off topic

The parable of the six turtles

We’re veering way off topic for this one. But I’ve been reading Anita Loos’ highly amusing memoir “A Girl Like I” and ran across her account of what might be the best prank of all time. It involves turtles.

During Rayne’s student days in Paris he had perpetrated an elaborate trick on the concierge at his lodging house—one which I have heard ascribed to other pranksters but, knowing Rayne, I think the idea may have been his own. One afternoon, while passing by a pet shop, he noticed a tank full of turtles. Rayne proceeded to buy six in graduated sizes. He then made a present of the smallest turtle to his concierge, who affectionately placed it in a fountain that decorated his conciergerie. Rayne then stealthily proceeded to change the turtles, each time substituting one of a larger size. The concierge and his wife, bouleverses [upset] by the rapid growth of their turtle, became famous throughout the arrondissement; a steady succession of people came every day to check the phenomenon. After the turtle reached its peak in size, Rayne reversed the process, and the turtle gradually began to get smaller until it disappeared altogether.

Loos, a brunette, is most famous for writing Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Which is actually funnier than her memoir. But then again it’s pretty much funnier than everything, Here she is about to murder Jean Harlow.

Let’s have a little open thread.

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38 replies on “The parable of the six turtles”

Open thread? *Mind goes completely blank*

Ummm… what all have any of you been doing after getting vaccinated? I’m still kind of not doing anything. Part of me is worried about variants, but mostly just don’t want to go hang out with unvaccinated anti-maskers on general principles.

(Where I am from, the rules aren’t really being taken seriously, much less enforced, and I’d reckon about 1/4 to 1/3 of people haven’t worn their masks this whole time and have no intention of getting Bill Gates microchips.)

Edit: Also, six turtles is funny.

After getting vaccinated? Pretty much the same thing I was before: staying at home and masking the hell up when I go out. I’m still high-risk. Which makes me wonder if work will yank me back in given my stated current return time of mid-June, or if I have negotiating room there. Because for some reason I’m reluctant to go back to a workplace that is hell on my joints, where I can get abused by moronic customers, treated like a cog, and possibly still get a breakthrough infection and die for the privilege. I don’t know why. At least I live in California, which has better labor protections than most so-called right to work states, and my doc’s in my corner. (Cue passive-aggressive moan from crappy employers about how “nobody wants to work” because they’re getting better money on unemployment. Gee, I wonder why?)

My maternal aunt whom I loved also died of multiple health complications two weeks ago, not five months after my mother. That’s pretty much one side of the family gone now. Incidentally it’s causing even more of a mess for my brothers to have to figure out regarding their estates as they were interrelated. Meanwhile, my MIL’s husband is in hospice and she’s got memory problems. So all that crap might have something to do with my reluctance to go back as well. This has been an astonishingly crappy year on the personal as well as the macro level for sure.

Uh, well, on a brighter note I um… um…. cleaned out the catbox today? 😀

Until I’ve had dose 2, I’m taking as much precaution as I ever have during this thing: masking when indoors in public places, limiting that to essential items like grocery shopping, and therefore hoping no important chunk of hardware here gives up the ghost any time soon because I’m damned if I know how I can get it replaced during a lockdown, or without setting foot in a Petri dish such as Wal-Mart.

On the plus side, I may have solved, at least partly, my stamina problems, and it’s the damndest weird thing.

Let’s start with the alkaline water in this town. It seems safe enough to drink and to bathe in, but it has a nasty tendency to cause accumulations of brownish-blackish gunk in the bathtub, toilet, sinks, and etc. — some sort of mineral scale. Said mineral scale required so much effort to scrub off that I pretty much gave up on doing so, especially in the bathtub where the area of it was large and every square inch would have to be scrubbed while bent over. Even before, I had major stamina issues if I had to exert myself while bending for some reason. Seems like my lung capacity halves from the compression.

