Recent blog entries for marnanel


Conversation today:

"This box of firelighters has a picture of fire on it. It's not a box of fire."
"Unless it was flatpack fire. You know, like Ikea FJIRE."
"Oh... that explains why there's a sign outside saying FIRE ASSEMBLY POINT."

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-11-17 23:52:59 from Monument

let them buy houses

"The peasants have no bread."
"Let them eat cake!" (brioche)

Marie Antoinette didn't actually say that. The story spread because people were so worried about bread, which was the staple food. You might well spend 50% of your income on buying bread.

We were talking about this, and Kit said that the modern equivalent would be:

"Minister, the people say rents are too high."
"Well, they should just buy houses!"

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-11-16 12:23:53 from Monument

I'm wearing my white poppy

White poppy

I'm wearing my white poppy again. There's rarely a better day than today to call for peace.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-11-14 16:25:38 from Monument

the CofE makes more money than McDonald's

The Daily Mail is running a story saying that the Church of England makes more money than Starbucks or McDonald's. Even beyond the obvious point that Starbucks and McD's are run for the profit of shareholders, this is pretty silly.

If you don't think churches should exist at all, obviously you're going to think the CofE is handling too much money. Apart from that, though, it's pretty obvious that a large organisation with a lot of expenditure is also going to need a lot of income. The CofE is huge, and puts a lot of money into a lot of things.

It's fair enough to say that this or that expenditure is too high-- the accounts are all public, so this isn't difficult to do. But saying "aha, the CofE claims to be a Christian organisation but has more income than McDonald's" is inane.

Not linking to the article, because the Daily Mail.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-11-13 13:40:50 from Monument

Jack by the hedge

"Want to come up to the Wood? We could play Star Wars."

Martin considered. The Wood was the thin strip of uncultivated land at the top of the school field. The grassed and mowed part petered out in a mild incline before the trees began. It was perhaps a hundred feet long and fifteen feet wide before it met the wire fence that separated it from the gravel footpath, yet to the boys the space was a jungle, the wildest part of their suburban lives. The trees, mostly oaks and birches, alternately towered and stood invitingly climbable; the undergrowth provided hiding places; the worn earth tracks, so adaptable for games, ran the length of the Wood. There was an itching–berry tree, a holly bush whose hollow centre could shelter those brave enough to risk its scratches, and the Dragon, a great fallen log, by turns fortress, stage and spaceship.

"I don't want to," he said after some thought. He'd had the dreams again last night.

"Why not?"

"There's toadstools up there. I hate toadstools." The lie slipped out of him unexpectedly. He weighed it mentally, admiring its lines. "Let's stay here, play tag or something."

His brother shrugged. "I could kick 'em down with my boots. Come on."

Martin followed him: the events had played out like a familiar story. Richard was his younger brother, but Martin always found himself tagging along like a four-year-old. Sometimes at night Martin would keep himself awake pondering the difficult riddles of life; the question of why his brother always took the lead was prominent among these. Even now that he had agreed to play, he could tell before it was ever discussed who would be playing the good guys.

Recently, things had got worse. In the last few months Richard had got himself involved with a particular bunch of kids, too loosely organised to have a name, though Martin thought of them as "Paul's lot". Richard spent much of his free time playing with them, now, and less time with Martin. Martin might have been glad not to be bossed around so much, but in fact nothing appeared to fill the vacuum that Richard had left. Martin spent his breaktimes wandering alone around the school field, yearning for the bell. When Richard was around, things were no better: he seemed to have learned new and still more uncomfortable management techniques during his social climbing.

"We could go to the dragon," said Richard. "We could it for the Death Star."

"Yeah, we could do that..."

The sunlight flecked the earth before them, green under the trees. The birds sang on, unaware of plans to destroy planets. Martin stuck his hands into his pockets and tried not to look at the undergrowth. White blossoms caught the corner of his eye. His nightmares flowed back.

Suddenly, his brother asked, "What are Nastiers?"

"Um." The weight of his dream held onto his mind. "Why'd you ask?"

"Heard you talking about them in your sleep last night."

Richard picked up a stick and began slashing at nettles. Martin watched with mild dread. "Did I say much?"

"Just kept saying it, over and over again. 'The Nastiers... the Nastiers...' and something about the Wood."

Martin shuddered. The Nastiers had first started to grow in his imagination in the spring, when the small heart-shaped leaves appeared under the hedges. Gradually they filled his dreams with their menace, popping up underfoot, filling the rooms, choking the ground, daring him to touch them. By day he had given them wide berths, sometimes even crossing the road. However hard he tried to avoid them, still they filled his imagination.

