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Charlie November

Latest posts by Charlie November

Camera Corner

Posted: 11/11/2014 at 19:10

I can't tell whether that tarsier's thinking: "Dude, no WAY am I going down there while that thing's about," or just watching Anna Bessonova's ribbon routine on YouTube for the seventh time and thinking: "Dude."

Those tarsier faces are hard to read.

Do you grow Aconitum's?

Posted: 11/11/2014 at 19:07

Guess you'll have to put something else in that spot, then. Foxgloves, perhaps? They're great in salads. Castor bean plant? Be sure to chew well before swallowing so they won't sprout inside you.

Do you grow Aconitum's?

Posted: 10/11/2014 at 20:24

Umm. Not that into giant leaves, myself, but can't deny those flowers are interesting. A quick search revealed much information on how to germinate the seeds and grow the plants and much advice on how to get rid of the things once they've taken hold and look like setting out to conquer the world. Plenty of pictures of people holding the beans in their hands, too. Do they not know the risks?!? Heh. Pretty safe, really, I think. They're 0.6% ricin by weight, so there's enough in a single bean to kill 400 tonnes of rats if it was extracted with 100% efficiency and injected, but the USA used to get through 80,000 tons of the stuff a year just fertilising their golf courses without killing off the groundskeepers or the golfers.

Do you grow Aconitum's?

Posted: 10/11/2014 at 17:41

Hemlock? Common Hemlock aka giant hogweed? I think we've got a few metric tonnes of that s*** around here. I warn people about it. I think one or two members of the local angling club have actually tried killing it off before it can set seed a few times, but you could get through a litre of glyphosate concentrate trying to make the riverbanks here safe. At least the sheep are keeping their bit clear. Couldn't do that with poison hemlock or water hemlock.

1.5mg/kg for aconitine, 3.3mg/kg (cows), 15.5mg/kg (horses), 44mg/kg (sheep) for coniine (poison hemlock), 48.3mg/kg for cicutoxin (water hemlock), 2g/kg for furanocoumarin (common hemlock) ... and, er, 20ng/kg for ricin (castor beans). 20 nanograms per kilogram. 100,000 times deadlier than furanocoumarin. If you want to ban aconitum, why aren't you out to ban castor bean plants? Them and, of course, those oh-so-pretty, pure white mushrooms, Amanita virosa. 327ng/kg for α-amanitin, and it's a nasty way to go, as mentioend in the What if? book.

Do you grow Aconitum's?

Posted: 09/11/2014 at 22:40

It's really hard to find good data about this thing.

Dried root must be at least 0.5% by weight aconitine ... for ... something.

Aconitine LD50 for mice and rats I can find, but for humans? Widely differing data, with links to .pdf files that don't actually include the information. They say 1.5 to 6 mg, but are we really 25 to 100 times more sensitive than mice? Maybe they meant "per kg" as is normal for these figures. That's *oral* though, not by skin contact.

Pulling figures out of the air and another .pdf (I hate those files) we see that fruit and veg are 80% to 95% water. That means 0.5% ... let's call it 1% by weight in the dried root would be only 0.1% in the raw root.

Yes, the leaves are toxic too.

In 1996, a 61 year old man died after eating the leaves of Aconitum thinking it was an edible grass.

The 2002 annual meeting of the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology heard a case report of a 36-year old man who ate an estimated 30gms of crushed root, believing it would reduce his neuropathic pain. He had heart palpitations and chest discomfort but no vomiting. He recovered after 24 hours of treatment to control ventricular tachycardia. The fact that such a large dose can have such a relatively small effect illustrates the difficulty of answering the question 'How much would it take to kill?' when applied to any poisonous plant.

In 2005, a 21-year old man made up his own capsules of crushed Aconitum root which, he believed, would work as 'natural' sleeping tablets. He suffered all the classic symptoms of monkshood poisoning but recovered after two days in the hospital ICU.

A couple thought it looked so lovely they planted it to brighten up their herb garden. When the wife picked a herb leaf salad she, accidentally, included some leaves from the monkshood and both suffered severe stomach upsets lasting two days.

Okay. So 30g would be about 30mg of the actual toxin, meaning the low lethal dose is 1.5-6 mg/kg, not just 1.5-6mg. Now how the heck does a gardener absorb 400mg of a non-water-soluble alkaloid toxin from a plant through his skin?

Do you grow Aconitum's?

Posted: 09/11/2014 at 22:14

There are several important points to note. The first is that this was a pre-inquest hearing at which only the father’s view of what happened had been presented. The full inquest, when it happens, will hear all of the evidence in detail and will take due note of all of it rather than, as the Mail and other media have done, over-emphasise the histopathologist’s assertion.

