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De Koboldorum Rebus

Things of a scaly orange nature.

Updated: 2017-09-20T02:00:58.900-06:00


Man's Most-Ancientest Best Friend?



Vulpes Vulples Arabica (Photo by Nepenthes)

So, if the Montreal Gazette is to be believed, it looks like mankind may have been domesticating foxes before dogs:

A Canadian-led team of researchers that discovered the oldest cemetery in the Middle East has also unearthed the remains of a red fox — buried alongside a human at the site in northern Jordan — that appears to be the world's earliest-known pet.

The site, by the way, is 16,500 years old.

Of course, it's by no means proven that these foxes were pets. It's possible, for instance, that the foxes were buried with humans for some ritual or religious reason. However, the "pet" deduction does make some sense: foxes are distantly related to dogs, which were almost certainly the first non-livestock critters to be domesticated (there is some neurological proof for this, in that the area of the brain given over to being a domestic is far larger comparatively in dogs than it is in cats). And while it's tricky to domesticate foxes, it's not impossible. It's a bit difficult to imagine foxes being used as hunting animals, but it's possible (and this is mentioned by the researchers in the above article) that they were camp scavengers who simply eventually "moved in."

In any case, it's interesting stuff, and it will become even more intriguing if more human-animal burials are discovered in the area!

Six Weeks Just Flew Right By There!


And... we're back. Lots to discuss, including an upcoming Tory leadership campaign in our fair province. Will we blog it? You bet! In the meantime, and just to work the kinks out, here's Aretha Franklin covering (and motowning up) the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby."

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Also, the Sporcle list has been updated!

That Is What You Might Call A Thunderstorm



Photo by Sean R. Heavey. Click for larger version.

Came across that picture over here. I am glad not to have been directly underneath that thing (not trying to fly through it, for that matter).

2018 & 2022


Congratulations are in order, I think, to this place:

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...and to this place:

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Why, you ask? Because of this!

Russia getting the World Cup makes perfect sense. The event has never been held in Eastern Europe, to begin with. Furthermore, the award comes at a time when Russian soccer is on the rise, both internationally and at club level. Yes, Russia failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, but that was viewed as a shock, where once it would have been accepted with a shrug. Finally, Russia should have no difficulty getting infrastructure together.

Qatar's win is a bit more of a puzzle. The economics of the thing should be no problem - Qatar is a very rich place, and the stadia they intend to build are gorgeous. However, it's a tiny country (this is going to be the most compact World Cup ever), and FIFA itself has raised concerns about the summer heat - concerns that the Qataris have responded to by promising air-conditioned stadia.

In both cases, however, I must say that I think FIFA got it right, with all due respect to the other countries who are bidding. The first ever Eastern European World Cup, to be followed by the first ever Middle Eastern World Cup? Sounds good to me.

Deep In The Kobold Warrens...



...The Blog hungers.

[Scene: A kitchen in the Warrens. Enter two panicky Kobold Blog-Herders.]

First Blog-Herder: Ohgodohgodohgodohgod - it's hungering! Do something!

Second Blog-Herder: Find it something to eat!

[They rummage through various cupboards, fridges, pantries, freezers, coolers, store-rooms, butteries, cellars, sideboards, and so on]

Second Blog-Herder: Aha! We could toss it a musical interlude or two!

First Blog-Herder: Won't work - it'll just be hungry again in a day or so. Should we fry it up a nice Catullus poem, or something like that?

Second Blog-Herder: Takes too long - that thing is ravenous (you could put some out to thaw, though - we haven't had any Catullus in a long time. Am I actually speaking in parentheses? I am! Cooooool...). Hey look! We've got half a barrel of Edmonton Oilers material - we could whip that up in a jiffy!

First Blog-Herder: Ennh, it's not very nutritious, especially right now.

Second Blog-Herder: Some Millwall, then?

First Blog-Herder: Better, but still - same problem. [wanders into cooler] Hey look! We've still got that pot of snark we made this summer and never used! You remember - the one with the ESPN guy who wrote the column about how the main problem with sports these days is that athletes don't hate each other enough, the column in which he completely screwed up the anecdote about Ted Williams! That one!