So I mostly just ignored the brown gunk, which didn’t accumulate in the part of the tub where I stand. Years passed; my stamina gradually declined, which I attributed to aging, until 2020 when it seemed to nosedive significantly, which I partly attributed to breathing through masks. Then I had occasion to keep the bathroom door shut — probably keeping the cat out of something, perhaps a drain full of chemicals that had needed unclogging. I noticed myself feeling more energetic than I had in a while, after a few hours of this. I began to suspect something in the bathroom might be causing these problems, perhaps by generating an airborne airway irritant or something. I put the fan in there on and left it on, and started keeping the door shut except when using it, and my stamina continued to slowly improve. This seemed to confirm the culprit was something in the bathroom.

I took a closer look at the gunk, and it seemed to have become lumpy, with an organic look. Something — bacterial mats? — was growing on top of the hard-water scale. I started a project or eradicating the stuff, looking for low-effort low-bending methods. I let it steep in drain cleaner for hours to kill anything biological, then began breaking it up by kicking at it while wearing an old pair of shoes (after a good rinsing to eliminate caustic residues of course). Repeat. Unclog the drain. Repeat some more. The stuff in the tub eroded away over time, and I used regular old scrubbing to eliminate the gunk in the sink. After it was largely gone, and any remaining organic components likely dead (from drain cleaner in the tub, and from soap in the sink), my stamina took a further increase, to maybe 2015 levels or so.

So, it seems some kinds of seemingly harmless bacteria or something can grow on hard-water scale and emit some sort of irritant into the air, odorless and invisible but with a definite effect on overall pulmonary efficiency, even though there are no overt symptoms such as coughing when in proximity to the source or anything.

Is there any efficient way to keep this stuff from returning? I don’t need to keep rid of the hard-water scale, which is effortful to remove, as I don’t plan on entering my bathroom into any Home and Garden Magazine contests any time soon; just the organic stuff that apparently can affect stamina. Maybe a light scrub (with the feet, in the case of the tub area, so no bending required) with water rinse every week or two would suffice to inhibit it from re-growing? The tub could then be done every time I shower (there will be soapy water in the bottom inch or so at that time) in particular. It might get brownish and icky looking again from minerals but would that keep the stamina-affecting component from becoming reestablished?

And is there anywhere else where the same stuff could be lurking such that it could cause problems? Unobvious places. I already de-gunked the kitchen sink, which never really got as bad, maybe because it’s steel instead of porcelain.

The turtle prank is funny, but I can’t help but wonder what happened to the turtles afterwards, as I’m sure neither a student nor a concierge really wanted six turtles for the hundred or so years they can live…

I’m sorry everyone else has been having a shit year. :/ Mine was great not having to show up in a hellish open-plan office and be expected to do intense brain-work while being the most-interrupted person in the room as you have the worst desk, right by the door. Loved it. Sorry not everyone’s could be a massive improvement.

@Big Titty Demon

Oh, I agree. I too enjoy not having to do the mentally and physically taxing crap my job involves. Mr. Dakry has noted definite upsides to working at home even if we both go spare sometimes. it’s the whole death in the family aspect I could do without that’s the shitty part. :/ And no thanks to this damned pandemic I can’t even mourn properly. Takes the shine off the being at home part.

On pranks (or criminal enterprises depending on your point of view)…

Richard Feynman bought a park bench, from wherever you buy such things from, and of course obtained a receipt.

He and a friend would then walk round a park at night with the bench. When inevitably stopped by the park wardens or police he would produce the receipt.

Eventually the police just assumed they were weird students and ignored them.

At which stage he and his friend systematically stole all the real park benches.

Is there any efficient way to keep this stuff from returning? I don’t need to keep rid of the hard-water scale

Yep – and nope, you need to get rid of the hard water scale too. The bacteria seems to be fond of living on it, so remove it and there’s less work to do in the long run. Fortunately, doing both is (after the first time) both quick and cheap. First time is also cheap to do.

