Thursday, October 27, 2011

Big Boom Theory

In 1868 Captain Alexander Moncrief of the Edinburgh Artillery invented the disappearing artillery gun carriage which was a great advance in naval artillery. In the photograph, the date of 21/4/68 is visible on part of the mechanism.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Highwayman's Lair

Hounslow is a London borough. Hounslow Heath is a public open space of about 200 acres. It is all that remains of the original 4000 acres or so that was once open land there.

I was reading that in the olden days, I'm guessing 1600's and 1700's, there was a place there known as Highwayman's Lair. This was, I think, probably not a motel or tourist attraction, but rather something quite different. More "Hole in the Wall Gang" -like, I'd reckon.

Back before the Great War, Heathrow was a ... row... of cottages located on the NW edge of the historic Highwayman's Lair of Hounslow Heath. Just to get your bearings, Highwayman's Lair was located approximately where terminal #3 is today. Or at least Heathrow was. From recent photographs, it appears they have torn down the row of cottages and heaved them handily into the hoary heath hereabouts. If there are residual panhandlers, they may be descendants of the original highwaymen. It could happen! Today I picture them living with their belongings stuffed in plastic bags hogging two rows of seats in the gate waiting areas. Or perhaps not. I don't see why not, though.

As a side note, in case you are tempted to go out there thinking you can catch a flight, this blog's official research scientist, A., whom I trust without question on all matters pertaining to, ummmm, blog research, has advised me that Heathrow has been converted from an airport into a madhouse. So, think "Amsterdam" unless you live in Kansas.

An extra bit of information - a reward for reading this post - that I just read not 10 minutes ago was that apparently Shakespeare named one of his plays after the original Heathrow. At least, the article I read called it a Hamlet. So I assumed. And now you know too.

Well, I don't know much about London, except that one doesn't need to wear a watch downtown, but I assume where Heathrow is now would have been quite far out from the city then. And if it was quite far out from the city THEN, by god it is probably quite far out from the city NOW. There must have been a main road there, though, so the highwaymen could ply their trade, and lucrative enough to have enough money left over to construct a lair. One assumes rather poorer airport security back in the 1600's.

Now, this is just an idle thought, but it seems to me that if there were so many of them that they had their own watering hole, lair, whatever, that this might have been a tip-off to police. This was pre-bobby era but surely they had SOMEthing back then. Or maybe you just had to bring your own guards. Probably the redcoats came out with their Brown Besses later on and maybe cleaned them out from time to time. The highwaymen, I mean, not the Besses. One pictures "nests" in the lair to clean out.

Arrrrr! "Why join the navy when you can be a pirate?" —Steve Jobs.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite Highwayman-Brown Bess-Ghostly Galleon poems, but don't worry, I have no intention of inflicting it upon you right now.

This started out to be a post about how Heathrow got it's name, but that got pretty evident rather early on, and as soon as I started reading about highwaymen, it was so much more interesting than airports that I followed up and found out that there were more lairs about. Like "Peak". Do you know of that? It's a good way for me to learn your geography, too - though little of it is likely to be retained.

Today they say the Peak District is very safe indeed. Right. All the tourist brochures say that. Now, again, I don't know as much of your geography as I should, but there is a dot on the map that looks to be to the north of London. Admittedly, so is Scotland - but I mean just a LITTLE north of London.

Have you ever heard of Baslow and Wigley? Me neither, but somewhere in between the two is a pub called The Highwayman. They say this is on the eastern end of the Peak District, but that is an embarrassment to me as well. I'm not sure what that is all about. Peak of what? How can a district be peaked? Ah, well. I'm counting on Expat Mum to tweak my peak knowledge, but this place may be after her time. I don't mean after her time as in dead, but rather after her time as in it may have been built after she left England. Fled England. Whatever. It won't be a total loss, even so, because she will come and read this post if there is a link in it to her blog. So there's that.

The brochure says there was a Peak Panic. I'm assuming levity. This was back even earlier than I thought, like 1500's and 1600's. So apparently highway robbery is hardly something new in England. My own levity bubbles to the surface here. Well. The mystique is shattered somewhat by them calling that scary road the A619, which, I'm almost sure, it wasn't called that in the 1500's. But it is a long and winding road (are you a Beatle's fan, dear reader?) and the brochure author says the road triggers (conjures up, I'm thinking he means) images of innocent travelers (only he called them travellers) being robbed and then butchered on the highway. And, being who I am, I immediately think that if you are going to butcher them later anyway, why not do it right at the very beginning and then just rob the unresisting bodies? So I'm guess he is telling a TALL one about the butcheries. This is not Scotland-in-famine we are talking about, after all.

