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There was a link to this at Ace’s the other day, and I was impressed enough to look up how it was made. Three plus years ago, a group of six students from De Montfort University, Leicester took old illustrations from the British Library and painstakingly reproduced what 17th Century London would have looked like before the Great Fire (if you hit the link, you have to fast-forward a minute to get to the animation. The beginning is a montage of illustrations).

It won a contest jointly sponsored by the British Library and game developer Crytek. They used the CRYENGINE, the engine that built the Crysis games. Fun games, but they made my GPU fan squeal like a little girl.

You know, if you enter a contest jointly sponsored by the British Library and Crytek, it’s hard to see how you could not come up with this exact idea (this or Stonehenge), but they’ve done a beautiful job, so all hail.

I love this use of 3D technology. Crawling all over 12th Century Jerusalem and Damascus was the only reason to play Assassin’s Creed (though I grew weary of the gameplay by the third installment).

Oh, and Daniel Vávra’s precise historical reproduction of 15th Century Bohemia, Kingdom Come: Redemption is still in the works, though it looks like the deadline has slipped by a year.

And, yes, he’s still taking shit because there aren’t any black people in it.

sock it to me

May 26, 2016 — 9:25 pm
Comments: 3

Baaa, man


So, somebody dumped the remains of a dope-growing operation on the side of the road in a little Welsh village…aaaaaannnnnd the sheep got into it. They’ve been roaming the village, breaking into homes. Presumably to raid the ‘fridge and watch cartoons.

Eh. Sorry about the lameness. I’ve brought a lot of work home this week. Don’t ever let ’em know you can do publication design.

I am in brochure hell…

sock it to me

May 25, 2016 — 10:13 pm
Comments: 8

Bad bunnies


This article came across my threshold today. It was part of a thread discussing why rabbit archers feature on the tile floor of Bangor Cathedral. Yes, there is a Bangor, UK. Who knew?

Hares. They’re probably hares. Anyway, the author starts talking about the “rabbit’s revenge” and the world turned upside-down, but his ultimate conclusion seems to be “because Medieval scribes loved shit like that.”

Thought you might enjoy it.

Also, I enjoyed the heck out of this site (sorry to send you to Tumblr. Hope you don’t catch anything). It’s jokes submitted by kids to a UK kids’ joke site that have been rejected because they are stupid kid jokes that make no goddamned sense at all. My favorite so far: “​What did the chicken say to the pilot? Can I have a ride to chicken island.”

Site also has a Twitter and a Facebook.


sock it to me

May 24, 2016 — 9:34 pm
Comments: 11

I’m shaving just like daddy!


Uncle B was able to get quite close and observe our new swan behbehs. How they’ve grown. The little dude at left…B thinks the same one is often off by himself, away from the other eight. We don’t know if he’s alpha cygnet or special needs cygnet.

Anyway, he was able to take some footage without disturbing them. Check it out. It’s so obvious Timmy Cygnet is imitating Mommy Swan (or Daddy Swan, hard to tell).

I wouldn’t know. I’m not into swans. I’m strictly a disciple of chickenology. This week’s lesson: What is chicken welfare? Defining “welfare”, ethical obligations, and welfare standards.

I just hope it’s not going to be a lot of depressing videos of meat farms.

sock it to me

May 23, 2016 — 8:14 pm
Comments: 8

Didn’t work


Eh. So I tried soaking Mapp in a bucket this afternoon. She got over herself for an hour or so and then went back on the nest.

To be fair, she was supposed to have half an hour in the water and she only had ten minutes or so. I peered under the towel to make sure she hadn’t fallen asleep and drowned or something, and she came flying out like a chest-burst alien.

I see more chikken-soaking ahead.

Good weekend, everyone!

sock it to me

May 20, 2016 — 10:28 pm
Comments: 9

The first time I soaked Mapp in a bucket


My girls don’t lay from about October to March. They don’t see enough sunlight to make eggs. They would stay in lay if I gave them a little artificial light, but frankly laying is hard on a bird and my lot are mostly pets. Let them rest.

Mapp grew to laying age just as the season ended and laid no eggs at all her first year. Lucia, same age, squeezed out a few before Winter came. But that’s Lucia, a chicken made entirely of awesome.

The next Spring came around and Mapp finally laid an egg. Several, in fact. And then she stopped. And sat on the nest looking distressed. For days.

So being a compete n00b chicken lady, and a nervous one at that, I came to the obvious conclusion she was eggbound. That is what it sounds like, and it’s extremely serious and often fatal. Oh, I tried soaking it out and I tried scrubbing it out. I ringed her vent with olive oil (we don’t talk about this). I soaked her in a bucket of warm, soapy water.

You can see how happy she is. Turns out she was just broody and eventually got over herself.

Broody. A wild chicken will lay a clutch of eggs and then stop laying and spend 21 days sitting on them until they hatch. That is broody. She’ll get off the nest maybe once a day for a few minutes to take a huge and extremely offensive shit and eat a little something.

Pekin bantams, like what my flock are, are famous for going broody. Hard, impenetrable broody. Inappropriately broody. Broody on a totally empty nest all Summer long. If you’re trying to hatch some eggs, they’re perfect. But a broody hen stops laying, neglects herself into terrible condition and scares other chickens off the nest when they need to lay.

Mapp, alone of my chickens, has gone broody every single year. She lays a few eggs, and then she plants herself on the nest and refuses to come off. Shrieks and screams if you go near her.

