on St. Mark’s Place in New York City; a modern automat with an Asian kick. I can’t wait to get to New York, arm myself with some quarters, and try it. The New York Sun article is here.


Today’s bon mot

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

From an email list I’m on comes the following:

Many years ago when I was a parishioner at the cathedral, the dean made the switch from red to white wine without telling anyone it was going to happen. The cathedral uses silver flagons and so it was not readily apparent until one took a sip from the chalice.

One of the grand matriarchs of the parish rose from kneeling at the altar rail and slowly made her way across the chancel to her seat after making her communion. In a wonderful throaty stage whisper that comes only from years of smoking she grandly announced: “I was not aware our Lord was anemic.”

Today’s great obituary, or There’ll always be an England

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

From alt.obituaries comes the following:

Lord Kilbracken (Filed: 15/08/2006) Telegraph

The 3rd Lord Kilbracken, who died yesterday aged 85, hit the headlines in 1957 when he succeeded in gatecrashing the Great Red Square parade in Moscow on the 40th anniversary of the October uprising, wearing a pink Leander tie and with his trousers turned inside out.

During the war Kilbracken had served in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm as a Swordfish pilot, and had gone on to win a DSC in 1945 while commanding a Wildcat squadron. In 1972, however, he returned his medal and announced that he was renouncing British citizenship in protest at the shooting of 13 demonstrators during the so-called Bloody Sunday massacres in Londonderry.

John Raymond Godley was born in Chester Street, Belgravia, on October 17 1920; he was the son of Hugh Godley, later the 2nd Lord Kilbracken, who would become counsel to the Lord Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords. The peerage had been created in 1909 for his grandfather, Arthur Godley, Gladstone’s private secretary and later an Under-Secretary of State for India.

The Godleys originally hailed from Yorkshire, but had moved to Ireland in the 18th century after inheriting an estate in Co Leitrim, where an ancestor of John Godley’s built Killegar, a fine Georgian house in the classical tradition. John, however, spent his early childhood in England, and did not visit Ireland until he was nine.

At Eton he distinguished himself by rowing in the first VIII, taking flying lessons and setting himself up as the school bookie, thus inaugurating a life-long love of gambling of all kinds. The position earned him a certain amount of kudos with his peers, but was not appreciated by the beaks – or by his parents, who cut off funds for his flying lessons as a punishment.

He decided that the only way out of ignominy and poverty was to win the school’s Hervey verse prize, which came with a handsome cheque for

My weekend part II: Hackney

Monday, August 14th, 2006

On Sunday I met my friend Rosemary in Hackney for Eucharist at St. John’s Hackney and a picnic (not at the same time, mind you!).

I took a train from Liverpool Street Station, and then walked from Hackney Downs. I could have taken a bus from London Bridge, but wasn’t sure where it went. Oh, well, I now have an unresolved trip on my Oystercard as I had no place to touch out at Hackney Downs. When I got to the church, as Rosemary is a bellringer, I went up the tower (which contains a ring of ten bells) and watched a peal for the first time. It is fascinating, especially if you’ve read Dorothy Sayers’ The Nine Tailors. The ringers stand in a circle, and you sit in a corner hoping you won’t be in the way. They begin, pulling the ropes down until a large purple plush sausage through which the rope passes (called a “sallie”) is to their eye level. Then they begin: they pull the ropes, holding the end of the rope coiled in their left-hands while letting the sallie travel up to the ceiling to half-disappear into a hole in the ceiling, then catch the sallie again as it travels back down to the floor. It’s fascinating! And then, to a mixture of horror and fascination, I realised that the entire tower was trembling and swaying, as I could feel it through the chair and the floor! The mathematical changes (thus “change ringing”) produce a music that is quintessentially English and Anglican. Roman Catholics don’t seem to go in for it. It also seems like good exercise. Wikipedia on change ringing is here and here.