The second point is that this poor unfortunate man took several days to die. Aconite and aconitine, the main alkaloids, are known to be quick-acting with death, if it happens, coming within hours.

And, finally, for now, the idea that simply brushing against a plant would be enough to get a lethal dose goes against everything that is known about the plant. I’ve spoken to people who’ve eaten a few leaves and survived and I haven’t spoken to the millions of people who have monkshood in their gardens and handle it every year without coming to any harm.


When I looked at the Mail story I noticed it had a video about Aconitum napellus and I thought the still image looked familiar. Clicking play, I heard my own voice and realised this was a shortened version of one of my YouTube videos. Now I’m not a copyright lawyer. I know that by allowing my video to be shared, when I uploaded it to YouTube, it was OK for anyone to place the whole thing on their own site. What I’m not sure is whether it is OK to edit someone else’s work.
Here’s the whole video if you’re interested. I assume that, at 4 minute 38 seconds, Mail Online assumed it was beyond the attention span of its readers.

Camera Corner

Posted: 09/11/2014 at 22:03

Lily's going to *hate* this one.


That's a sunrise not a sunset. Sorry, Lily.


That one's a sunset.

So's that. I wasn't actually zooming in on that, either. That's just air pollution.

What I learned about photographing sunsets: do it a long way from the Equator. Get up near the Arctic Circle and you can spend an hour photographing one sunset. Down near the tropics it's more like photographing a diving guillemot: *splash* "That was it. Did you get it?"



squirrels and their cleverness

Posted: 06/11/2014 at 17:15

I tend to think of moles as a free aeration and rotavation service. As long as you rake (or kick) the molehills away before they have time to create pale patches in the lawn, they're not that big a deal ... unless you're into precision gardening, with the grass trimmed with scissors one blade at a time and every pebble carefully placed, or you've got some really fragile plants. I just checked a website for how much damage they do and the FAQ includes: "Will the moles attack me?"

WHEN MOLES ATTACK! Really, what would it do, push your fingers apart and nuzzle you? Rub its fur against your cheek until you fall asleep, then steal your sandwich?

squirrels and their cleverness

Posted: 05/11/2014 at 18:14

They're buggers for digging up seedlings, too, and they take eggs and chicks from nests. Shotguns are noisy things and kick like mules. Your best bet is probably an Air Arms S400 in .177 calibre. At 25m it'll go right through a squirrel. If you don't want it to suffer, hit it in the head.

If you're not up for that, try one of these:


Camera Corner

Posted: 05/11/2014 at 18:04

KEF: your first picture looks like the "scaly" effect my pictures all have before I scale them down to 1080p to save upload bandwidth. I've noticed it's a lot less severe in some of my recent pictures taken in very bright light. If you're a long way off and zooming in, you've got the inverse square law working against you, and even on a bright day there's not much light coming your way from the subject. Twice as far away, a quarter as much light. Three times as far away, a ninth as much.

The white sky has shown up in mine too. Our eyes adject for brightness on a cell-by-cell basis. The camera does it whole-field. We may be able to see a pale blue sky and green foreground trees, but the camera gives silhouettes against the sky or green against a blazing nuclear fireball sky.

Honestly, it wasn't that dark where I was.

Honestly, it wasn't that bright outside.

Honestly, there was a sky above us.

 See? Sky. It's a question of getting the brightness of the foreground and background similar.

 Really clear skies on really sunny days apparently turn really intense blue overhead.

 The opposite of the silhouette effect here: I aimed in through an opening to get a picture of the interior of the tomb. It was awfully dark in there, so the brightly-lit exterior got over-exposed.


Discussions started by Charlie November

Holy glyphosate, Batman! What's that?

Huge thing with tiny white flowers and heart-shaped leaves 
Replies: 16    Views: 653
Last Post: 24/06/2014 at 16:52

Rose cuttings: timing

Replies: 7    Views: 453
Last Post: 31/03/2014 at 17:26

When is honey fungus not honey fungus?

At least I didn't spend anything. 
Replies: 18    Views: 1760
Last Post: 26/10/2013 at 16:46

Apple tree with white leaves

It seems to be healthy enough, if slow-growing 
Replies: 2    Views: 399
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 18:34


Not a lily. Not an apple tree. 
Replies: 6    Views: 564
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 22:29


Planning? Measuring? Me? 
Replies: 17    Views: 962
Last Post: 07/05/2014 at 16:57

Leaving tulips in the ground

Can they be left in if the drainage is good? 
Replies: 14    Views: 2477
Last Post: 13/05/2013 at 08:09
7 threads returned