Sunday, December 29, 2013

Speak you're branes revisited

Alas, the website spEak You're bRanes, otherwise known as "If you love Iraq so much...why don't you go live there?" is no more. I always enjoyed its skewering of nincompoops on the interwebs. He could have had a go at this one, for instance.

Under the headline Officer sentenced for blowing off man's testicles with stun grenade, UPI reported on a man who was awarded money after a cop blew his knackers off by throwing a stun grenade on his lap as he sat in a car.
A Spanish court ordered a Barcelona policeman who blew off a suspect's testicles with a stun grenade to spend one year in prison and pay the victim $231,000. 
When the suspects refused to get out of the vehicle, the defendant threw his stun grenade on the 25-year-old victim's lap. The detonation caused the victim to lose most of his testicles, and he will now be infertile for life, reported.
This apparently egregious verdict was protested by commenter MannyMHo who thoughtfully asked,
The squadron command officer authorized the arrest, the suspect refused to get out of the vehicle, and the use of a stun grenade. Why should the policeman be penalized ? I don't get it.
No, I don't get it either, Manny - may I call you Manny? - The only possible response to someone who doesn't instantly obey an "officer" is that said officer should throw an explosive device onto the citizen's lap, despite it being in the tiny enclosed space of an automobile. So, it resulted in a little dismemberment? The perp should have realized that could happen and surrendered his rights earlier, is what you're saying.

You assholic imbecile.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dumbo Octopus revisited

Five years ago I put up a picture of Grimpoteuthis, the Dumbo Octopus, so called because it can 'fly' using its large 'ears' like Disney's Dumbo the Elephant.

It was so freakin' cute that it remains one of my most popular blog posts.

Recently Stephanie Bush put a picture of an octopus she photographed on Facebook, with the caption We found THE CUTENESS.  And so she did - and it appears to be another Grimpoteuthis, not 'flying' but sitting on the ocean floor looking as cute as a button.


(Via Stephanie Bush)

Edit Jun 2015 to add: For video of Octopus adorabilis, see here. :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas fiction: Hotel Aperio

Time to repost my 2009 Christmas story Hotel Aperio, I think.

The short story is mostly about food, chiefly British food. It's based on real life, too. My parents, who often did not want to "do" Christmas, would book the Christmas week at seaside hotels, which offered to provide sufficient food, drink, companionship and fun to make the season go by with minimal effort on the part of the 'rents. My parents would be able to drink without driving, eat without spending hours undercooking the turkey, dance without buying any K-Tel Christmas Hit albums and so forth.

This was all true, but there was a darker side to the endeavor. You had to drive through half-frozen brown slush a hundred miles to a semi-deserted 70's seaside resort (think of a sort of English ocean-side Detroit) in the middle of winter. A desperate hotelier, soon to be immortalized by John Cleese in the far-too-close-to-reality Fawlty Towers, has thrown open his failing hotel to people who can't be bothered to "do" their own Christmas, which means he and his staff have to schlep all through the holidays without a minute for themselves and their own families.

Sometimes the resulting holiday was fine, and sometimes it was ludicrously bad. At this remove I can't even remember which towns, never mind which hotels, but I assume Whitby featured - I can remember the steep hills - and Scarborough, and Bridlington. One (the one with the reconstituted instant potatoes) was so bad that I vaguely recall my parents left, or got their money back, or somesuch. And then there was the one with the famous cricketer's daughter, hogging the dim limelight provided by being booked into a two or three star hotel for Christmas.

So, here's the story.

There were lions lying incongruously at the foot of the stairs. The staircase, fifty feet broad at the base, arched and narrowed at the top like the train of a lady's gown reproduced in local rock. The steps were of blackened sandstone which had weathered to expose a robust oval grain, and the same acid rain had etched the concrete lions, but these having no inner texture, the lions had merely weathered into grinning doglike caricatures. At the top of the stairs there were red-painted doors, glossy and chipped, inset with windows frosted with leaves and berries. It seemed rather a small entrance for such a magnificent red-brick Victorian edifice, five storeys tall and – I determined later when I could get far enough back to see the extent of it – almost ten windows long and four deep. I estimated that Hotel Aperio was larger than 150 rooms.
As an alternative to the stairs, one could go up the wheelchair access ramp, cheaply and latterly introduced at the side of the stairs and far too steep, which made the hotel's formerly grand entrance look like a that of a crazy municipal hospital. I went up the ramp, dragging sullen luggage behind me and almost toppling backwards as my high heels met the unnatural pitch. Inside the double doors, the lobby was the size of a generous Punch and Judy Show, and a man sat behind a tinseled hatch, watching television on a portable about the size of a toaster, which despite its diminutive size loomed large on the cluttered counter. I rang his bell, a classic desktop bell, silver and with a commanding ding. Although he had seen me, he ignored me until he heard the ding, acting out his own part perfectly. One assumed he had plenty of chance to practice over the years.
"Can I help you?"

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Edweird Cybridge presents WildCat

Google has bought Boston Dynamics, the makers of very, very sinister robots.

This is WildCat.

This has led to a number of online jokes about Skynet now having the ability to make Terminators, but my mind went in a different direction.


WildCat in the style of Eadweard Muybridge, the photographer whose breakthrough technique at the turn of the century ushered in the study of animals in motion.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow at the pyramids

It's snowing at the pyramids. 

I was in Egypt in late December 1981 and I can vouch for the fact that there was no snow in those days. It was shirt-sleeves weather, apart from the fact that women couldn't wear shirt-sleeves without getting hissed at for being under-dressed. This is apparently the first snow in 112 years.

Picture from here. 

I've just got back from Denver, which was really cold. All the locals assured me it's never this cold - but it was below freezing the whole time I was there.

Weather is weird.


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