The classic treatment is to put the broody in a ‘sin bin’ — a cage, up off the floor, with food, water, lots of light and no nesting materials until she gets over herself. I don’t really have a setup for that, so every year I just pull her off the nest a couple of times a day, make her eat, and leave it to her. ‘Horrible condition’ or not, she has now lived more than twice as long as Lucia, the Mary Poppins of chickens.

Anyhoo, according to my chicken homework last night, SGOTI (some guy on the internet) says soaking a broody hen in cold water will do the trick.

Oh, Maaaaaaaapp….?

sock it to me

May 19, 2016 — 10:15 pm
Comments: 5

Shun, SHUNNNN the pariah!


MikeW asked a question about the pecking order in the thread below, and I think I can wring a whole post out of it.

This is Vita, the biggest and most beautiful hen in my flock. The variety is known as gold partridge; her feathers are a sort of gold/bronze color with black markings. Bee-yootiful. At least to people. To other chickens, she’s a hag. Go figure.

The pecking order isn’t necessarily one, two, three, four… It can be one, two, everybody else. Or one, a bunch of twos, a bunch of threes. You get the idea. Bottom hen is known as the omega or pariah hen, and not every flock has one.

Though a lot of it is down to the personality of the bird, you can adjust the pecking order sometimes by humiliating an aggressive bird, or separating her from the rest of the flock until she loses her status.

But I suspect Vita is a natural born omega. When she and Violence were little, she didn’t engage in any of the usual status-related play: leaping, pecking, belly-bumping (this is hilarious). When pecked, a normal chicken will squeak and get out of the way, but Vita just stands patiently and takes it as her due. It’s heartbreaking.

One day, when she was fully grown, I looked out the window to see Vita motionless, beak-down in the grass. The other chickens were whaling the shit out of her. I thought she had died or collapsed and they were trying to revive her, but no, they were just giving her a good pecking. I have seen them do this until they were too exhausted to peck her any more.

Oh, I kept an eye on it. They never drew blood. If they had done, she would have had to be separated instantly. Chickens go a little nuts at the sight of blood and will peck until death and beyond (horrible little cannibals).

But the sad truth is, she’s more scared of me than the other chickens. Any attempt to pet her or give her treats just makes her more miserable and might even call down the wrath of the flock. Sometimes, no matter how much you want to make it better, you just have to leave animals to it.

When I mixed Maggie and Coco in two years ago, Vita got super aggressive with them. I assumed she was trying to establish a new position for herself as not-pariah. Sadly, neither of those girls lived long enough in health to join the flock properly.

She being super aggressive with the new girls now. They stay well out of pecking range, and it gets briefly ugly if she manages to corner one against the run. But I have a feeling these three, when fully grown, will be well able to put her back in her place.

Poor Vita.

sock it to me

May 18, 2016 — 9:39 pm
Comments: 7

Is he strong? Listen, bud…


Welp, I ate the last of my birthday cake tonight. Yes, those are the cake toppers. I know they’re supposedly edible, but they’re just too darned un-food-like to pass my lips. Real food is not halftoned.

Big fan of Spiderman. I mean the 1967 cartoon, naturally. (You laugh, but I bet the theme song is going through your head right this moment).

The cake is, of course, an oblique reference to the Spiderman Incident. Honestly, pay to have your picture taken with a Romanian acrobat dressed as Spiderman one time, and you’ll never hear the end of it.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

sock it to me

May 13, 2016 — 8:45 pm
Comments: 16

Okay, hear me out…


Tonight we went to a talk on crop circles. I wasn’t all that hot to go — not really my thing — but we promised friends.

Hoo boy, was it interesting. I wasn’t convinced by any particular theory (he wasn’t pushing any particular theory). He showed us dozens of photographs (out of, apparently, ten thousand known circles) and several things are factually indisputable:

■ There are still hundreds of them appearing every year, mostly across Europe.

■ The most complex ones are made stunningly fast, sometimes right by a busy road, without anyone being spotted nearby.

■ And holy shit have they gotten elaborate! Seriously, look at this Google Image search.

Some are definitely man-made, but the ones that people have taken credit for making are, in a word, pretty lame. They take a long time to make, are pretty simple and look kind of wonky. None of the perfect circles and long, straight lines.

Nobody has stepped forward to claim any of the really amazing ones, and nobody who makes them can figure out how the amazing ones were done. They are HUGE and complex and precise and amazing. The one in the picture at the top has a sort of wheaten basket weave, for example.

Now, when you get to the one that show a giant dot-matrix portrait of a typical X-Files gray holding a disk with legible digital message in ASCII English, you feel sure somebody’s pulling your leg. But that’s just it — how the fuck are they doing it?

sock it to me

May 12, 2016 — 10:09 pm
Comments: 22

Who are you people? And what are you doing in my house?


Subhead: tiny fluffy chicken judges you.

Not bad for a square cut from the center of a frame of wide angle video. All the blurring is P’shop — things like grass, straw and wire mesh really eat up the file size of jpgs, so I blur it out. To be honest, I’ve grown fond of the weird tilt-shift effect.

My Chickenology course is going well. I’ve just aced the Week 2 exam. I won’t say it’s heavy, but it’s not lol chikkens R cute, either. They go into the wavelengths of light chickens can see (they can see UV!) and the frequencies they can hear. The number of chicken taste buds (not very many) and the percentage of time they spend foraging, grooming and socializing.

I’ve learned new smartass terms like contrafreeloading, altricial, precocial and lol chikkens R cute.

Heavy rain tonight. I like to imagine the new girls snuggled up tight in their cozy new chicken house. Telling each other ghost stories.

sock it to me

May 11, 2016 — 9:46 pm
Comments: 13