For the first run, you need a bottle of acid – any acid will do, I use hydrochloric since the chemist sells it cheaply, but where you are battery acid from any auto supply place will do (and is probably better for your lungs!) – and a pair of rubber gloves. Half fill the bath with warm water, tip in the bottle of acid, then use your toilet brush to scrub, walk away for a bit, fill the bath full then scrub again and the scale will all be dissolved. Drain the bath and wash it out WELL. And that’s the last time you’ll need to mess about with strong acid.

Next – clean your drain, you shouldn’t have standing pools an inch deep when you shower. Again, it’s easy, no effort needed. Grab a box of lye – get the solid stuff, it’s WAY cheaper – and make yourself a liter of solution. Pour about a quarter of it in the drain, walk away and have a cup of tea or something for 20 minutes, then go back and pour another quarter. Do that twice more, run the COLD tap for 5 minutes, and you’re done. May as well do the other house drains while you’ve got the box out, too.

Maintenance: Liberate a squirt bottle from somewhere, fill it with half water, half vinegar, and give the tub a good squirt ideally after every use, but at least twice a week. Let stand half an hour then rinse it away, and you’re done. If you can’t abide the smell of vinegar, any mild acid will do – if you’ve got a place near you that sells stuff for canning and preserving 100g of citric acid will be about a dollar and will last you a year.

Do the drain cleaning thing once a month or so as well, but you’ll only need to use a quarter liter each time for this.

@Alan Robertshaw:

On pranks (or criminal enterprises depending on your point of view)…

Richard Feynman bought a park bench, from wherever you buy such things from, and of course obtained a receipt.

He and a friend would then walk round a park at night with the bench. When inevitably stopped by the park wardens or police he would produce the receipt.

Eventually the police just assumed they were weird students and ignored them.

At which stage he and his friend systematically stole all the real park benches.

A possibly useful rule of thumb, regarding things that might reasonably be lying around out in the open and that straddle the line between one person’s trash and another person’s treasure (discarded furniture and leftover construction materials come to mind): if you’re caught stealing it, pretend to have been dumping it—and vice versa.

@ full metal ox

Ooh, that’s a handy tip; thank you. Although I think I’d be less embarrassed to be accused of stealing than fly tipping.

It reminds me though of the trick of putting your coat on to answer to door. Then if its someone you’re happy to see you can say you’ve just got in. And if it’s someone you’d prefer not to talk to you can say you were just going out.

@Alan – Schrodinger’s Host! I like it.

I haven’t changed my behavior significantly after shot #2, except I ditched the KN95 underlayer mask and just wear a single cloth mask into the grocery store. With two unvaccinated kids, I can’t risk bringing them to crowded indoor places full of antivaxxers and variants. But we will be visiting beaches and going camping once the weather gets warm.

I intend to be much more of an hermit than I used to, despite vaccinations. Probably half me being cranky, half me wanting to minimize carbon emission, even if I only use mass transit.

Also, probably waiting quite a bit of time after vaccination before going out too much. I am very much not at risk mind you ; but avoiding being a spreader is important to me.

@ full metal ox

I see they recommend the hi-viz jacket approach. That’s replaced ‘carrying a clipboard’ as the new way of looking like you’re on official business.

Stuff like that really does work though. When they closed the Redruth Falmouth road to make it into a dual carriageway, I still used it for a year just by sticking one of those orange flashing lights on my Landy.

There’s also legend of a couple of squaddies who did most of their military service carrying a ladder around the base. People just assumed they’d been given a job to do.

Oh, and if you and a friend ever want to blag into a gig, walk up to the loading dock and when security notice you just say “It’s ok, he’s with me.”

David can you do an article about the backlash from the “woke” military Ads?
It seems there’s a hard degree of sexism and homophobia for the woman who had the audacity to have been brought up by two moms.

I noticed a thing where people cried “how come can’t we just give the job to the most qualified regardless of their race or gender!?” Whilst malding that people who weren’t white males were having their stories told.


Is that “was” a typo? Kinda hard to know what to say otherwise.

It’s turtles all the way down.

I have had both my shots, more than 3 weeks ago, as have all my closest friends, so there will be socializing. This weekend a friend we haven’t seen for the duration is visiting, and we had a BBQ last night. With hugs! Tomorrow we are going to a restaurant. Outside, but still. People will bring us food and beverages.

