Amazon Deals

New at Amazon

Sunday, June 24, 2018

June 24 is the birthday of Ambrose Bierce, author of "The Devil's Dictionary"

Alliance, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hand so deeply inserted in each other's pocket that they cannot successfully plunder a third. 

Destiny, n. A tyrant's authority for crime and a fool's excuse for failure. 

Diplomacy, n. The patriotic act of lying for one's country. 

Evangelist, n. A bearer of glad tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.

History, n. An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.

Imagination, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership. 

Infancy, n. The period of our lives when, according to Wordsworth, "Heaven lies about us." The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward. 

Occident, n. The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient. It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased to call "war" and "commerce." These, also, are the principal industries of the Orient.

Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills. 

Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. 

Rational, adj., Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience, and reflection. 

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. 

June 24 is the anniversary of the birth in 1842 of American journalist and short-story writer Ambrose Gwinett Bierce (wiki) (1842-1914?), remembered primarily as the author of The Devil's Dictionary. Born in Meigs County, Ohio, Bierce served the Union Army in the Civil War as a "topographical engineer," i.e., a map-maker, but he became a journalist after the conflict and settled in San Francisco. 

Cover of the graphic novel version
 of The Devil's Dictionary
As the literary arbiter of the West Coast at the turn of the 20th century, he found early success as a writer of such short stories as "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,"* many of them based on his experiences in the army.* The Devil's Dictionary, a compilation of irreverent definitions of common words and phrases, derives from a series of newspaper columns that Bierce wrote between 1881 and 1886 and then from 1904 to 1906. In 1913, he left San Francisco - at age 71 - to cover the uprising of Pancho Villa in Mexico and was never heard from again. Various theories - including suicide - and unsubstantiated reports of his death have been evinced to explain his disappearance, but the mystery remains.**  George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)  had characters like Bierce in mind when he noted, 
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."
* N.B. Below is a well-received film version of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,", from The Twilight Zone

** The excellent site Today I Found Out (I highly recommend their book The Wise Book of Whys, copies of which I've given to several people as gifts) has a good roundup of the theories regarding his death: Whatever Happened to Ambrose Bierce?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday links

The Weird and Very Long History of State Liquor Laws.

This explains a lot: In 1950, the U.S. Released a Bioweapon in San Francisco.

Awkward Pregnancy Photos.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include the summer solstice, a gallery of cars with propellers, healthy summer advice from 1656, and the unsuccessful Cold War-era attempt to eavesdrop via transmitters implanted into cats:
"CIA staffers drove Acoustic Kitty to the park and tasked it with capturing the conversation of two men sitting on a bench. Instead, the cat wandered into the street, where it was promptly squashed by a taxi."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thursday links

Whatever is dreamed on this night, will come to pass; the summer solstice is this morning (June 21) at 6:07 AM Eastern Time. Related, Fridgehenge: to celebrate the solstice, British guy recreated Stonehenge using old refrigerators

During the Great Depression, ‘Penny Restaurants’ Fed the Unemployed.

How to Have a Healthy Summer: Advice from 1656: you'll need to drink feebl green Wine and eschue the company of women.

Operation Acoustic Kitty: (Unsuccessful) Cold War attempt to eavesdrop via transmitters implanted into cats. 
"CIA staffers drove Acoustic Kitty to the park and tasked it with capturing the conversation of two men sitting on a bench. Instead, the cat wandered into the street, where it was promptly squashed by a taxi."
Alcohol - is there anything it can't do? Drunk People Are Better at Creative Problem Solving.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include the anniversary of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo (including, of course, a Lego re-enactment), the sport of motor-ball (AKA soccer on motorcycles), prayers to stop a dog from barking, and where to hit someone to do the most damage.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Loudoun County, VA proposing additional gun restrictions

I'd like to ask for email and publicity support to fight proposed gun restrictions where I live - Loudoun County, VA.

There' hasn't been a lot written about this incident, but it turns out someone was target shooting in Loudoun County, Virginia on May 5, 2018 and some bullets hit three houses. Nobody was hurt, thankfully.

It appears (again, limited reporting) as if the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department knows who was doing the shooting, but is not planning to prosecute them. It's not clear why that's the case - several state laws were clearly violated, including reckless endangerment. Why are these existing laws not being enforced? Instead, the County is now looking at further restrictions on shooting.