I asked Rosemary afterwards, “Hypothetically, if one wanted to learn how to ring, how would one go about it? I have too many appetites I can’t satisfy, but this is fascinating stuff.” I should turn up Monday night at 7 pm if I want to learn. Oh dear. I didn’t turn up tonight but who knows?

The service was not led by the Rector, who is on holiday preparatory to retirement; it was led by a woman priest, who unfortunately seems to have missed out on Homiletics classes. Her sermon began: “As the month of August begins with an ‘A’, I’ve decided to preach this month on themes beginning with ‘A’. Today I’m going to preach about ‘Accessibility’.” It went downward from there, folks. I was mortified. Perhaps she should have preached about being a horse’s Ass.

The congregation was sparse (it is August and many are away), and the church was quite gloomy, because due to a fire last January the electrical systems are mostly on the blink. The organ is now working, and there were a few lights in the sanctuary, but this church, which is a huge Georgian barn built in 1790 and seats 2,000 (including the gallery), was mostly grey in the gloom. The blank walls next to the altar window cried out for a mural or some imaginative artwork. But the congregation was very enthusiastic, and communion (as always) inspired me.

Afterwards we went to Rosemary’s for a quick brunch and on to Lammas Fields in Waltham Forest near Leyton. These were ancient marshes that, after WW II, were filled in with rubble from bombed buildings and used as sports and grazing land. However, this article gives the current picture, detailing how winning the Olympics is going to ruin the landscape of East London. The picnic was being held by a local organisation which opposes using the fields in this way. Allotments are local common land, set aside for people to grow crops on. The fact that the land is full of rubble which could contain asbestos, heavy metals such as lead piping, and even radium paint from an instrument factory which was bombed close to the site doesn’t seem to bother the council.

In any case, we were the first to arrive, and soon there was a merry band of activists, all of whom assumed I was an American tourist. But we did have fun, eating, drinking, and singing on the field while horses grazed neargy and young men played football across the road. A good time was had by all until the rains came, drenching those who couldn’t fit under the tent. A wayward dog, who bit one of the revellers’ fingers, and various walkers and runners, kept us amused. A rendition of the Lammas Fields Campaign Song by Rosemary was followed by a lusty “John Barleycorn Must Die” by another gentleman and several other tunes.

Thanks to Rosemary for hosting me and bringing me along to such a wonderful event. I may even turn up in the belfry someday.

An update on <b><i>Amorphophallus Titanum</b></i> in Brooklyn

Monday, August 14th, 2006

You may remember my post on this wonder of the world of flora. Well, like all politicians, the Borough President of Brooklyn is determined to ensure that his name is eternally linked with the Corpse Flower. I think that it’s quite natural to link a politician with something that smells to high heaven and attracts numerous flies.

My weekend part I: Dover

Monday, August 14th, 2006

My friend Bill wrote me a letter (an actual snail mail letter!) to tell me he would be in town this week and next. We decided to have dinner last Thursday, and HWMBO and I went to Earls Court to join him. We went to Balans West, which we hadn’t been to in ages. The food was just OK, the bill was decidedly elevated. But, the food aside, Bill asked me what would make a good day trip. I suggested Salisbury (you get two items in one: Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral) and Dover. He picked Dover, and asked whether I would join him. HWMBO needed to study during the weekend, so I decided to get out of his hair and take a day trip.

Dover is about 1-3/4 hours away, and I’m sure everyone’s heard of The White Cliffs of Dover (thanks, Dame Vera Lynn and World War II). We were greeted on a very dull day by this seagull commuter.

Seagull commuter

So we started our climb up the hill. Dover Castle is on one of the most awesome hills you’ll ever see. Not quite a mountain, but not a small hill, it towers over Dover. Here’s Bill in front of the hill, with the castle at the top:

Bill in front of the castle

After climbing the hill, and establishing that, being a member of English Heritage, I could get in for free rather than pay

A meme I like

Monday, August 14th, 2006

How many metro systems have you ridden? Here’s my total. Thanks to gmjambear for the link.


Get it at!
Update: Added “Shanghai” after our June trip.

