29 June 2010

Project Gargoyle

An project in Leicestershire is hunting down gargoyles in order to help understand the region's gothic art. Project Gargoyle has been set up to create a brand new resource capturing Leicestershire's wealth of medieval sculpture.

Volunteers are busy taking photographs of figurative church carvings such as gargoyles on around 300 local churches. No-one currently knows exactly what is there but the project expect to uncover around 10,000 carvings ranging from gargoyles pulling faces or poking their tongues out, to ones depicting the Green Man or dragons.

The information collected by the project will become a digital resource offering fascinating insights into medieval minds.

The project is being supported by the County Council, the church dioceses and the local archaeological society.

More information at Medieval News or from Leicestershire County Council.

Yeuch of the Day

Noreen was off early(ish) today on a work outing. On her way she phoned me to say she had found an embryo lying on our front garden path and had moved it into the shrubbery nearby so no-one trod on it. (Handily we keep a trowel by the front door for burying the cats' prey.)

Of course being interested in natural history I had to go and look. And yes, there was a roughly 4 inch long fresh foetus, complete with placenta still attached. Nice! And of course I just had to photograph it.

But what is it? Well it isn't human as it clearly has a tail. Phew! It is too big for domestic cat – it is bigger than a new-born kitten. Being London this immediately says it is going to be either fox or dog. I would guess it's too late in the year for fox, and maybe a little large.

Hmm. Interesting, if slightly yeuchy – but not as yeuchy as I'd expected.

If anyone really wants to see the photo you can find it here. I bet you all say "yeeuuuwwww", but still go and look anyway!

28 June 2010

Quotes of the Week

Another in our occasional series of quotations encountered during he week which have struck me: because of their zen-ness, their humour, or their verisimilitude.
Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting and ... ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to "walk about" into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?
[Wassily Kandinsky, 1910]

The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.
[Chuck Palahniuk]

It doesn’t matter what you’ve got in your pants if there’s nothing in your brain to connect it to.

Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

… the result of some wobbly high-heel work at a drink addled giggle-fest.
[Alison Cross]

27 June 2010

Auction Oddities

As usual there are some strange, and slightly zen, lots in our local monthly auction.
A conductor’s baton, in ebonised wood and silver, London 1920, and a silver child’s fork
Is the fork for use conducting, or the baton used as a child's eating implement? 

A stuffed red squirrel clasping a nut, perched on a branch. 

An old wooden bottle box containing old garden tools, trowels, chisels, hammers, an old fire extinguisher, a carton containing an enamelled measuring jug, old door plates, a first aid box incl. old spark plugs, an enamelled bread bin and lid containing a pair of green plastic picnic tables for suspension from car windows, a collection of shells, old buckets, an old water feeder by Eltex, 2 prints, etc.
Why does one keep spark plugs in a first aid kit?  Or green plastic picnic tables in a bread bin?

Old wooden cartons containing a large number of small terracotta garden pots, some in an old pram body, a small wall cupboard and an empty box
It was the "pram body" which finished me off!

A Belgian brass trumpet signed C. Mahillon, in case, a pair of shoe trees, and a club.

A python skin, four metres long.
Every home should have one!

I've never actually been to this sale as, apart from the odd sword, I've never seen anything of interest to me.  One day I must go to the viewing if only for amusement.


Spotted this in the latest edition of Saga Magazine.
Well it amused me for two minutes!

26 June 2010

Back Numbers

As hinted a couple of days ago I've now retrieved and reformatted the posts from the first incarnations of this weblog.  Well almost all.  What I found the other day was everything pre-March 2005, so there was a gap which I had not realised.  I have today found another file containing a further 79 posts from 2006.

However I am still missing a minimum of 20 posts from 2006 which were on a Yahoo!-based system and which I cannot now locate.

Adding that lot (and the posts of the last couple of days) to my previous totals gives me a grand total of 1117 posts, with 983 of those being specifically to this Zen Mischief weblog.

If anyone really wants to read all this old tripe you can find it in two PDF files:
But be warned: there are almost 70 pages of it!

