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Not my chook

blindchook

Stole this chook off’n FaceBook. I tell you, I like FB so much more now that I’ve quietly unfollowed a bunch of people and added chicken, history and beer groups.

Anyway, this girl has just gotten back from the vet, where she was diagnosed as having gone blind. Judging from comments under the picture, this is not hugely unusual, even in otherwise healthy hens.

In any kind of serious poultry setup, such a chicken would be culled. But hobbyists will make accommodations and blind chickens can apparently do well. The important thing is putting their food, water and bedding in exactly the same place.

The most famous blind FaceBook chicken (why yes, there is such a thing) is Mumble. (Her gallery is here, but I think you have to be a FB user to see it). She was hatched entirely without eyes, which doesn’t look horrible. In fact, Mumble is weirdly cute.

Even most hobbyists would cull a seriously deformed hatchling (Mumble’s owner was advised to do so), but she seems a thriving, happy bird. She’s a year old now, I think. In that time the owner has been contacted about eight other chicks hatched in the same condition. Nature is weird.

Honestly, we should use the domestic chicken as an emblem of something. Fortitude. Placidity. Calm in the face of adversity. Just getting the hell on with it.

Anyhoo, this is a long weekend here. It’s not celebrating anything particular, it’s just known as the August Bank Holiday. And, believe it or not, it’s the last public holiday in Britain before Christmas.

These people need Thanksgiving. They could call it Hooray, We Got Rid of all those Wretched God-Botherers Day.

Good weekend!

August 26, 2016 — 9:25 pm
Comments: 6

And then the fat lady sang

circus

Welp, that’s it. We went to the circus tonight. It always turns up for the long weekend and we think of it as the end of Summer.

It’s not. There are plenty of Summery things going on right through September, which is sometimes the nicest month of the warm season. But the circus is the beginning of the end.

This one has been going on for five generations (the two guys in the picture are the World’s Two Unfunniest Clowns, and nephews of the current ringmaster). Used to be more family members in the acts, but they now hire them from circus-y places like Eastern Europe and China

There is a sense of genuine suspense during many performances, because it’s a small troupe and a bit down-at-heel and you get the impression something could go wrong. But it never has and everyone is very cordial. The acts also take tickets and dole out food; it’s that kind of little circus.

So here we go, the slide into Fall…

August 25, 2016 — 9:40 pm
Comments: 6

Mutton racing

lambracing

Lamb racing: not a serious sport. These beasties were well accustomed to humans and not keen on running anywhere. They had to be chased by hooting farm children, and even then they kept stopping for skritchies and treats from the crowd. I think they did a best 3 out of 4 and no lamb won twice. This was from Sunday again.

On a sinister note, they’ve been pulling bodies out of the sea on a beach up the coast from us today. They’re up to five now, including two found by walkers after dusk, washed up on the beach. And Twitter tells me there’s a helicopter out looking for another.

There were thousands of people on the beaches today and the news is treating these as ordinary swimming accidents, but nobody knows anything. They have no identities, no backstory. They don’t even know if any of these people were together. Five is a real lot for one day around here, with little wind and calm seas.

It seldom gets above 80° here, but I think it was nearer 90° this afternoon. Eh. I’m off to take a cool bath.

August 24, 2016 — 10:13 pm
Comments: 13

Don’t ever take investment advice from me

web

Pff. Yeah. I’m reblogging shit from FaceBook now. Like if you think I’m an idiot, share if you think I’m a maroon.

I’m sure I’ve told you this story before, but w/e. Berners-Lee’s white paper proposing the WWW was published in 1990. I’d been online some years by then, and I read his paper and I thought it was the stupidest, most unworkable, unlikeliest pie-in-the-sky hippie crap I’d ever heard.

This was a time when a simple word processing program was, like, five hundred bucks and this British ninny thinks major players are going to put premium content online for free and let anybody in the world link to it? Yah, riiiiiiight.

That wasn’t my biggest ever prophecy #FAIL, though. Oh, no.

My second year of art school, they had a recruiter from Hasbro come talk to the class. He was all excited about this new toy they were about to release. Hasbro had done a big survey of little girls and found the number one thing they all wanted was a pony, so they were going to sell these ugly pony sculptures in garish colors.

And I’m thinking, no, you idiot little girls want A PONY. A soft warm hairy beast she can feed apples to and dress up and ride around on, not some lumpy pink four-legged hard plastic booger-goblin.