Later he called them "innocent civilians" which doesn't make sense unless the brochure writer is a Major General or something. Perhaps he is.

"The roads linking Chesterfield with both Manchester and Derby represented veritable goldmines for the outlaws of yesteryear." Couldn't prove it by me; I am still struggling with Buzlow and Wiggerley... BUT then this ersatz (a SoubyWord) military brochure narrator bastid goes on to say:

"Difficult to believe now, but 300 years or so ago the Peak District resembled the wild west." [Sorry Toni. Definitely NOT after your time.]

Hey! Hey hey hey hey! Unless you are talking about the Pirates of Penzance, let's leave the "wild west" out of this! We've done nothing to deserve comparison to your pussy highwaymen! I was going to try to work in the word "besmirch" here, but the time for it came and went and here I am two sentences later and unable.

So where is this Derby Manchester place anyway? Do they have a football team? If so, is it called The Highwaymen?

Animal House; supermarket cucumber scene; with Otter and Mrs. Dean Wormer; Mrs. Dean Wormer: "Doubtful."

Well, then, maybe Manchester DOES have a soccer team today. If so, it is probably called the 'Coonians. The 'Coonites. The 'Coonsters. Or similar. Oh, Toto, I seem to have wandered off the highwayman highway again.

There is SO much information in the Peak Panic brochure that I could barely read it all. Could barely TRY to read it all. But there was a mention of highwayman punishment called Gibbeting and you KNOW how Max loves your odd-yet-fair punishments! So I am going off now to study this, hoping it was in addition to execution, which most of yours were.

I am tempted to talk about a gang of highwaymen headed by a guy named Pym who ruled them from a stone chair, but if I did I would have to talk about yet another town in the area called Braxton, and, frankly, the story sounded too much like a ripoff of Peter Pan combined with Lord of the Flies, and I am, sincerely and respectfully, your obedient servant, etc. etc. totally confused already. No, "Buxton," I mean. No help there, though.

I am starting to think that dot on the map is a heaphell more north of London that it looks though.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Prince Harry arrives in U.S. for helicopter training

Prince Harry, pictured above, top, is shown getting off an airplane in California Saturday. His brother, Prince William, is in front.

Disclaimer: This post was composed from information which was stolen from appeared in the British Newspaper called "Mail Online." I don't know if this is a reputable online newspaper or if it is one of those Rupert rags. I get your newspapers mixed up. So this piece may be a lie, I just want you to know that. That's disclaimer number one. Disclaimer number two is the date. The date on the front page of the issue I stole acquired this information from is "8th October 2011." However, in the past, this online newspaper has been known to rerun stories that are years and years older than the date they put on the page. So this post may be both a lie and an OLD lie. That's disclaimer number two. Those of you who "could care less"* about disclaimers can just read the below post and not bother reading what you just read above.

*("I could care less" was just for that snooty insulting guy in Adullamite's recent post.)

HRH Prince Harry of Wales arrived in California today [the Mail called it "America"] for helicopter training. Not sure why, exactly. The newspaper only said that he would be training in brutal conditions which duplicate what he will be experiencing in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. This event (exposing himself in Afghanistan for a second time) is apparently coming up soon. And, judging by the Prince's appalling physical condition in the photograph above, it needs to happen soon before he is unable to walk. Apparently, like the U.S. Army, you folks no longer have fitness standards or age limits for your soldiers. A second tour in Afghanistan? Are you kidding me? Look, I don't want to get out of line here, but why doesn't someone just shoot the poor lad in the leg or something so he can collect that purple heart he needs for his RR (Royal Resume) and be done with it? Sorry, "CV." That way he can just retire and go back to being a regular royal playboy? Ok, maybe not in the leg. Maybe a finger or something. And while I am digressing, am I the only one who thinks both of these boys have aged horribly since the wedding? And I'm not even going to talk about William's hair. I mean fer chrissakes. Just take a look at that picture again. Am I right?

