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Happy VD!

Valentine’s Day! Attentive readers — examples of whom, I feel sure, will exist some day — may remember this as our wedding anniversary. Our second.

Year Two is the Big Mac anniversary, yes? Because we went to the zoo, followed by Mickey D’s. Because basically, both of us, when we turned eight our brains stopped developing.

To be fair, we tried to think of something more grownup to do, but so many things aren’t open in February. And some that are, aren’t open Mondays.

In the spirit of grown-uppedness, we’ll share a bottle of decent champagne tonight. We got two as a consolation prize because the inn which served our wedding supper screwed up our nephew’s vegetarian dinner. We looked it up and it’s suitably expensive, so WHA-HEY!.

Anyhoo, this is a wildlife park I’ve written about before, specializes in British aminals. I didn’t know there was a European lynx. Lovely pussies, seen here being a bit frisky — he’s giving her a playful head-butt, which I managed not to catch, quite. (Wire mesh erased courtesy of Photoshop, a thing it does creepily well).

Also, there’s a European bison. Who knew?

The stoats and weasels were all asleep (I managed to spot a little patch of weasel fur poking out of the straw, expanding and contracting as it snored). Likewise, the minks and otters. All the reptiles were in hibernation, with some of the rodents.

The wolves wouldn’t howl for me, but then an ambulance went by and they all tuned up their pipes. WooooOOOOoooo! That must’ve been effing spooking around the campfire, back in the days when you had nothing but sticks and rocks to drive them off with.

They seem to have a new batch of badgers. Three younguns. The underground sett is inset in various places with glass windows, so we watched Badger A chase off Badger B and dig himself a nice bed in the straw, while Badger C took a dump in the community latrine. Yeah. I was going to say I paid money for that, but I didn’t — they let us in free because we turned up late.

Last up always, we pass the cage of the Scottish wildcat, ounce for ounce the meanest bastard in the park. Really. They look like adorable hearth-rug moggies, but nobody’s ever successfully tamed one.

Solitary beasties, too, so we were shocked at how close this one was. Sitting on a high wooden platform, staring around with seething disgust. Didn’t even acknowledge us.

So, pretty much like Charlotte, then.

February 14, 2011 — 9:24 pm
Comments: 33

Noo loo

Behold, our new upstairs toilet. The old one always had a crack in the cistern and finally started to leak last weekend.

It’s a heartbreak to spend that kind of money for a pot to piss in, so let me at least get a goddamned post out of it.

British toilets were my first hint that being a foreigner might be harder than expected. I have difficulty flushing the ones with levers. They look like the familiar American toilet handle, but turning them does nothing. You have to put a little…hell, I don’t know. A little oomph on them.

Maybe it’s because English toilets have the handle on the right and I had a lifetime experience flushing handles to the left.

I don’t know. I looked in the tank once — instead of the good old Yankee doodle float-and-flapper, there’s all this spooky alien tech back there. Weird shit. Not messing with it.

The worst was the toilet in London. I was completely that toilet’s bitch. Every time I turned the handle, it gave a little growly noise, swirled stuff around in a bored, perfunctory way and…nothing. I never got it on the first try, and after the third or fourth try, I’d have to wait for the tank to fill up again.

A bathroom break could take me twenty minutes. Uncle B must’ve thought I had some kind of unspeakable problem down there. It was a while before I explained.

Because, let me tell you, the thing when you’re in a new relationship and trying to look all desirable and attractive and stuff: you really, REALLY don’t want to ask the new boyfriend in to check out your bidness and help you flush it.

Luckily for me, the new one’s foolproof — it’s pushbutton! And like a lot of toilets here, it’s a two-stager. The big button is a little flush, the little button is a big flush.

Get me! Flushing like a big girl!

Oh! And then there was the time we went to Arundel and the toilet at the train station was a proper old-fashioned water closet, with the elevated cistern and the pull chain and everything. I was so excited. It was the highlight of my trip.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

February 11, 2011 — 10:19 pm
Comments: 55

Calling all artards!

Have I got a deal for you!

Project Messiah offers an industrial-strength, professional level 3D modeling and animation tool (it’s called “Messiah” because the code was originally developed to do special effects for the film Dogma. Or so they said at Boing Boing. It’s not listed on their film credits).

Serious professional tool. The basic edition is usually $599 and the pro version $1,195, but they’re trying a viral marketing experiment.