We’re all still wearing masks when shopping, though. You never know when you’re going to run into some asshole who thinks it’s clever to have a mask improperly worn.

I’m generally still sticking close to home, though going out more often than once every 2-3 weeks like I did a year ago. Still not doing public transit.

@Lizzie: Thank you for Gilgamesh.

@Surplus: That’s interesting! I’m going to start looking at my tub, and suggest my friend with bad breathing problems look at hers. I’d bet it’s either a biofilm or a mold. All I can think of is bleach to kill whatever the biological bits are. But using your feet, all I can suggest is very very soapy water left to soak (drain closed) before you shower. Did you clean out the bathroom sink, too?

But I see @Threp is an expert in this. I bet the citric acid smells nice, or at least neutral. Thanks, Threp, I’m copying your explanation to a file for later use!

Feynman was a once in a generation guy in so many ways.

@Full Metal Ox: I own or can quickly lay hands on an Allen wrench, a hi-vis vest, a hard hat, and a clipboard. Thankfully my town doesn’t do that to its benches, but maybe I’ll tote them along when I visit a city that does.

I was about a month late for my period and it just came. it’s really painful.

Elaine, I’m sorry for you.

A spontaneous abortion is certainly possible, but there are other things that might be possible too. Endometriosis and PCOS can cause missed (or weird) cycles, and endo can definitely make periods way more painful. I had a roommate with endo who was anemic for a month after a particularly bad one.

And… sometimes ovaries just miss a cycle, and the uterine lining gets extra thick, and the next cycle is hell.

I’m sorry you’re in pain, and the uncertainty can be awful. If it gets too painful or bloody, go to a doc you trust.

We had talked about it because things are so unpredictable it is unlikely my husband would be able to be there for a birth if we did get pregnant right now, so while my husband was home we decided to keep weighting a bit longer. He has 10 months left of active duty as of now. But we still made love almost everyday while he was home. (we didn’t get to have a honeymoon because of everything.) I was a bit forgetful at taking my birth control correctly since that is the only protection we have been using. There were two days where I didn’t take any pills because I had forgot that pack and some days where I didn’t take it at the correct time because it was hectic while he was home. When I missed my period we both looked at each other and I just stopped taking it just incase. He had to go back, and I was keeping an eye on it because once it reached 7 weeks past my missed period I was going to take some pregnancy test to find out. my aunt told me to wait that long because she said that home test can be inconclusive very early on during a pregnancy.

I’ve had a miscarriage before and it does feel like that.

Good luck Elaine. I don’t know the pain of a miscarriage but by what I have seen on people having one it’s rather hard

Above all, I hope you will be surrounded by properly empathic people that won’t blame you.

Sorry for that, Elaine. It’s not a pleasant thing when it happens.


I hope you can get all the love and support from your hubby and others that you need, right now.

Best wishes from this pocket of the internet.

Elaine – I’m sorry for your trouble.

I just became eligible for vaccination as of today. Reserved the first shot for 12 June, and the second will be presumably in early September. The long delay is in part because Finland has been rushing first doses and prioritizing the limited vaccine supply for that.

I know this is technically necroing a thread, but I’m in a mood to rant a bit, and none of the other current threads seemed a good fit. Especially since this thread is still on the front page and everything. Be warned, this is going to be long.

I have spent the last year of this lockdown getting more and more exhausted, because unlike the rest of the workforce, I didn’t get weeks of glorious time off from work to rest and recuperate. As a retail worker at two separate jobs, I didn’t see one day of that. Not even a few days paid vacation, since what would’ve been the point with virtually everything closed for business? Besides, the biggest human rights violation in existence is the denial of Big Macs on demand, and since someone had to help sell the frigging things…. /s

To me, everyone else’s ‘new normal’ is just the same old same old, but with ruder customers, if that were possible. The customers still gripe and complain when we don’t have what they want when they want it at the lowest possible price at worst (free at best), throw hissy fits that would embarrass a toddler when they’re told that they can’t order lunch yet / can’t order breakfast any longer because they’re on the wrong side of the changeover time.