Second Blog-Herder: Ooh, I remember that - that was good snark! Well-researched, if I recall. Let's save that one for a special occasion, like next week.

First Blog-Herder: Ok. Hmm, what's in this jar marked "Use only on Fridays"?

Second Blog-Herder: Who cares, it's Thursday. [wanders into larder] Oh, here we go - I've got just the thing! [emerges from larder bearing bag labelled "Emergency Blog Food"]

First Blog-Herder: What's in that?

Second Blog-Herder: A slow loris being tickled.

First Blog Herder: Perrrfect.

[Exeunt. End Scene]

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November 11th


(image) Ortona, Italy, December 1943. (National Archives of Canada, PA-136332)

The temptation, of course, is to try to say something meaningful, but I think instead I will simply let Lt. Col. McCrae take it from here:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Update: Also, go here and watch the video. You will probably want kleenex.

'Bout Damn Time



As you are no doubt aware, if you follow the sport of hockey at all, last night marked the first inductions to the Hockey Hall of Fame of female players, namely Angela James and Cammi Granato. This has prompted a mild outbreak of hooting and feces-throwing in comments sections around the interwebs, but most people that I've read seem to recognize the inductions of James and Granato for what they are: thoroughly deserved and completely unimpeachable.

The question now, I think, revolves around who the next women inducted to the Hall as players will be. Hayley Wickenheiser, whenever she decided to call it a day, is probably automatic, and I've heard Manon Rhéaume's name out there as well. Angela Ruggiero deserves some consideration, I would think, and I'm sure I've left some out.

I would like to make a humble suggestion on this subject, however. In the photograph above, sitting in the front row at the viewer's far left, is a woman named Hilda Ranscombe, star of the Preston Rivulettes. The Rivulettes were basically the Edmonton Grads of womens' ice hockey, dominating the game during its first heyday in the 1930s. I will at this point cede the floor to this superb article on the topic of the Rivulettes and womens' hockey between the wars.

Let me close by saying merely that Hilda Ranscombe, among several other female players from that era, would be an admirable addition to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Eight And One-Half Minutes...


...And worth every second. Here's Mr. Springsteen at the height of his powers (Tom Morello's pretty good too):

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The Omar Khadr Situation



And so we have a resolution, of a sort, to the whole Omar Khadr affair, which featured successive Canadian governments boldly and decisively aided and abetted in the torture and prolonged incarceration, without trial, of a juvenile Canadian citizen.

Oh, Omar Khadr got his trial in the end. And therein he was given a choice: Admit to being a war criminal, plead guilty, and be free man in a few years, or contes the trial and spend the rest of his life in prison (anybody who thinks the possibility of acquittal was greater than zero is deplorably naive). And hey, look, he admitted to being a war criminal and pled guilty! Well shit, I'm convinced!

Of course, the fact that Omar Khadr was physically, mentally, and emotionally tortured before being put though a judicial process that would give Josef Stalin pause for thought in no way reduces the magnitude of the tragedy that has befallen the family of Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. Compassion for Khadr does not in the slightest degree preclude or prevent compassion for them.

Anyway, I have very little more to say about it, particularly given the volume of material out there on the case already. Here are a couple of good reads, though:

"America rewrites the laws of war for Omar Khadr" from The Guardian.

"Khadr case: This is war, not a war crime" from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.

As one of Khadr's lawyers put it, accurately and succinctly, "fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar's case."

Milk Through The Nose Time!


Truly, the internet is a wondrous place:

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Civic Election Blogging



And thus ends an interesting month or two in local politics. It was actually, on the night, a bit anti-climactic here - every single incumbent got in, most of them handily. And, while the turnout was still low, it was (a lot) better than last time.