Sign up now and you can reserve a copy of basic for $10 or pro for $40. The deal is, if they reach a certain level of sales by a certain date, then everyone who signed on gets a copy at that price (and then the software reverts to its regular price). If they don’t reach that level of sales, we all get our money back and go home empty handed.

They won’t say what their intended level of sales is, or the closing date — but the progress bar has gone from 0 to about 50% on the first day, so it’s looking good.

Fair warning — animation tools aren’t fun toys to fiddle around with casually. Not at first, anyway. There’s a very steep learning curve just to get on top of the basics, and powerful computing needed to render any kind of serious animation.

But when you get the basics down, 3D modeling is the most fun I have ever had with my eyeballs. It’s fantastically engaging.

It’s like carpentry without all the splinters and blood and severed fingers.

Anyhow, it’s an interesting marketing idea. I’ve ponied up my forty bucks and we’ll see what happens.

p.s. If that’s too rich for your blood, there’s always Blender. It’s free.

p.p.s. A strangely hypnotic animation I did in 3DS. Also, my favorite comment thread ever. If I do say so myself.

February 10, 2011 — 2:03 pm
Comments: 26

Name that beast!

Check out this mystery beast we caught on the wildlife camera last night. Usually, the pictures are a bit clearer than this, but dark objects are difficult for the infrared.

Remember, wildlife of this size is very limited in the UK, so don’t be guessing raccoon or wolverine or spiny anteater, okay? Little baby bear? Right out.

Maybe an obese black cat, but the legs are awfully stumpy. For reference, the grass is not especially deep and the heap of shit on the lawn (my goodness, how Uncle B hates my heap of shit on the lawn) is about knee deep.

Badger? The legs and body fit, but it’s too dark, a little small and I’d expect to be able to pick out the stripey snout.

I haven’t posted about the wildlife camera before, have I? I was kind of waiting to catch a hedgehog wearing pants or a tapdancing stoat or something really interesting.

But no. Most nights, we get a few pictures Meester Fox and our two cats. Not together. When the sun comes up, chickens and dickie birds. This is because I put leftovers on my heap of shit on the lawn. Heh heh heh.

I bought the camera for Uncle B, but I think I get the most pleasure out of it. I really look forward to checking that chip every day.

This is the one we have (and let me say I think “Prostalk” is an appalling product name). They make much better ones, of course, but this seemed like a good entry level.

Mucho recommendo. And you might get lucky and catch a nice shot of your burglar or your ex or something.

February 9, 2011 — 8:17 pm
Comments: 52

Ow. My Awesometer just broke.

Sunday was Ronnie’s centennial, and here’s my take on his enduring popularity: Ronald Reagan was the last guy I voted for who didn’t give me the creeps.

We can talk philosophy and track record some other time. I’m trying to put my finger on a basic and near universal quality of our political figures — right, left and center. There’s something wrong with them.

Something creepy wrong. They give off the paste-eating-kid-from-kindergarten vibe.

Not out of touch. “Out of touch” implies normal people who have been isolated for too long. This is something fundamentally not-all-there. Not right.

In the interest of bipartisanship, let’s talk Bob Dole. Talkin’ about Bob Dole, in the third person. (I had a friend — a Republican — who called him Evil Grandpa). Or John McCain, who hums and fizzes with suppressed…ummm…I don’t know and I don’t want to find out. Just hinky, you know?

And ‘fess up — it was pretty hard propping up George Bush, wasn’t it? Particularly that last couple of years, when he couldn’t be assed to stick up for our principles and all we had to rally around was a man who talked funny and moved like a wadded up fist and gave goofy-ass nicknames to everyone he dealt with.

And, Jesus — Al Gore and John Kerry are just flying right off the Nutcake Scale. Linc Chafee. Alan Grayson. Joe Biden. Barney Frank — GAH! Even people in care homes wear their freaking teeth in public.

Political types are like performing animals, with your Axelrods and Roves just off camera poking them with sticks to make them do the tricks right. Gosh, when they stand up on their hind legs like that, they look just like a people!

Ronald Reagan wasn’t an ordinary person, of course. Neither is Sarah Palin. “Ordinary” is not a desirable quality in a leader. But they are among the few people in political life who don’t seem like they probably wet the bed until they were thirty.