They refuse to let me handle their oh-so-delicate IDs because…they’re afraid I’ll get cooties on it or something if I touch it with my filthy paws (even though those same filthy paws just got done handling the food, beer, and cigarettes they’re wanting to buy without complaint). Like, they insist I try and read the things from two feet from my face, at an angle I have trouble seeing words at, when it’d be loads faster if I just held their prwecious card in my hands at an angle and distance I can best read at.

And I’m over it, now more than ever, it seems. I’m tired of dealing with people, I’m tired of being the one who (it seems like much of the time) gets called in on their days off to cover someone else’s unexpected absence because they suddenly realized that yes, retail work is WORK and they never signed up for THAT and quit without notice because hey, it’s just a minimum wage job and who cares what happens to folks at that level, am I right? >:|

And it feels like anytime I try and make plans to do something to find a new career I might be happier in, it always gets derailed. Like, I started to figure out what I’d need to return to the local community college to upgrade my computer arts / regular art skills and see what I might do with those, when I get informed by my landlord that they’re not renewing my lease this year and I have until the end of August to move out. Which is admittedly a mixed blessing to me, since I’ve been getting grumpier at this company over done of their recent rule changes, but I still would have preferred to spend more time trying to get back to school and less time moving 10 years of stuff into storage and trying to find a new place in a tight housing market.

Anyway, that’s some of what’s been going on in my life right now. There’s other things I could grump about (and probably will, next time they come to the fore of my life again), but this post is already long enough.

ETA: suppose I should add in a good thing that might be happening soon, in that I may finally get tested to see what kind of neurological problem(s) I have that I’ve spent the majority of my life dealing with. On the one hand, getting an answer to why I’m so different might be a blessing/relief; on the other hand do I want to be treated much differently by certain people than I am now? I suppose once I get my answer I can go from there.

@Redsilkphoenix – Ugh, that sounds like a bunch of hassles. I’m sorry that your landlords and workplace are treating you so badly.

Also, sending good wishes for the diagnosis process! I know when I received the diagnosis of ADHD at age 23 it seemed a little embarrassing to me, as if ADHD were a “childhood disease” like chicken pox, but it helped me find people who’d advocate for me inside institutions and some strategies to be more organized, etc.

@epitome of incomrepehensibility,

My main problem (worry? fear?) about being officially diagnosed with whatever I’ve got (in part from a concussion I suffered when I was 5) is 1. I’m over 50, so I’m not real sure what-all might be available to help me get something closer to having normal relationships with other people, and 2. certain members of my family have an annoying habit of making major decisions for me without bothering to ask me first, because…talking to me about what they think is the right decision for me requires using words and time, time that can never be reclaimed when wasted, not when The Right Decision is so blindingly obvious that words aren’t needed to do it?

Or something, I honestly don’t know. All I know is that even when these family members thought my main problem was just ‘laziness’ they decided they had no choice but to make certain decisions that had to be made RIGHT NOW to make me an ‘adult’ and get me out of the house. And a part of me is wondering how those family members might start looking at me once it’s confirmed that a decent chunk of my ‘flakiness’ is due to something in my brain that might be treatable. Wait and see, I guess.

@RedSilk: I’d say “just don’t tell the relatives”. It is none of their damn business, and it’s not like the doctor’s going to tell them. Lie if you have to, they sound like they don’t deserve the truth of you. There’s a chance you won’t get any diagnosis; brains are complicated.

I knew a guy who found out he was ADHD at a fairly advanced age, and it was SUCH a relief for him just to have a diagnosis. And then even more so when he got some counseling and the right meds. He was the same person as before, only better. He could handle the daily grind more easily, but he was still smart, funny, snarky, and all the other things that made us friends, but he had even more friends after that — particularly the ladies. And he got promoted at work.

This is extremely OT, but I’d like to ask our resident law experts and hobbyists something about a general legal principle for fiction writing purposes.