25 June 2010

Nude Day at Work

I've posted quite a bit about nudity, naturism and "clothing optional" over the years; a search on "nudity" will pick up the majority of postings.  As you'll all guess by now I'm a great believer in not wearing clothes if I don't need to: "nude when possible; clothed when necessary" is the motto.  Having said that I'm not an active member of the naturist movement, partly because I'm not a clubby sort of person and partly down to sheer convenience; I do though support British Naturism (BN) by being a member.

All of which is a preamble to say that I'm not sure I have blogged this cartoon before; if I have it was before this incarnation of the weblog, so a long time ago.  You'll need to click the image to get a larger, readable, version.

Now wouldn't that be a great idea.  I wonder which company would have the courage to be the first to introduce Mondays (or any day!) as Nude Day at work?

Quote: Belief

Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

[Douglas Adams]

Zen Mischief Website Updated

At long last, and after three days solid effort, I've completely updated my Zen Mischief website.  And not before time either!  I started the revision over 2 years ago and got as far as completing the design before I was rudely interrupted by work.  Only now have I made the time to complete the job.  Although at the moment the content – essentially a static backup to this weblog – is largely the same, all the text has been revised (some pages more than others), all the links checked, dead links removed and many new ones added, and all the images have been overhauled.  I have ideas for new pages and I hope they will be along over the coming weeks – there's a lot that gets an airing on this weblog but isn't covered on the website, an omission I hope to rectify.

24 June 2010

We're Unique!

What makes humans special and unique?

Well according to a recent Scientific American article it is very simple ...

We masturbate.  A lot.

(Oh, come on, it's not that shocking!)

But the uniqueness is that no other animal, including our close primate relatives, does.  The theory seems to be, at least in part, that it's all to do with the ability of our well developed brains to create entirely novel and imaginary picture shows and videos.

I'll leave it to you to follow the link and read the article.  It's long, but it's interesting, especially if you're a science geek.

23 June 2010

Milestones Passed in the Dark

Last night I had a realisation, the way one does, that I must have written quite a few blog posts.  But how many?  Having awoken at stupid o'clock this morning I figured I'd use the time to try to work it out.  Could I even do it?  This weblog has been through at least three different incarnations and the old blogs are no longer online.

Wait!  I have backups.  Do I still have the old files?  No, not on my current PC: well I did trash a lot of old data when I migrated to this machine recently.  So let's search the archive disks ... and ...  Lo! we do have the old files, saved in an archive of my PC three before last.  (How sad is that?!)  So I was able to do a count ...

"I don't believe it!"  If I go back to when I started blogging in January 2004 I reckon I've written 879 Zen Mischief weblog posts (this will be number 880).  And we can add to this another 134 for the Anthony Powell Society.  That's a total of 1013 in 6½ years, or three a week.  Not prolific by many blogger's standards, but prolific enough for me, especially when you add in almost 2000 photos (and that's just the edited ones!) posted on Flickr since February 2006.

While not everything I write is wholly original (whose writing is?) I've covered everything from beer, by way of diversions into naturism, science and Bagpuss, to zen.  Hmmm ... not bad!

21 June 2010

The Tubes are Alive!

Thanks to Annie Mole's London Underground blog, I've just spotted that Matthew Somerville and friends have used the recently opened up Transport for London API to create an (almost) real time map of all the trains on the London Underground.  The picture above is a horribly fuzzy screen capture from the real-time map. OK so the application it still needs some refinement – as Matthew says there are "some unresolved (a small number of stations are misplaced or missing; inter-station journey times need improvement; occasional trains behave oddly due to duplicate IDs)".  This latter comment is indeed true as I was amused to see a District Line train hacking across country between Wimbledon and Richmond!

As a proof of concept – no, it's better than that! – this brilliantly shows what can be done by skilled programmers in just a few hours.  In my book it is already a useful resource for Londoners, and has the potential to become much, much more especially if the DLR and London Overground data is accessible and they can be included.  Let's hope Matthew and Co are able to continue developing the application.

Now what we need is a complete real-time map of all trains on the rail network – Matthew already has some prototype segments working.  Now that would be interesting.