The article in the Loudoun Times-Mirror claims that a “machine gun” was being used. That is possible and could explain missing the berm if the person shooting was not trained in managing the recoil of a fully-automatic gun. Of course, the press has a bad record on identifying firearms, so who knows? Machine guns are fully automatic and, although not outright illegal, are significantly restricted: Federal law prohibits the possession of newly manufactured machine guns, but permits the transfer of machine guns lawfully owned prior to May 19, 1986. State law adds registration and usage restrictions.

The County is going to ask some firearms experts (we don't know who at this time) to give input at their next meeting on June 21 on how the County's ordinances can be revised. The current regulations (Chapter 684.03) restrict discharging of firearms in certain heavily populated areas, and, in other areas, there are additional restrictions:
(b) The discharge of firearms is prohibited within 50 yards of a highway in the primary or secondary system of State roads.
(c) The discharge of firearms is prohibited within 100 yards of any public park or school. Nothing in this section shall be enforced within a national or State park or forest or wildlife management area.
(d) The discharge of firearms is prohibited within 100 yards of a building with a current occupancy permit unless the owner or authorized agent has given permission.
According to the article linked above, the following state senators and supervisors (email address are below) are calling for changes to the ordinances, "to increase from 100 yards to 880 yards, or one half mile, the minimum distance an individual must be from any occupied home or occupied structure when discharging a firearm." 
“Sens. Jennifer Wexton (D-33) and Barbara Favola (D-31) and Dels. Jennifer Boysko, John Bell (D- 87), Karrie Delaney (D-67), Wendy Gooditis (D-10), Kathleen Murphy (D- 34) and David Reid (D-32) sent a letter to the board calling for emergency action to restrict the discharge of firearms in developed areas.”
My son sent the following email to several parties:
I am a lifelong Loudoun County resident from Sterling. I currently live in Lovettsville on 7 acres, which I bought in large part due to the freedom to exercise my second amendment rights. I literally printed the local firearms ordinance and walked the entire lot with one of your officers to ensure that I could comply with the law and shoot safely and legally. There are many thousands of responsible gun owners that live in Loudoun County and shoot responsibly on their own land. Attacking the rights of thousands because of the irresponsible behavior of one, or even a few, is unfair and tyrannical. Please protect our constitutional rights as you have sworn to do.
Please write to and/or call the representatives listed below and ask that the existing laws against public endangerment are enforced rather than targeting law-abiding citizens:
All Board members receive mail and calls at: 

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors
1 Harrison Street, S.E., Fifth Floor
P.O. Box 7000 
Leesburg, VA 20177-7000                                  Phone: 703-777-0204
Fax: 703-777-0421
Comment Line: 703-777-0115

Email addresses:

Jennifer Wexton (D-33)

Barbara Favola (D-31)

Board of Supervisors' Office:

More information at Ammoland and 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday links

June 18 is the anniversary of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo: history, quotes and video (including, of course, a Lego re-enactment).

Construction Workers Find Rare Intact Roman Tomb

Where the ‘No Ending a Sentence With a Preposition’ Rule Comes From.

Forget the World Cup, Let’s Play Motor-Ball!

Where to Hit Someone to Inflict the Most Damage.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include secret rooms inside famous landmarks, Father's Day advice from Homer Simpson, how nuts and bananas came to mean “crazy”, using barbed wire fences as early telephone wiring in the western states, and the anniversary of the Magna Carta signing. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

June 18 is the anniversary of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo: history, quotes and video (including a Lego re-enactment)

When Napoleon recovered his throne at Paris, in March 1815 (ed - after his escape from Elba)... his first business was to sustain the attack of the united British and Prussians, posted in the Netherlands, and it was his obvious policy to make an attack on these himself before any others could come up to their assistance. 

Click here to embiggen
His rapid advance at the beginning of June, before the English and Prussian commanders were aware of his having left Paris; his quick and brilliant assaults on the separate bodies of Prussians and British at Ligny and Quatre Bras on the 16th, were movements marked by all his brilliant military genius. And even when, on the 18th, he commenced the greater battle of Waterloo (wiki) with both, the advantage still remained to him in the divided positions of his double enemy, giving him the power of bringing his whole host concentratedly upon one of theirs; thus neutralizing to some extent their largely superior forces. And, beyond a doubt, through the superior skill and daring which he thus shewed, as well as the wonderful gallantry of his soldiery, the victory at Waterloo ought to have been his. 

There was just one obstacle, and it was decisive - the British infantry stood in their squares immovable upon the plain till the afternoon, when the arrival of the Prussians gave their side the superiority.