Suppose someone reports themselves for DUI after the fact, when their blood alcohol content cannot be verified any more, and there’s no other evidence for the crime. Would a conviction be possible based on confession alone? How feasible it is generally to convict people on crimes based on confession alone?

What if the person above remembers having killed someone while driving drunk (and then run away), but the unidentified victim doesn’t seem to exist? Like, no one has reported a body or injured person in that location, quick search doesn’t yield a body or other evidence, nobody seems to be missing etc.?

@ lumipuna

Well, expert might be pushing it; but I can give you a few pointers (from a mainly English perspective).

In most jurisdictions you can convict on confession evidence alone. That’s not an uncommon scenario. You can actually be convicted just on a guilty plea; although without at least some evidence the matter would be unlikely to get to court.

There are some jurisdictions that do require corroboration; either generally or for some specific offences. So in that case a confession wouldn’t be enough on its own. Although again, even there a guilty plea would be determinative. So it wouldn’t be necessary to test the evidence.

So in your scenario, a person who voluntarily confessed to the police could be convicted on that evidence alone, even if there was no other evidence at that stage.

As for thinking you may have hit someone. Generally there is no obligation to assist the police. (There are some exceptions to that. Like here you have a positive duty to report terrorism offences). It’s only an offence to obstruct the police or attempt to pervert the course of justice.

So for example, if I knew where an offender was hiding and the police asked me; I’m allowed to say “Not telling you”. What I can’t do is give a false address.

Often jurisdictions have offences like ‘failing to stop’ or ‘failing to report an accident’. But that is premised on you knowing there had been an accident. If you thought you’d hit something but then couldn’t find a victim afterwards, you might be able to argue as there was no evidence of there having been an accident, you didn’t need to report it.

That’s just the legal position though. In practice you might have a hard time in court if a body then does turn up.

To give you a real world example. I had a case where the client had been found (illegally) camping in a field. There was evidence he’d been drinking, but no evidence he was under the influence before he got to the field.(The police did look at back calculations of alcohol consumption and the like). In the end though in interview he admitted to drinking before he parked up. That was all they needed to convict.

So we had to instruct a psychiatrist to argue that the confession was unreliable because of certain mental issues with the client. That sort of backfired. The psychiatrist made great headway demonstrating the mental state of the client. But then the prosecutor asked whether someone in that state should even be driving in the first place and the psychiatrist said “Not really”. So the police dropped the case but then DVLA revoked his licence on health grounds.

Alan – Thank you very much! Interesting, as always.

With regard to my local jurisdiction (Finland), I’m seeing conflicting info on whether a lethal traffic accident related to drunk/negligent driving would be considered a low level homicide or an aggravating factor (or something to that effect) in drunk/negligent driving. I was thinking a setting where the driver clearly sees a dead (or dying, unconscious) victim and runs away and feels guilty afterwards. It’s getting so complicated I might abandon the idea.

@ lumipuna

Here we have a coupe of specific offences. ‘causing death by dangerous/careless driving’. There’s historical reasons why it’s not charged as manslaughter. But that’s what you’d be charged with regardless of whether drink was involved. They could/would also charge with ‘driving with excess alcohol’. Those charges would be considered separately, You could be convicted/acquitted in any combination. Being found to be the under the influence at the time of the incident would be an aggravating factor though.

But you raise an interesting issue with the ‘abandoning the victim’ scenario. There’s loads of caselaw on this; and it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some places have a positive duty of care (‘Good Samaritan’ laws); most common law jurisdictions don’t.

But here for example, you can acquire a duty of care through your actions. So whilst you could ignore a dying person if you hadn’t caused the accident, it would be a breach of the duty of care if you’d caused the injury and then left. It could get argumentative about whether you’d ’caused’ the accident. For example, would you be obliged to assist someone who jumped in front of your car? Actually, yes. Because it’s an offence not to report an accident where someone is injured “as soon as is practicable” (and in any event within 24 hours)

So there is a lot to explore there narratively.

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