Quotes of the Week

Another in our occasional series of quotations encountered during he week which have struck me: because of their zen-ness, their humour, or their verisimilitude.
Although the world's religions may differ fundamentally from one other in their metaphysical views, when it comes to their teachings on the actual practice of ethics, there is great convergence. All the faith traditions emphasize a virtuous way of being, the purification of the mind from negative thoughts and impulses, the doing of good deeds, and living a meaningful life.
[Dalai Lama]

Don't forget those irregular verbs like hoggo, piggeri, swini, gruntum.
[pmh {at} cix]

Sex and money: the forked root of evil
[Ross Macdonald, The Drowning Pool]

Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.
[Tom Robbins]

Girls are like pianos. When they’re not upright, they’re grand.
[Benny Hill]

19 June 2010

Summer Dinner

I write this having just bade “good night” to our dinner guest, the lovely Katyboo. Though I say it myself the food, the company and the conversation was rather good.

Steamed English Asparagus and Jersey Royal Potatoes
dressed with butter and flaked Parmesan

Smoked Chicken, Broad Bean & Pasta Salad
with Tomato, Rocket & Avocado
Served with a Lemon & Garlic Dressing

Alcoholic Summer Fruit Salad with Clotted Cream
(Nectarine, Blueberries & Raspberries marinated in Cherry Brandy)

Coffee & Florentines

Washed down with a couple of bottles of excellent
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages

All devised and prepared by me. Yes, I am showing off 'cos I’ve eaten a lot, lot worse in expensive restaurants.  And I don’t think I need eat again for a week! Hic!

Somehow, too, we seem to have magically added another branch to the extended family.  

As Samuel Pepys might have said "A good day.  And so to bed." 

Something for a Summer Weekend

Rose: Buff Beauty, originally uploaded by kcm76.

Rose, Buff Beauty from our garden. This old rose is supposed to be a bush, but it wasn't doing very well so we moved it to under the silver birch tree -- and it is now rambling up through the tree like there's no tomorrow. The bloom was actually at least 2 feet above my head!

18 June 2010

Obscene ...

... and obscene is not a word I use often or lightly, but I am horrified at the story which is circulating of a New York doctor who is reducing the clitorises of young girls in the belief that they are abnormally large. In deference to my blood pressure I shall say no more here but refer you to the story over on The F-Word. If this is even half true the man (yes, a man, of course) is in my view a paedophile and child abuser.

Hat-tip: jillysheep.

17 June 2010

The Zen of Travel

Nice zen quality to today's Wizard of Id cartoon:

Whatever Next?

I went past a building today.  When I was a kid it would have been called St Bloggs' Junior School.  Today it is called St Bloggs Children's Centre.  Hmmm ....

13 June 2010

Quote: Infinity

To infinity and beyond

[Buzz Lightyear in Toystory]

Rosa rugosa

Rosa rugosa, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This old species rose, Rosa rugosa, is growing in our garden hedge. It is such a stunning colour.

12 June 2010

Moth of the Week

White Ermine Moth, originally uploaded by kcm76.

Found this wonderful specimen of a male White Ermine Moth, Spilosoma lubricipeda, resting on our bathroom windowsill this morning. It really was absolutely beautiful.

For All My Former Colleagues

This is for all my former colleagues ... As usual Scott Adams's Dilbert cartoon strip gets it in one in the last two days ...

I feel for you guys still having to suffer this nonsense!

10 June 2010

Bad Guy Think

© Scott Adams

A couple of excellent, if slightly cynical, quotes from Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) in an article in the Wall Street Journal, Saturday 5 June on why one should invest in companies you hate (sic).
CEOs are highly skilled in a special form of lying called leadership.

Every investment expert knows two truths about investing: 1) Past performance is no indication of future performance. 2) You need to consider a company's track record.  Right, yes, those are opposites.