Amusing lyrics

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Came across these in a posting in alt.obituaries. And yes, I promise I will post about the busy weekend in Dover and East London. But for now, some light relief:

They’re moving father’s grave to build a sewer
They’re moving it regardless of expense.
They’re moving his remains
to lay down nine-inch drains
To irrigate some rich bloke’s residence.
Now what’s the use of having a religion?
If when you’re dead you cannot get some peace
‘Cause some society chap
wants a pipeline to his tank
And moves you from your place of rest and peace…
Now father in his life was not a quitter
And I’m sure that he’ll not be a quitter now.
And in his winding sheet,
he will haunt that privy seat
And only let them go when he’ll allow.
Now won’t there be some bleedin’ consternation,
And won’t those city toffs begin to rave!
But it’s no more than they deserve,
’cause they had the bleedin’ nerve
To muck about a British workman’s grave.

Today’s Botanical URL

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s corpse flower is about to bloom. Wanna see it? Here’s the webcam. The flower, when it blooms, is said to smell like rotting flesh, which attracts the flies it needs to be pollinated. Luckily, there is no websmellcam

How much did it cost for <b>you</b> to be born

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Well, I know. I cost USD 85.83, to the penny, and the receipts prove it. The average weekly wage was about USD 67, so I cost a little more than a week’s wage.

The deposit receipt:

The final bill (while it isn’t marked paid, I hope it was; if they charged 7.5% interest on the outstanding balance it would be USD 3,503 today):

To Singaporeans!

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Happy National Day to you all!

Today’s Church History URL

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

…comes from YouTube, where Eddie Izzard discusses the beginnings of the Church of England.

My Hansen grandmother

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

On my website I talk a bit about my family background. My grandmother, Alice Fredericka Westman Adams Hansen Phillips (tra la!) was born in Buffalo, Wyoming in September 1888. I would estimate that this picture was taken between 1905 and 1908. In the lower right-hand corner (invisible in the scan) is embossed “The Fuller Studio, Sheridan, Wyo.”

Her father was a drunkard and a horse thief. Oddly enough for those times, he was not hanged for it. But when I told my father that he was a horse thief, Dad laughed and said, “Did they hang him high?” I answered: “You really shouldn’t joke about it: they named you after him.” His name was Orin James Westman and his wife, Mary Dawson, divorced him and married John Adams (no, not that one). She married my grandfather after corresponding with him because their teachers knew each other. She moved to Marblehead, and when my grandfather died in the late 1930’s, she married Mahlon Phillips, an engineer with the Boston and Maine whose usual run was Boston to Portland. He died in the early 1960’s, and she moved to live with her daughter and son-in-law in Alabama, where she died in 1979, aged 90.

Birth announcements

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

It’s about 53-1/2 years too late, but my birth announcements will finally go out. When my father died we went through the stuff in his bedroom and found, among other things, my birth announcement cards. Some actually had a 3-cent stamp on them (but were never mailed–God only knows why). They are in my mother’s handwriting. So, without further ado, here I am!

Front of card:

Inside of card:

Retouching pictures

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

I have been slowly retouching pictures of my parents’ wedding. They had a photographer, and got the proofs, but never had enough money at that time to get the pictures printed. So the proofs are all that remains. Last year I did one, and today I set my hand to a second one. I’m not very good, but the picture turned out pretty well, I think. Here it is. My grandfather is in the centre, with my grandmother arranging his bouttoniere and my Mom to the left.

Today’s Comic

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

…is a Mother Goose and Grimm that is, well, grim.

Today’s Academic URL

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

I know lots of people who might benefit from this new pharmaceutical. Unfortunately, the only organisms to benefit so far are mice and fruit flies.

Perhaps we could get a ton or so of them and send them to Washington DC and Whitehall, London, for our Fearless Leaders.

Nah. It would never work.

Today’s Alert Police URL

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

You better believe that the cops were onto this reported crime. I wonder if they got a reward from the grateful business owner.