In the end, the right choice was made, at least as far as the mayoral race was concerned. Mandel may not be perfect, but he's better than the other guys, good Lord. He campaigned basically by not making mistakes, and by not getting that grumpy, even as his character, morals, business connections, leadership ability, and general decency were hammered away at by a consortium of shrill, petulant, passive-aggressive, dirty-tricks-playing whiners (yeah, Envision Edmonton, I'm talking about you), a mob whose repeated accusations of undemocratic behaviour were made all the more galling by the fact that they couldn't and didn't recognize democracy when it rose up and repeatedly bit them in the ass.1 In facing them down, Mandel never stooped to the level that, y'know, I just did.

And so congratulations to Mr. Mandel! The next three years should be good ones for Edmonton.

1Perhaps I am hard on Envision Edmonton. However, I remember overhearing a conversation one evening at the pub involving an EE volunteer, someone who'd been working fairly hard on their petition drive. That conversation dealt, in part, with Steven Mandel, and featured repeated uses of the word "Jew-boy." Now, I do not for a moment assert that Envision Edmonton is an anti-semitic organization, but one can occasionally be judged by the company one keeps.



Remember the bad old days? Remember how, back in Medieval times, if the bubonic plague or rampaging Vikings didn't get you, well, there were always the marauding packs of wolves to contend with? Remember that?

Yeah, marauding wolves. Good thing we don't have to worry about them any more!

In unrelated news, here's some surveillance footage of a completely routine traffic stop just outside Rostov-na-Donu, Russia:

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And we would be remiss if we were to pass up this opportunity to provide the following musical interlude:

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Good News, Everybody!


This was just plain heartwarming to watch:

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John Ulan/CP

And so another hockey season is upon us, and for those of us in Oiler land, it couldn't come fast enough given the debacle that was last season. And what's that wafting through the air? Could it be the sweet sweet smell of optimism drifting down this way from RX1?

Well, probably not, actually, at least not in the short term. I've seen the phrase "exciting last-place hockey" being bandied around the Oilogosphere, and it's not entirely tongue-in-cheek. Yes, there are going to be some long, long nights this season. The nights when the three musketeers (pictured above) are looking every bit as young as they actually are. The nights when whichever one of our 523 goaltenders is in goal is doing his best impersonation of a menhir. The nights when it is painfully obvious just how little depth we have on defense. The playoffs are almost certain to remain a phenomenon that happens to other teams.

Oh, but there will be other nights. The nights when the sheer amount of latent skill on this team shines through, and it feels like the kids can score at will. The nights when the breakout passes are hitting guys in stride. The nights when it's the Oilers taking liberties, and not, as has been so often the case in the past, the other team. The nights when it is obvious that Shawn Horcoff was the right choice for captain, thank you very much. The nights when we can see the first germinations of playoff runs yet to come.

So sit back and enjoy - these are the humble beginnings of something pretty special!

On a side note, various sibling units are taking part in the pre-game singing of "O Fortuna," from the Carmina Burana. If that's not an awesome way to kick off a hockey season, I don't know what is! May it inspire the lads to roll over the Flame-like things from Calgary.

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Oh, and the Stanley Cup? Pittsburgh over Vancouver. Book it, done.