One day in early summer he had been tortured by the thought of himself lying down to sleep, and waking up as a single great Nastier, four feet across its sickly shining leaf, nodding gently in the aircurrent. He had run out into his garden the next morning, and the plants had flowered, tall spires of tiny white petals topping their towers of leaves, staring him down, glorying in their plantish treason.

"It's just a plant, a kind of plant. I don't like them much," he said. "Those ones."

"You were having nightmares about a plant?" Richard went over and kicked at the nearby patch of Nastiers. He looked back quickly enough to catch Martin wincing. The plants shook and were still.

"It's nothing," said Martin. "Let's go to the dragon."

Soon after they entered the Wood, Martin cursed under his breath: Paul's lot were already there. A few seconds passed before Richard saw them too. He called out to them, and ran off to join them. Martin was alone. He sighed, and walked on towards the seclusion of the dragon.

He sat astride the fallen log, looking out over the school field. With his hands he gripped the bark, tracing patterns in the cracks while his thoughts flowed over him. The voices of Paul's lot were too far away to pick out words. They were as much a part of his peace as the song of the blackbirds. Both reminded him that it wasn't so bad being alone. Sometimes. Maybe. At least Richard wouldn't drag out old arguments with him now, and at least he had space to think.


He looked around for the voice, to both sides, and finally behind himself: Paul was standing at one end of the log, with a grin on his face. Like a long-stemmed rose given to a lover, he held a single Nastier in his hand.

Martin's stomach jumped and twisted. Chills passed over his body. Richard had betrayed him. He scrambled half to his feet and backed away.

The other end of the log lay in a mass of nettles, beyond the edge of the Wood proper. Paul climbed onto the far end and began walking slowly towards him. Martin was trapped: Paul in front, and the nettles behind. Paul's friends appeared one by one, with quiet giggling, then open laughter. They clustered around the far end of the log. A few climbed up behind Paul. Most were carrying Nastiers.

A few weeks earlier, a kid in Martin's class had come in from break with nettle rash over most of his body. Martin's teacher had asked why, and the kid said that Paul told him to jump off the log into the nettles. The teacher asked whether Paul could have told him to jump off a cliff. Martin had been in the Wood that morning. He'd seen it all. The teacher never heard about the pointed sticks.

History seemed about to repeat itself. Martin took a step backwards, almost losing his footing. He caught his breath: Paul's eyes, the leaves of the plant, the plant's white flowers, were all picked out in feverish detail. He's got me, thought Martin. He's got me and I can't get away.

Then with the same strange dream-like clarity, it came to him. His fear was not Paul, but the unnamable terror of the Nastier. If Paul had trapped him, it was only in a prison of himself.

Martin bit the inside of his cheeks to give himself strength. He grabbed the plant from Paul's hand and crushed it. It smelled of herbs, and garlic. Paul took a step backwards in surprise, and slipped. Martin leapt forwards and to the right, landing on the grass ahead of the nettles, and ran as hard as he could towards the school. A few of Paul's lot gave chase in a disinterested sort of way, but soon gave up and returned to their leader.

Martin didn't stop running until he was inside the school, and didn't start crying until he was safely in the cloakroom, washing his hands over, and over, and over again.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-11-06 20:19:31 (Updated 2015-11-06 20:30:17) from Monument

Sex advice from days gone by-- part 1 of many

Sex advice from days gone by, according to an old book I have from the 1950s. It's alarming to think that this was being presented by medical professionals as fact. TW for possible mention of rape.

scan of book, text below

"...The main difference is that with boys the sexual urge awakes spontaneously together with the beginning of the function of the testicles. Not so with girls: the woman's sexuality remains dormant until it is awakened by a man. Not by any man, but by the right one, and many a woman grows up, becomes the mother of children, and still remains a Sleeping Beauty. A normal girl whose physical urge has not been brutally stirred up need not and does not masturbate at any time in her life. Masturbation with women is always abnormal. This is not a pious postulate, but a fact; women say they are not interested in it, it means nothing to them, they truly dislike the idea..."

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-11-04 01:20:04 from Monument


A friend of ours has just been made vicar of a parish nearby, so we went along to his installation service on Sunday-- it was packed. Before the start, the bishop was walking down the side aisle in his cope and mitre. There was a pushchair on one side followed by Kit's chair on the other, making a sort of slalom. He paused, and I heard myself saying, "Don't worry, you can just move diagonally."