Well, am I wrong in thinking Mr. Wales was a tank driver or something before? I'm almost positive he wasn't flying helicopters before. That was William. Or was it fighter jets? No, that was Randy Andy in the Falklands. At any rate, Prince Harry is getting training for two months in California at a place called El Centro near the Mexican border (haha, like there's really a border there) according to the Mail Online. On Apache helicopters which the prince has proclaimed "awesome." I think it was Apaches. The Mail called them "choppers." Awesome choppers. Near the Mexican border. Newbie royal pilot. Right.

The Mail Online continues: "Crimson Eagle" [honest to god, that's what they are naming this thing] will take place in locations that replicate the brutal terrain of Afghanistan - over soaring mountains and vast desert with temperatures that reach well in excess of 110 degrees."

Oh, for crying out loud! Is that really how you Brits picture California? In November? Truly?

Incidentally, Prince Harry is a Captain now. Seems like only yesterday he was a second lieutenant or third subaltern or whatever your ranks are. I wonder if having a name like Wales gets one promoted on the fast track? If he shows up in Afghanistan in January leading a whole squadron of "awesome choppers" and is then a full colonel, I would start to be suspicious about favoritism. I don't know what William is. Lord Admiral-something by now, probably.

Wait! Wait wait wait wait. I didn't upload the full picture. Hang on a minute. Here 'tis:

There you go. That's better. So William isn't with him after all. Say, do you notice how that guy at the top in the yellow vest is checking out the RA (Royal Arse)? I guess you guys don't have a don't-ask-don't-tell policy any more either. Better not bend over to pick up the soap in the shower, Harry. Just sayin'. Where was I?

Oh, yes. The Mail Online goes on to say that Captain Wales will become one of an elite few to have expertise in the £46 million a pop 2-man helicopter, of which Britain (not the UK, mind you) is the proud owner of 67. Assuming Captain Wales passes the training course, says the Mail Online. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Right. Gosh, I wonder if he will pass the course?

Well, jeeze Louise, if you folks have 67 of them (what, you didn't have enough money to buy an even 75 of them from us? Even after what's his name sold your Navy?) that means you have, at a minimum, 134 pilots already trained (assuming you would want to have the capability of flying them all at one time) so that hardly makes Captain Wales all that elite. If I may say.

Then again, it isn't all that likely that all 67 of them will actually work at the same time if you bought the parts from us. So maybe he is in an elite field after all. Here is a picture of some "Awesome Apache Choppers" or at least the front ends of some:

And here is a picture of what I assume is Captain Wales' barracks mum:

Never let it be said that British newspapers run gratuitous sex pictures that have nothing to do with the story being told.

"It has long been known," the Mail Online continues breathlessly, "that the prince is keen to return to combat after his first deployment in 2007 (when he was young and fit?) was cut short after ten weeks, much to his disappointment, because of security fears.

"If he is deployed next year his main tasks will be to provide air cover for ground troops and to seek and destroy Taliban positions."

But that sounds about right, doesn't it? About £104 million per Taliban killed? Something like that? Money well invested. I am slowly learning the fine art of British sarcasm.

Unbelievable that the word "Taliban" sets off my spellchecker. How old IS my computer, anyway?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A dragon by any other name would... smell as sweet?

A dragon is a mythological beast, says the dictionary. I say dragons are real. There are many types of dragons. I won't speak of the different types here except to say they can be differentiated by color (red, green, blue, black, white) and by what they breathe out (fire, acid, lightning bolts, poisonous gas, frost.) Be wary if you meet up with a dragon and do not assume you can intimidate him by playing dead or acting crazy. That would be my advice.

A wyvern only has two legs. Two legs and a barbed tail. Since it has wings, bat-like wings, it really makes more sense that it would not have arms too. It has a barbed tail and a dragon's head. Or a head similar to a dragon's. I used to think that it is a Wyvern that appears on the Welsh flag until I became more attentive one time. No, your standard Welsh flag has a red dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) giving a friendly high-five. High-three, if you want to be more accurate.

Griffin, Griffen, Griffon:
More people than you might expect think these flying beasts are one and the same with just different vowels. It is a mistake to think this. A Griffin is primarily used in crossword puzzles, and the definition is always "fabulous animal." It has a lion's body and an eagle's head and wings.


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