Pangur Bán


Well, I did say there was going to be something about an Irish monk... width="425" height="350" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src=",+78479+Reichenau,+Constance,+Baden-W%C3%BCrttemberg,+Germany&ie=UTF8&cd=1&geocode=FXTE1wIdV0uKAA&split=0&sll=49.891235,-97.15369&sspn=16.71875,56.536561&hq=&hnear=Reichenau+Island&ll=47.694964,9.063255&spn=0.020565,0.038409&t=h&z=14&output=embed">View Larger MapOk, so it's about the 8th century A.D., and the scene is Reichenau Island,1 in the very very South of what is now Germany, as seen on the map above. Specifically, we are looking at the Benedictine Abbey of Reichenau, founded in A.D. 724 by St. Pirmin, who may have been a Visigoth although that's beside the point. The Abbey of Reichenau is believed (to this day!) to contain the jug used at the Wedding at Cana, although that too is irrelevant to our purpose.No, our interest today is drawn to the abbey's scriptorium, wherein we shall find a possibly bored monk.2 He is busy working on a document that will become known as the Reichenauer Schulheft (Stift St. Paul Cod. 86a/1), which translates as the Reichenauer Primer. The Primer contains a general miscellany of writings, mostly in Latin, but including some Greek and bits of Old High German. It was probably intended purely as scribing practice, which may explain why the monk is bored. Here's a sample page:One folio of the Reichenauer Schulheft. The chart on the right-hand side appears to be astronomical in nature, to judge from the constellation names. Click to see larger version.And how do we know/suspect that the monk is finding this day's work a bit tedious? Well, we know because he has become distracted by the antics of his little scriptorium cell's other denizen. The end result of this distraction is a short poem, jotted down in the Primer in Old Irish, which we may safely assume is the monk's mother tongue. The poem is at the bottom of the left-hand page in the above picture, but here it is, in its original language, so that you don't have to squint:Messe ocus Pangur Bán,cechtar nathar fria saindan:bíth a menmasam fri seilgg,mu memna céin im saincheirdd. Caraimse fos (ferr cach clu)oc mu lebran, leir ingnu;ni foirmtech frimm Pangur Bán:caraid cesin a maccdán. O ru biam (scél cen scís)innar tegdais, ar n-oendís,taithiunn, dichrichide clius,ni fris tarddam ar n-áthius. Gnáth, huaraib, ar gressaib galglenaid luch inna línsam;os mé, du-fuit im lín chéindliged ndoraid cu ndronchéill. Fuachaidsem fri frega fála rosc, a nglése comlán;fuachimm chein fri fegi fismu rosc reil, cesu imdis. Faelidsem cu ndene dulhi nglen luch inna gerchrub;hi tucu cheist ndoraid ndilos me chene am faelid. Cia beimmi a-min nach réni derban cách a chele:maith la cechtar nár a dán;subaigthius a óenurán. He fesin as choimsid dáuin muid du-ngni cach oenláu;du thabairt doraid du gléfor mu mud cein am messe.Now, I confess that my knowledge of Old Irish is practically non-existent. I know that "bán" means "white," or "pale," or, in modern Irish, "blonde," and I can hazard a guess that "lebran," in the second verse, means "book," on account of us dealing with an Indo-European language. I've got some vague notions about a coupld of other words in the poem, but that's about as far as I can go, so I will step aside, and hand things over to a translation by J. Marchand (found here, with some other translations). Of all the translations of the poem that I've seen, I prefer this one, as I get the sense that it sticks quite closely to the original language.The Scholar and [...]

Serie A!


Photo by MJwhoWell, better late than never! Yes, Serie A is techinically 5 rounds into its season, but here we are with a preview nonetheless.And what a bizarre 5 rounds they've been! If the season were to end today, Inter would win the title, which is not surprising at all, but they'd be joined in the Champions' League by Lazio, Chievo Verona, and Brescia. At the other end of the table, Lecce would be relegated, which may happen anyway, but AS Roma and Udinese would also take up residence in Serie B. Newly promoted Cesena, who haven't been in the top division in a couple of decades, have already drawn Roma and beaten AC Milan. Weirdness abounds.The oddity that is this young season was perfectly encapsulated by the events that occurred late in the Brescia-Roma match on September 22nd. In the waning moments of the game, with Brescia leading 2-1, Roma goalkeeper Julio Sergio threw himself into a reckless sliding tackle on Brescia's Panagiotis Kone. The Roma player ended up with a yellow card, and, more seriously, a dislocated and generally torn up ankle. However, Roma were already down a man due to an earlier red card, and had used up all their substitutions. And so poor old Julio Sergio was hastily taped up, and then forced to remain in goal, though obviously in extreme distress, until the end of the match. It was all rather... well, awkward and uncomfortable, actually, although probably not as uncomfortable as it was for Julio Sergio, who's expected to miss a month or so of action. Here's the whole sordid affair, set to piano music for some reason:Early season weirdness, however, does tend to sort itself out, as injuries pile up, slow starters get themselves settled, and talent, or lack thereof, begins to tell, and the final table will probably look at least moderately familiar. The big four look to be in pretty good shape to take the Champions' spots, but the wizened seers see the title moving across Milan to reside with Berlusconi's boys, with a lingering chance that this occurs for reasons other than on-field performance. As for the relegation question, Lecce and Cesena appear weak, despite the latter's early season feats, and I just have a bad feeling about Bologna. Between those two extremes it's a hard to say. Economic crisis and a new, more equitable, TV deal, are in the process of bringing more parity to Serie A, even as Italian clubs slip back a little bit in comparison with their Spanish and English counterparts (the German and Dutch leagues have undergone the same process in recent seasons). Although the big clubs still have their noses in front, it's likely that this season and those to come will see more competition and excitement than there's been in Serie A for some time! Anyway, here's your predicted final table:1AC Milan2Inter Milan3AS Roma4Juventus5Fiorentina6Napoli7Sampdoria8Palermo9Lazio10Bari11Genoa12Udinese13Cagliari14Catania15Chievo Verona16Brescia17Parma18Bologna19Cesena20Lecce[...]