Religion and Sex

"Religion** is bad for your sex life", at least according to Dr Emily Nagoski.  And she should know as she's a college health (and sex) educator in Massachusetts, with a doctorate in Health Behaviour and Human Sexuality and other degrees in counselling and psychology.  What I like is that she holds very firm and forthright views and isn't afraid to air them.  In what she calls "my most offensive post yet" she says why she believes religion is bad for your sex life and how it is that she cannot choose to believe and have any faith.  Here are a few snippets:

Religion** is bad for your sex life. I don’t mean it doesn’t help, I mean it’s actively destructive [...]

[...] religion is bad both at the individual level and at the cultural level. Individually, it results in inhibitions, shame, fear, guilt, bias against others, and acceptance of gender-based stereotypes. Culturally it results in the oppression of women and sexual minorities [...] and the obstruction of the scientific study of sexuality.

But the worst thing about religion is that it makes it okay to just believe shit because you want to. No religion, no matter how liberal, escapes that.

[...] I think faith/religiosity is an innate part of human psychology. I think human belief in an invisible family in the sky is either product or byproduct of evolution. However, it is, for no apparent reason, NOT an innate part of MY psychology [...]

I know that the experience of faith is both real and important for lots of people, and I know it offends them when I discuss faith as a form of self-delusion, but I genuinely don’t understand, plain old don’t understand [...] how a person can CHOOSE to believe in something.

They choose to believe it because it makes them feel good. And I think this characterizes MOST people. I think MOST people are able to believe more or less anything they like the sound of. Indeed we’ve made a virtue of it. Just BELIEVE. It’s The Secret, ya know. [...]

[...] most of the work I do related to religion involves trying to untangle the knots religion has knit into a person’s sexuality. In my experience, in 90% or more cases religion has caused some form of damage to a person’s sexuality [...]

Which is sort of interesting in that it says what I have wondered for many years.  Mind I wouldn't go so far as Emily, I think -- at least not a stridently.  And just because I don't believe any any form of overarching deity(s) (I just don't need them, or anyone, to decide my morals for me) doesn't mean I would deny such a crutch to anyone else.

No, what was interesting for me was that someone who should know, and should be in a position to see, has the courage to say that religion has an adverse effect on sexuality and thus by implication on other taboo areas of health.

But do go and read the original post in full for yourselves.  It's interesting even if you don't/can't agree with it.  And there is a (surprising good natured) discussion in the comments too.

** By religion Emily means ANY and ALL religions.

09 June 2010

Adams Complexity Threshold

The eponymous author of the Scott Adams Blog (yes, that Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert) a couple of days ago wrote a prescient piece about complexity.  It's worth reading the piece, including the comments, in their entirity. But here's a taster:

The Adams Complexity Threshold is the point at which something is so complicated it no longer works.

The Gulf oil spill is probably a case of complexity reaching the threshold. It was literally impossible for anyone to know if the oil rig was safe or not. The engineering was too complex. I'm sure management thought it was safe, or hoped it was safe, or hallucinated that it was safe. It wasn't possible to know for sure ...

It's our nature to blame a specific person for a specific screw-up, but complexity is what guarantees mistakes will happen and won't be caught ...

Complexity is often a natural outgrowth of success. Man-made complexity is simply a combination of things that we figured out how to do right, one layered on top of the other, until failure is achieved.

And from the comments:
I think government has a lot to do with adding complexity. Some failure happens and those in charge feel they have to earn their constituents votes by "doing something." This usually results in regulations that work as well as the Maginot Line stopped Hitler ...

Humans just can't leave well enough alone. When (insert anything here) works perfectly the human race will re-refine it into incompetence. Why? Because eventually, no matter how incredibly efficient something is there's always some Wag out there insisting it could be better. Even though there's no rational reason to tinker with it, eventually people buy into the need for "continuous improvement" until the entire thing collapses ...

"In simplicity is power."
Why is it that so few can see this? Oh, sorry, Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome.

03 June 2010

Driving through the Forest

Driving through the Forest, originally uploaded by kcm76.

Here's another experimental photo. This is a montage of a series of (disconnected) shots taken from the car while driving down the A11 through Thetford Forest near Elveden. (And no, I wasn't driving!)

You'll want to look at a larger version and it looks better viewed on black.