February 8, 2011 — 9:39 pm
Comments: 42

Here. Have some chickens, then

I blew all my free time tonight playing through to the end of Dead Space. I sure got my £5 worth out of it. It was great fun.

As the game went along and the ship got all veiny and mucus-y and organic and I ran across alien/human hybrids stuck all over the walls, I thought, “I’ve played this game before! It’s called Doom!”

Yeah, it’s pretty Doom (1993). Which in turn was pretty Alien (1979).

So we only have one space-horror plot. We just get better and better at telling it.

ANYHOO! The chickens? They’re fine. Not laying again yet. I’ve entered into negotiations with the Chicken Man for another two birds next month, so we’ll see how that goes.

February 7, 2011 — 11:42 pm
Comments: 20

Best thing I ever put in my mouth

Okay, maybe not the best. But I do like them.

It’s the faux custard topping. It has a certain Hostess Twinkie insouciance.

When I first spotted the package in the supermarket, though, it made my eyes water. And I don’t even have one, spotted or otherwise.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

February 4, 2011 — 10:49 pm
Comments: 56

Kung Hei Fat Choi, y’all

It’s Chinese New Year — the Year of the Rabbit — though I’ve read that ‘rabbit’ should really be translated as ‘hare.’

Phun Phact: rabbits are not indigenous to the UK. They were brought here by the Romans for food (as was the ground elder that is utterly pwning my garden. Fucking Romans).

The hare, however, is native and fairly common around these parts. We narrowly missed hitting one that darted into the road in front of us one dark and stormy night. Big, lean, rangy beasts — almost dog-like.

Anyoo, Won Hung Lo!

— 12:02 am
Comments: 16

Happy Groundhog Day!

You’ve gotta know that fucking groundhog is so fucking sick of this Groundhog Day shit.

I ran over a groundhog once. In a rental car. I felt terrible, but the nice thing about hitting stuff in Tennessee: there’s always going to be a truckload of Sons of the Soil coming along behind you to clean up your mess.

Also, I ate groundhog once. In stew, I think. I don’t remember it at all, I just remember my mother complaining for years afterwards about how greasy it was. Mother was big time into making us eat weird back-to-the-land stuff.

Not possum. Thank god, not possum.

I don’t know about where you are, but where we are — no fucking way that fucking groundhog saw his fucking shadow today. If we had the fucking things here.

February 2, 2011 — 9:53 pm
Comments: 32

The Daily Mail is a lousy rag

My US news sources — Fox and Drudge especially — are linking to the Daily Mail more and more, as their default UK news source. At a glance, they have a similar right-of-center populist editorial viewpoint.

At second glance, though, the Mail turns out to be a really shitty newspaper.

Leave aside the way they report upcoming plot-points on popular TV programs as if it were real news. Overlooking the endless celebrity trout-pouts, baby bumps and unflattering shots of famous people caught with no makeup and their eyes half closed. All this is down in the shallow, stupid end of journalism, but it’s not wrong.

Then there are the endless, breathless, ZOMG one-armed drunken lesbian benefit scroungers with knives headlines — which often aren’t supported by the story inside. This gets tiresome. It’s bad journalism, but it’s not really wrong.

But — via my chicken-keepers forum, of all places — comes a link to a story about the Mail engaging in first-degree just making shit up.

It’s a long blog post. Worth a read, if you’re interested. If not, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

In 2003, this woman moves to the country with her two kids, is contacted by a Mail freelancer doing a story on people who leave the city looking for the good life. Woman is starting a PR company in a new town, thinks this would be a bit of harmless publicity.

Story comes out, it’s titled Sex & the Country — a reaction to Sex in the City coming back on TV — and it’s a bunch of made-up shit about her dating life, including totally made-up direct quotes. She’s horrified and humiliated. She contacts the other people in the article — same deal for them, but the Mail laughs them off and nobody can afford to sue.

So the original lady, she spends two years in court trying to get an apology out of them. In the end, the judge rules in her favor (meaning she wins the right to carry it forward to a jury trial) and the Mail offers to settle. Which she does.

I realize there’s a lot of this kind of thing goes around in journalism — especially with this fluffy Lifestyle junk that seems to be taking over newspapers — but I’d like to think there’s a leeetle less poison in my information well.

Anyhow. Be careful who you link to. You might get some on you.

February 1, 2011 — 10:19 pm
Comments: 26