~Robert Chambers Book of Days (1869)*

On Wellington (wiki) at Waterloo:

Thrown on that occasion into the central position among the opponents of Bonaparte, he was naturally and justly hailed as the saviour of Europe... Thenceforth the name of Wellington was venerated above that of any living Englishman.


The village sleeps, a name unknown till men
With life-blood stain its soil, and pay the due
That lifts it to eternal fame, -- for then
'Tis grown a Gettysburg or Waterloo.

~Mark Antony DeWolfe Howe, Distinction

The Duke of Wellington
You will have heard of our battle of the 18th. Never did I see such a pounding match... Napoleon did not maneuver at all. He just moved forward in the old style, and was driven off in the old style. 

~Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (wiki) (letter to Sir William Beresford, 2 July 1815) 

Meeting an acquaintance of another regiment, a very little fellow, I asked him what had happened to him yesterday. "I'll be hanged," says he, "if I know anything at all about the matter, for I was all day trodden in the mud and galloped over by every scoundrel who had a horse, and, in short, I only owe my existence to my insignificance. 

~Captain John Kincaid (of Waterloo, in Adventures with the Rifle Brigade

Thou fateful Waterloo,
Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
Their children's lips shall echo them, and say --
"Here, where the sword the united nations drew,
Our countrymen were warring on that day!"
And this is much, and all which will not pass away.**

~George Gordon, Lord Byron (wiki), Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto II, 35

June 18 is the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo (wiki) in 1815, in which British forces under the Duke of Wellington (wiki) and the Prussians under Field Marshal Bl├╝cher decisively defeated the French under Napoleon to end the "Hundred Days Campaign." After the allies took Paris in March 1814, Napoleon was initially exiled to Elba. A year later, however, he returned to France amid great acclaim, re-entered Paris, declared himself emperor again, and retook command of the French armies to renew the struggle. 

Four days after the debacle at Waterloo - which Wellington described as "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life" - Napoleon abdicated again and was sent into final exile on St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where he died in 1821. On more than one occasion, Wellington is also said to have remarked:

"Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained."

* There's an excellent hyperlinked and searchable version of Chamber's Book of Days here.

** This passage was quoted by Winston Churchill to President Franklin Roosevelt in choosing the phrase, United Nations, to designate the victorious powers in World War II. 

Here's the battle scene from the 1970 movie Waterloo with Rod Steiger as Napoleon and Christopher Plummer as Wellington (and Orson Wells as Louis XVIII):

And, of course, the Lego version:

Recreating the Duke of Wellington's victory banquet, 200 years on includes links to contemporaneous recipes.

Parts of the text above are based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

James Joyce's filthy letters to his wife Nora (Very NSFW!! language)

Again - these are not safe for work! The texts below may be a century old, but some of them are sexually explicit even by contemporary standards. They are intended for adults only. If discussion of sexual matters is likely to offend you or get you into serious trouble with your employer, your spouse, your religion or your government then you should leave this page now.

While editing a post for Bloomsday* (June 16 ) (wiki), I ran across James Joyce's notes to his wife (and muse), Nora Barnacle, from his Letters. Excerpts below, and more at Paris Review:

“My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.

James and Nora and their children in 1924.
Clockwise from top left – James Joyce,
 Giorgio Joyce, Nora Barnacle, Lucia Joyce
You say when I go back you will suck me off and you want me to lick your cunt, you little depraved blackguard. I hope you will surprise me some time when I am asleep dressed, steal over to me with a whore’s glow in your slumberous eyes, gently undo button after button in the fly of my trousers and gently take out your lover’s fat mickey, lap it up in your moist mouth and suck away at it till it gets fatter and stiffer and comes off in your mouth. Sometimes too I shall surprise you asleep, lift up your skirts and open your drawers gently, then lie down gently by you and begin to lick lazily round your bush. You will begin to stir uneasily then I will lick the lips of my darling’s cunt. You will begin to groan and grunt and sigh and fart with lust in your sleep. Then I will lick up faster and faster like a ravenous dog until your cunt is a mass of slime and your body wriggling wildly.

Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird! There is one lovely word, darling, you have underlined to make me pull myself off better. Write me more about that and yourself, sweetly, dirtier, dirtier.”