Yep, that’s right. I predicted the complete failure of My Little Pony.

August 23, 2016 — 5:11 pm
Comments: 22

Alpaca bag

alpacas

We went to a tractor festival on Sunday. We almost didn’t. I’m going to level with you here: I’m not all that into tractors.

These people, these people are into their tractors. This isn’t even the first tractor fest we’ve been to this Summer (though the other, you’ll recall, was a traction engine thing. This was, like, John Deeres). This was a three ring tractor festival. Glad we went; it was one of the best country fairs we’ve been to.

In addition to my alpaca friends here, there were three-banded armadillos, a skink, a wallaby and A WHOLE TENT OF CHIKKENS! There was a pair of buff Orpingtons there that probably weighed more than my whole flock.

As dog is my witness, I shall take Buff Orpington as a username some day.

The food was exceptionally good for one of these events. Too good, in fact. By the time we decided to eat, our first (and second) choices had sold out. I had a very decent pad Thai and a cider (note to visitors: all cider in Britain is hard).

And thus the Summer fete season marches on. Next weekend is a big one; it’s a long weekend. After that, it all kind of peters out.

Ah, well. Gather ye tractorfests while ye may.

August 22, 2016 — 8:22 pm
Comments: 18

bit o’ fun

mechanics

This is fun: auto mechanics recreate famous paintings. The last one is my favorite; it’s based on one of my favorite Rembrandts, the Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp.

Rembrandt was my favorite painter when I was a kid. Then I made the mistake of reading a biography of him and decided he was kind of a jerk. And he thought those lumpy potato women he painted were beautiful, because they were based on his wife and mistress. All the other Dutch painters snickered at his bovine nudes.

Never hit the ‘learn more’ button on your heroes. Thanks to can’t hark for the link.

Changing the subject, the South Park guys are coming out with a new game in December: The Fractured but Whole. I guess it’s a riff on the Marvel superhero movies. As part of the schtick, they’re claiming to have developed a peripheral device called the Nosulus Rift that allows you to smell farts as they happen in the game. The Making of videos are pretty fun.

I haven’t quite finished their first game, Stick of Truth. It’s a cross between an RPG and an episode of South Park, but it has wrung a few genuine guffaws out of me.

Finally: rooster in pants! Or cockerel in trousers, for my British readers. For reasons unfathomable, it is seriously funny. He looks like your grandpa.

It came across my FaceBook feed from one of the chikken groups I follow. When I went to YouTube to find a non-FB link, I discovered chickens in pants are a thing. This one has a kind of bigfoot quality. This guy’s laugh is infectious. Wait, is this the same guy, or do all redneck yards look alike? (I love the way that rooster keeps looking down at his pants, like The Hell?). Won’t even start on the chicken diapers.

We’ve got some fun stuff on the calendar for this weekend, but the weather isn’t predicted to cooperate. Cross your fingers. Have a good one!

August 19, 2016 — 6:51 pm
Comments: 4

Chikken science

comb

You know I’ve always told you that a chicken’s position in the flock is signaled by the size of her comb? Well, I found me a gat-dang scholarly article about it.

The question of whether attributes of the combs of laying hens have any consistent relationship with dominance behaviour has yet to be answered unequivocally.

Nonsense! I told you it did, didn’t I?

Pullets (n = 120, Hy-line® Variety Brown) were allocated randomly to eight groups of 15 hens for 32 weeks. Over this period the length and height of each hen’s comb was measured regularly to estimate the total comb area and hens were weighed. In weeks 3–10 the aggressive interactions between hens in each group were observed to calculate a behavioural dominance score (David’s score) for each hen.

David’s score is a measure of the dominance of a single member of any group of animals using the formula DS(interactionmatrix, prop=c(“Pij”, “Dij”)). No, I’m not shitting you. No, I don’t have a clue. Google if you math.

The luminance, purity and dominant wavelength of the colour of each hen’s comb was measured in week 27 using a telespectroradiometer.

What would you give — WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE — to watch an actual scientist apply a telespectroradiometer to a chicken’s floopy red hat?

There was no association between body weight and dominance score but there was a significant inverse relationship between dominance score and the dominant wavelength of the comb (gradient of slope = −0.067 ± 0.023, P < 0.01).

I buy this. My dominant hen is the smallest in the flock. She’s a fearsome little beast. Though I’m not entirely sure about the gradient of the slope of the dominant wavelength of her headgear, TBH.