More regular blogging will resume in the near future! We've got a Serie A Preview that is rapidly becoming a Postview, and something about an Irish monk. And some other things. In the meantime, have some delicious delicious geekery:

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Update: Meant to mention: I've updated the list of Kobold-brand(tm) Sporcle quizzes to the left. Have fun!

Hey, Why Not?


Come to think of it, why wouldn't one release 100 cats into an IKEA store?

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Aaargh! Earworm! Getitoutgetitoutgetitout!!


For some reason I have a Tegan and Sara song stuck in my head. This is not my default state. Stupid radio station that we listen to at work...

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You gotta admit that it's pretty catchy, though. I'm told that Tegan is the cute one, and that the other cute one is Sara.

Yellow Journalism Off The Starboard Bow!


From an Edmonton Sun editorial suggesting a solution to the issue of Tamil or other dark-skinned refugees appearing on our shores in search of, yes, refuge:

"Lock and load would be our approach."

Yeah, I know, but it happened. A major daily newspaper, in Canada in the year A.D. 2010, actually proposed sinking ships carrying refugees. Somewhere, Captain Gustav Schröder shakes his head in disgust.

Premiership Time!


Blackpool's Stanley Matthews(l) takes on Bolton's Malcolm Barrass in the 1953 FA Cup FinalYes, 'til the season again! And once more, we are here with fearless predictions! This year, I've decided to divide the Premiership teams up into groups, based on their rough projected finish. Furthermore, I have wittily named these groups after Clash songs. So here we go (teams are listed in alphabetical order in each group, and last year's finish is in brackets after the team name)!"Brand New Cadillac": Arsenal (3), Chelsea (1), Manchester City (5), Manchester United (2). You can probably lay down money that your champion will come from this group, and there's a good chance that these teams will hog all the Champions' League spots. Large questions remain concerning Man City's ability to get their very expensive lineup to gel (and they're not done tinkering with it yet), but I think they're ready to make the jump. The other three teams here are long-standing members of the "Big Four," and it'll be no surprise at all to see them clustered at the top of the table again. These teams have no chance at all of being relegated, and failure to qualify for Europe will be viewed as a catastrophe."Safe European Home": Everton (8), Liverpool (7), Tottenham Hotspur (4). Here we have the teams that are likely to take the Europa Cup (formerly UEFA Cup) spots. These teams are dangerous, and do have a chance to creep into the Champions' League, as Spurs did last season, but they probably won't contend for the Premiership title. Fortunately, relegation is also virtually out of the question. And what is Liverpool, traditionally one of the "Big Four," doing in this lowlier group? Suffering from major financial problems, is what. Liverpool are actually very hard to figure out for this season; they could rise above it all and get in there with the big boys at the top of the table, or they could implode, sell all their good players, and finish 16th. "Lost in the Supermarket": Aston Villa (6), Birmingham (9), Blackburn Rovers (10), Bolton Wanderers (14), Fulham (12), Newcastle United (promoted), Stoke City (11), Sunderland (13). Ah, here we have the great "meh" of the mid-table of the Premiership, with no disrespect intended. These teams generally don't have the financial clout to compete for Champions' League spots, and can really only hope (faintly) to fight their way into the lesser Europa Cup. Relegation is also unlikely for these teams; however, a bad run of injuries or loss of form could land any one of them in hot water quite quickly. The mystery team here is Newcastle. They're back, obviously, and they've certainly got the fan-base to compete with anyone, but the seers have foreseen a season consolidation before they once again assail the upper reaches of the Premiership. We also originally had Aston Villa in the "Safe European Home" group, but their manager walked out on them this week, three days before their first game, and that's not going to do their chances any good at all."Should I Stay or Should I Go?": West Bromwich Albion (promoted), West Ham United (17), Wigan Athletic (16), Wolverhampton Wanderers (15). No, I do not have anything against the letter "W". These teams must be a bit nervous looking forward to the season, since two of the relegation spots are likely to go to members of this group. Mid-table safety will be quite acceptable, and a spot in Europe next season would border on the miraculous. West Ham are probably the strongest of this group, and the most likely to su[...]

