Margaret Atwood’s Uncanny Ancestor

This is a horrific quote from The New Yorker’s interview with Margaret Atwood:

Mary Webster, whose neighbors, in the Puritan town of Hadley, Massachusetts, had accused her of witchcraft. ‘The townspeople didn’t like her, so they strung her up,’ Atwood said recently. ‘But it was before the age of drop hanging, and she didn’t die. She dangled there all night, and in the morning, when they came to cut the body down, she was still alive.’ Webster became known as Half-Hanged Mary.

But I can’t help thinking, if there’s anything to the story, wouldn’t they have taken her survival as further evidence of her witchy nature, and made sure they killed her next time? As it is, it sounds like she lived on.

Stupid Fawning Lapdog Government Apes the US Again

UK flight ban on electronic devices announced - BBC News(BBC News)
Laptops and tablets will not be allowed on some inbound routes from the Middle East and North Africa.

Our glorious leaders have seen fit to copy Trump and his cronies with banning laptops and tablets on planes — from certain countries. The only possible reason for this madness is to punish people for coming from (or visiting) those countries.

Worse, though: such a ban is only going to:

  1. make things even more confusing and complex at airport security, and
  2. get extended until it covers all flights, everywhere. You wait and see.

The Writing Process

In What Writers Really Do When They Write George Saunders gives a great insight into some parts of his working process.

What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs.

Or “Writing is rewriting,” as someone once put it.1

It’s a good piece, and well worth reading. Oddly, in the printed edition (Saturday’s Guardian Review section) it was entitled “Master of the Universe.”


  1. Hard to find who, but it seems to have been Hemingway. Whose writing I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. []

Tory MP Claims Astrology Could Help the NHS

This should be enough to disbar someone from public life for good: Astrology could help take pressure off NHS doctors, claims Conservative MP — The Guardian. Though I notice the article is two years old. It just came to my attention via Facebook one of Twitter’s occasional emails.

David Tredinnick said astrology, along with complementary medicine, could take pressure off NHS doctors, but acknowledged that any attempt to spend taxpayers’ money on consulting the stars would cause “a huge row”.

Getting his defence in early, he goes on to say that his likely critics (he names Brian Cox specifically):

“… are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced, which is troubling.”

Nice tactic: he knows he’s talking bullshit, so accuses people of racism. Last time I checked, astrology wasn’t a race.

Nor was stupidity.

And in the unlikely event that anyone reading this thinks I’m just being reflexively mean and as bad as the critics he fears, here’s a considered scientific opinion. The only possible known way the positions of the planets and stars at our birth could affect us is by gravity. And while gravity does travel all through the universe, it is very, very weak — the weakest of the fundamental forces. Just look at how hard it was to measure gravitational waves. We were only able to do that in the last year, and it took colliding black holes to make enough of a splash for us to measure.

Is it possible that heavenly bodies affect us in some other, as yet unknown way? Yes. And here’s what science says about that: show us how, and we’ll study it. Demonstrate the mechanism by which this influence happens, and we’ll write down the equations that govern it and learn all about it. We’ll have to throw out all existing models of physics, but if you bring the evidence, that’s what we’ll do.

That’s science.

Thanks, Obama (for Real)

Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who became one of dthe most prominent whistleblowers in modern times when she exposed the nature of modern warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who then went on to pay the price with a 35-year military prison sentence, is to be freed in May as a gift of outgoing president Barack Obama.

From The Guardian

Nice one. Next, pardon Snowden?

The Only Good Brexit is No Brexit

38 Degrees is consulting the public on a “DIY Brexit,” wherein the public can give their opinions on what Brexit should look like, and supposedly the results will be looked at by a group of think-tanks who are being consulted on the matter.

The things people have come up with so far all seem pretty good and sound, at a first glance (kind of hard to read, the way it’s presented with big fixed header and footer).

But. But what we want is not the best Brexit we can get. What we want is no Brexit at all.

And I think I can safely say I speak for the majority when I say that. But Theresa May and her crazy government don’t look like they’re willing to listen to anyone about it.

You know how all recent prime ministers get “isms” named after them? Ever since Thatcherism, at least? Well this one gets an alternative suffix: Not Mayism. Mayday!1


  1. And not the good one. That’s May Day. []

Probably a Good Time to Download Your Twitter Archive

This Bloomberg article may not be entirely serious, but it is, you know, Bloomberg:

There’s a strange idea circulating among Mexican currency traders. Well, more of a joke really. But there’s a certain logic to it.

It goes like this: Instead of spending its precious reserves to defend the peso, Mexico should just buy Twitter Inc. — at a cost of about $12 billion — and immediately shut it down.

The idea being that it would be the easiest way to stop the Trumpet tweeting negative things about Mexico.

I don’t know, he’d just find another forum, no doubt. Shit, in a week’s time he’ll be able to put whatever he wants on Whitehouse.gov.

[T]hat the idea was even raised in jest shows how just how frustrated Mexicans are that their economy and the value of their savings are at the mercy of the seemingly random musings coming in 140-character bursts from Trump’s Twitter account. It’s a sentiment that presumably would be shared by U.S. investors in companies like, say, General Motors Co. or Lockheed Martin Corp., but in Mexico, the pain, and the accompanying despair, appear to be on a much greater scale.

A lot more than Mexico is at the mercy of those “seemingly random musings.”