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Two things…


Do you ever get a matched pair of news items cross your threshold; two things that interlock in a horrible way?

This lady was murdered and her murderer (relationship unclear) posted pictures of her body (and his; he cut himself up too) on her FaceBook account.

The snuff pictures stayed up for days, despite the efforts of several family members to have them removed, because some drone on FB couldn’t see how they violated policies. Her sister said, “They told me I could block Jennifer if I didn’t like what she posted and gave me other similar options.” Didn’t like what Jennifer posted. Jennifer is the murdered woman. She’s not posting much at the moment.

Followed shortly by this Breitbart item:

The European Commission has today announced a partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in order to crack down on what it classes as “illegal hate speech” while “criminaliz[ing]” perpetrators and “promoting independent counter-narratives” that the European Union favours.

The article is worth a read. Bearing in mind that we don’t have good speech protections here and bearing in mind most of Europe was until very recently some flavor of monarchy or dictatorship so they’re pretty comfy with that and bearing in mind the EU is a bunch of corrupt lefty kleptocrats, this is all pretty scary.

What ties the two together is that gatekeepers are stupid. That’s one flaw of cracking down — who decides where the line is? Either the first responders are scripts and bots (hence people in poor old Scunthorpe couldn’t get their mail from AOL servers back in the day), or they’re overworked, poorly-compensated human flunkies with a good amount of autonomy and delusions of adequacy. Either way, mistakes happen. Nothing but mistakes happen. Whole galloping herds of stampeding mistakes will happen.

My personal FaceBook is as pure as the driven snow — nothing but innocuous people I know (not counting that one brother), history and chicken groups — but something as mild as this post in a different context could land me in shit, if the EU gets its way.

May 31, 2016 — 9:30 pm
Comments: 13

I learned a thing!


We went to the country show on Saturday and it was awesome (the weather cooperated and everything) and I bought a scythe and a sickle! w00t!

Now some of my handier readers may know how this thing is done, but I did not. Using either a scythe or sickle in the field, the blades need to be resharpened every five or ten minutes. An unsharp scythe is a misery. This is done with a lozenge-shaped stone kept on your belt in a holster half full of water.

This looks completely badass. Mine are in the mail.

But after a day’s mowing, or less if you’re mowing something hard, the blades need peening (which is sadly not as rude as it sounds). What you do is hammer a couple of millimeters of metal at the edge until it is super thin. Not only does this mash out knicks and dings, but it makes the blade thin enough to take a good edge from a smooth stone.

This is done with a one-pound hammer on a peening anvil, which is not a bigass anvil like they drop on people’s heads in cartoons, but a little shiny thing. Eh, have a YouTube.

The dude on the left in the painting is using a portable peening anvil they used to take out in the fields and stick in the ground. You can still get those. (Painting by Léon Augustin Lhermitte).

If you’re a casual mower, you can get away with filing the edge to shape. That’s what I’ll do. I don’t honestly see myself peening in the near future and, trust me, I’m going to be the most casual of casual mowers.

You’d think you’d hammer the blade away to nothing in no time, but there are plenty of very old scythes and sickles to be had. Though if I were serious, I’d buy a modern one.

If you wonder why bother, do a YouTube search of “scythe vs strimmer” — spoiler: scythe always wins.

May 30, 2016 — 8:53 pm
Comments: 14

Have a good ‘un

Naw, it’s not really Weasel Day. I posted that old graphic because I FINISHED ALL MY WORK and I feel like a fairytale princess because I get to have a three-day week just like people.

And so, my imaginary internet friends, what are you doing for Memorial Day?

May 27, 2016 — 9:45 pm
Comments: 18



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.

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…

May 25, 2016 — 10:13 pm
Comments: 9

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.


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.

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!

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….?

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.

May 18, 2016 — 9:39 pm
Comments: 7