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-11-03 23:34:30 from Monument

USB body parts

The USB spec has a set of rather wonderful codes for which part of the human body is expected to use the device, as follows:

00 None
01 Hand
02 Eyeball
03 Eyebrow
04 Eyelid
05 Ear
06 Nose
07 Mouth
08 Upper lip
09 Lower lip
0A Jaw
0B Neck
0C Upper arm
0D Elbow
0E Forearm
0F Wrist
10 Palm
11 Thumb
12 Index finger
13 Middle finger
14 Ring finger
15 Little finger
16 Head
17 Shoulder
18 Hip
19 Waist
1A Thigh
1B Knee
1C Calf
1D Ankle
1E Foot
1F Heel
20 Ball of foot
21 Big toe
22 Second toe
23 Third toe
24 Fourth toe
25 Little toe
26 Brow
27 Cheek
28-FF Reserved

Can anyone tell me the difference between 0x03 Eyebrow and 0x26 Brow? I'm also noting an odd lack of codes for USB sex toys.

[List of codes at pp45-6]

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-11-02 13:13:39 (Updated 2015-11-02 13:14:10) from Monument

"everything happens for a reason"

Please, stop telling people that everything happens for a reason. It defies experience. It's pastorally insensitive. Most importantly, it can't possibly be true-- at least within human experience.

Let's assume that this is in fact a just universe. Every good act is eventually rewarded; every bad act is eventually punished. There's a happy ending. But a happy ending is a description of a well-structured story. If you sliced the series of events any other way, you'd have at best an unhappy ending, and at worst just a list.

If we stop reading Cinderella before the end, it's not a happy ending: Cinderella is still crying in the kitchen, or she's lost contact with the prince. If we keep going after the end, it's not a happy ending: life goes on, Cinderella gets cancer, the prince gets Alzheimers, whatever. So also with the universe: humans never see the story except in slices. And the fact that the whole story of time is about justice doesn't mean that there'll be any sign of justice in any particular slice of it.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-10-28 21:36:43 (Updated 2015-10-28 21:53:19) from Monument

22 fascinating facts about elephants (according to Bartholomaeus Anglicus, in the year 1240)

1. Elephants have more wit and mind than any other beast.
2. They avoid mice, and run away from them.
3. They do the deed of reproduction backwards, and then the female gives birth in water or in the forest. She leaves her foal where he was born, because of the dragons which are their enemies and kill them. She is pregnant two years, and has sex once, and lives for three hundred years, as Isidore says.
4. Pliny says that elephants are the most virtuous beasts.
5. At the new moon, elephants come together in great crowds, and wash themselves in a river. Then they go home to their own places, but they look after the young elephants and make them walk front of them.
6. When elephants are ill, they go and gather medicinal herbs. Before they use the herbs, they look up to heaven and pray for the help of God, in some religion.
7. Elephants are clever, good at learning, and easy to teach. You can teach them to recognise the king, and then they will kneel down when they see him.
8. If an elephant sees a lost human coming towards her, she will hide, so as not to scare him. Then she shows herself bit by bit, and leads him home. But if a dragon should pass by, she will fight it, and defend the man. She does this especially when she has foals, because she's afraid that the man might come and find them. So it makes sense to lead him out of the wilderness.
9. Elephants always go around together, and the oldest one leads the way. If they come to a river, they send the little elephants over first, in case the big elephants break up the crossing place.
10. Also, elephants are strangely modest. They have sex in hidden places, when the male is five years old and the female between ten and twelve. In that two years she is only fertile for five days. So people in India hide their tame female elephants when they are in season, because otherwise the wild elephants will knock down their houses and stables.
11. Tame elephants are very useful in battles, because they can knock over soldiers, and that's wonderful. They're not afraid of armies. On the other hand, they are afraid of pigs, and they run away if they hear one.
12. Elephants can knock down tall trees in order to eat the fruit.
13. Elephant blood is cold. Dragons like to drink it to cool themselves down.
14. Elephants get cold in the winter.
15. They can wade in water up to their chins, and they can swim. But they can't swim for too long, because they're heavy.
16. Elephants are never malicious, but they are sometimes accidentally cruel or fierce-- for example, if you make them angry, or if you get them drunk. So some people give wine to elephants, to make them fiercer in battles.
17. Elephants keep track of the movements of the stars. When the moon is full, they go to the river, and greet the sunrise by dancing.
[picture of original text]
18. When an elephant is being chased by ivory hunters, it smashes its tusks together and breaks them, so that the hunter will leave it alone.
19. Elephants mate for life. Male elephants never fight over females. In fact, elephants don't fight much at all. But if they fight and one of them is wounded, they put the wounded elephant in the middle of the herd for safety, and defend it more than they defend themselves.
20. If an elephant eats a chameleon, he will go and eat a wild olive tree, which is a remedy against the chameleon's venom.
21. An elephant has a soft belly and a hard back. So when he fights a unicorn, he puts his back towards it, in case the unicorn sticks its horn into his belly.
22. Elephants have very little hair, no bristles, and large, long, thin ears that hang down.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2015-10-20 16:38:44 (Updated 2015-10-20 16:39:17) from Monument

1188 older entries...

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!