This indicated that hens with combs perceived by humans as more yellow-red than pure red were generally more successful competitors. Further research is required to ascertain whether or not hens utilise this information on comb size and the underexplored area of comb colour to assess the competitive ability of their opponents.

“Stay away from Edna today, fam — she’s looking a little orange, iykwim.”

The underexplored area of comb colour. Hoo! Why didn’t I go into chikken science for reals? Oh, yeah…I can’t math.

Anyway, there you have Violence the Chicken as a young layer and three years later as Boss Lady.

Two of the three new girls are laying for sure. Possibly all three, but I haven’t caught Colette on the nest yet. When I stuck my head in the coop this morning, Rosie was on the nest and she shrieked at me. It really is like walking in on a teenager in the bathroom.

August 18, 2016 — 8:53 pm
Comments: 7

Oh, Japan!

japan

I honestly do not know what I was doing when I found myself in this place today. I only know it scared me. Japan Trend Shop is superficially one of those silly gadget shops, like Brookstone, but being Japanese…somewhat more horrifying.

Like, in the cosmetics section, you can buy horse oil. Which, if you read the description, is clearly made from actual horses (“Son Bahyu also breeds only quality horses, so its creams do not contain oil from former racing horses or other steads that are no longer healthy.”).

You can spend $24 on a cardboard box for your cat to sleep in. An ordinary cardboard box, though I suppose it is “designed to look just like the boxes used to send and transport large bottles of soy sauce in Japan.” So there’s that.

Earplugs in the shape of tiny colorful dachshunds ($42). A plastic vase you can scream into to muffle your angsty cries $52 (reduced from $80). A machine that makes perfectly spherical balls of ice in seconds, $1,281 (I won’t lie, I really want one of these). Cotton Wife and Husband Hug Pillows (“We’ve seen plenty of hug pillows in Japan before but these have the most attractive and, well, huggable designs so far.”). $180.

None of those objects brought me to the site, though. I decided I just couldn’t bear to post a picture of the thing that caught my eye: the Bigan Beauty Face Expander. It’s supposed to be for exercising your cheek muscles. And there are other horrifying-looking beauty apparatuses in that section, but I just. No. No, I don’t believe it.

August 17, 2016 — 8:26 pm
Comments: 13

Long weasel is long

weaseltoes

And on Sunday we went to a country fair and I mauled somebody else’s weasel (“no, ma’am, that’s a ferret,” said the woman). That’s a fully grown ferret. It’s a female. Big size differential.

Sadly, chickens and ferrets are like matter and anti-matter. Plus, the cats would kill me.

Oh, and.

Ummmm.

I bought another Spong mincer. Uncle B was like, “you’re going to convert the house into the Museum of Spong, aren’t you?”

No, silly. I’m only interested in tabletop Spong mincers with the asymmetrical base. My fetishes are highly specific.

It’ll be the Museum of Tabletop Spong Mincers with the Asymmetrical Base.

August 16, 2016 — 8:59 pm
Comments: 17

Where are you, Winston Churchill?

bbmf

Went to an airshow Saturday. There were several in the South of England this weekend. They do this so the Red Arrows (for example) can fly down the coast and do one show after another in one big go.

The picture is (part of) the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The RAF has one Lancaster bomber, one Hurricane and one Spitfire they’re keeping in the air and they fly them together to the various shows. People love them.

I hit up Wikipedia to find out when the Battle of Britain officially started and ended (answer: depends if you ask the Brits or the Krauts). I learned that it has the distinction of being (the only?) battle to be named before it was fought. Winnie named it in his “finest hour” speech:

What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour”.

Makes you nostalgic for a time when our leaders not only acknowledged a war for the survival of Christian civilization, but actually were on our side in it.

Anyway. Highlight of the day: watching a soldier teach a little boy to cock and fire a Glock, with his mother helping out. I could’ve wished for them all to show a little more barrel discipline, though — even if it was a dummy training weapon.

Low point: the little boy who ran up to his mother shouting, “Mummy, look! It’s one of those things cowboys wear to keep their guns in!” To his credit, he was super excited about it, but it was sad to see a ten-year-old boy who didn’t know the word holster.

Apologies to Uncle B for mangling his nice picture down to weasel blog size.

August 15, 2016 — 6:38 pm
Comments: 16