"My sweet naughty girl

I got your hot letter tonight and have been trying to picture you frigging your cunt in the closet. How do you do it? Do you stand against the wall with your hand tickling up under your clothes or do you squat down on the hole with your skirts up and your hand hard at work in through the slit of your drawers? Does it give you the horn now to shit? I wonder how you can do it. Do you come in the act of shitting or do you frig yourself off first and then shit? It must be a fearfully lecherous thing to see a girl with her clothes up frigging furiously at her cunt, to see her pretty white drawers pulled open behind and her bum sticking out and a fat brown thing stuck half-way out of her hole. You say you will shit your drawers, dear, and let me fuck you then. I would like to hear you shit them, dear, first and then fuck you. Some night when we are somewhere in the dark and talking dirty and you feel your shite ready to fall put your arms around my neck in shame and shit it down softly. The sound will madden me and when I pull up your dress.

No use continuing! You can guess why!"

Ulysses fan, or just a fan of hanging out in an Irish pub? June 16 is Bloomsday - here's my favorite quote from Joyce's obscenity trial:
“[i]n respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of [Joyce's] characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring.”
The Worst (And Most Important) Smuggling Job in the History of Literaturethe publisher went to a LOT of trouble to force an obscenity trial.

More at Adoxoblog.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Prayers to stop a dog from barking

You have some ability, I suppose, to make your own dogs behave, but for the neighbors' noisy dogs, you can try this. From Magic Songs of the West Finns, Vol. 2, by John Abercromby, [1898] (online version), here are a couple of prayers to silence a dog.

This one prays for a mushroom in one nostril and an apple in the other:

Field maiden, farmyard girl! O golden king of earth, here where they need thee, come from the field with thy family to close the mouth of a dog, to plug the nozzle of a whelp. Bind silk across its eyes, tie a bandage round its ears, a mushroom up one nostril thrust, an apple up the other one, lest it should scent the breath of man, perceive the smell of a full-grown man, lest it should hear a passer-by, lest it should see a wanderer.

If that doesn't work, you can pray for a good, old-fashioned muzzle:

O Hiisi [v. Juutas], shut the dog's mouth up, Lempo [v. Perkele], the jawbone of the dog, fetch, Hiisi, thy tall hat, Lempo, thy broad-brimmed cap with which to stop the puppy's nose, to bung its 'scenting-channel' up. Place a bar before its mouth, a gag between its teeth, between its tongue-strings lay a check, so that it cannot ope its jaws, nor separate its teeth. If that is not enough, take the backmost hedge-stake of the field, the lowest railing of the fence to stop the mouth of the hunting-dog, to press with it the puppy's head, so that it can no more give tongue at any man that passes by.

Good luck!

Ulysses fan? June 16 is Bloomsday - here's my favorite quote from Joyce's obscenity trial

Today is Bloomsday* (wiki), a celebration of James Joyce's Ulysses (wiki), a novel about a day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he wanders about Dublin. The festivities generally involve reading the novel aloud (generally a group project, and it takes a loooong time) and drinking.

Zoomable version here.
My favorite bit of trivia about Ulysses comes from Joyce's obscenity trial (the book was banned in various places for quite a while):
 “[i]n respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of [Joyce's] characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring.”
Final lines from Ulysses are from Molly Bloom, who is lying in bed with her lover: 
" ...I was a flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."
* June 16 is the day on which Joyce and his wife Nora first dated: James Joyce's filthy letters to his wife Nora (Very NSFW!! language)

Here's an interesting article on the background of the obscenity trial against the book - the publisher went to a LOT of trouble to force a trial: The Worst (And Most Important) Smuggling Job in the History of Literature.

Friday links

Magna Carta was signed on June 15, 1215: history, quotes, Horrible Histories and Monty Python explanations. Related, Mark Steyn's The Field Where Liberty Was Sown, on re-learning those lessons.

How did nuts and bananas come to mean “crazy”?

For Father's Day, a selection of parenting advice from Homer Simpson: “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try". Related: here are some Father's Day lessons from Walter White, Don Draper and Tywin Lannister, and one of my favorite Dad stories (NSFW- language).

How the West Was Wired: before telephone company wiring was ubiquitous, isolated Great Plains farmers used barbed-wire fences to transmit telephone calls. 

Before Camping Got Wimpy: Roughing It With the Victorians.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include how to email a cat, Anne Frank's birthday (including a video tour of the annex where her family hid for two years prior to their arrest), weeding fields with flamethrowers, and that time the U.S. Postal Service tried delivering mail by missile.