Post Title Goes Here!


So with the Premiership season due to commence on Saturday, the wizened Kobold seers are even now adding the eye of newt and such to the scrying cauldrons to see what may be seen. Last year the seers did pretty well, actually correctly selecting the three relegated teams (missed on the title winners, though, and went three-for-four on Champions League participants).

That's for tomorrow, however. In the meantime, behold! as one of the greatest scientific questions of our age is at last answered:

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I've Ridden That Train...


The Circumvesuviana, the commuter train that makes its way around the Bay of Naples from Naples itself to Sorrento, has had a very bad day.

Another Shot Fired In The War Against Reality


Crime rates drop in most provinces
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The crime rate was down across the country and in most provinces for the fifth consecutive year in 2008, according to a Statistics Canada report released Tuesday in Ottawa.

So, great, right? Who, in their right mind, could possibly object to a declining crime rate? Well, step forward, Government of Canada!

Treasury Board President Stockwell Day says the government will go ahead with its plan to spend billions for new prisons, suggesting statistics that show crime is declining in Canada are not accurate.

During a news conference on Tuesday in Ottawa, Day said the government has received indications that more and more people are not reporting crimes committed against them.

"Received indications," eh? "Decided to pretend, since we really, really, reeeeeeeelly want some shiny new prisons to put people in so that we can look tough" is closer to the mark here. Even for a group as ideology-driven as the Conservative Party, this is pretty blatant.

When questioned by perplexed reporters, Day did not elaborate on what information source he was basing his claims, but said he would provide figures to them later.

"Our interns are nearly finished making these figures up," he did not add, although strict honesty would probably require him to do so.

It's a very great shame that actual crime prevention, from the standpoint of public policy, isn't sexy. It requires extending compassion, time, understanding, and often public money to folks that your average cheerful middle-class voter likely finds pretty unappealing. Furthermore, it doesn't allow people like Stockwell Day nearly enough opportunity to go into full Wyatt Earp mode. And that's how we end up with governmental attacks on safe injection sites, billions spent on the closing of barn doors long after the horses have vanished over the horizon, and the bizarre spectacle of the party in government acting butthurt because the crime rate isn't high enough for them.

Another Quick Update


I am off to cat-sitting job number two, spending a couple of days looking after Benny, about whom I have blogged before. Benny seems fine - he is now a mostly full-time indoor cat, which spares him from the malicious attentions of the magpies outside, among other things.

In the meantime, here's the Noisettes doing a cover of a very early Buzzcocks song (the Buzzcocks are, I think, one of the great overlooked early punk bands). I gather that the cover version was recorded to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martens boots. So, a worthy cause then. Original version of the song is here.

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