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Friday Chikken Update


The new girls in the onion bed (I can’t call them the little girls any more; they’re as big or bigger than the old girls). Pic horribly out of focus, sorry — I don’t know what my camera was focusing on, but I took a whole bunch of these today and they’re all bad.

Funny thing. I was sitting out in the garden playing the banjo this afternoon, as you do, with the chickens happily pecking around me in the grass. All six of them suddenly leapt up, tear-assed across the lawn and gathered together in one spot, someplace behind me. After a minute, they slowly dispersed. This happened three or four times before I got up and turned my chair around to face The Spot.

We’d left the casement window in the kitchen unlatched — the window I throw chicken treats from. Periodically, a gust of wind would catch the window and blow it wide and they’d dash over hopefully. With me sitting there. All praise the generous and mighty Window.

God bless them, chickens are stupid. And greedy.

Ektually, the news is that there’s no news. Chickens come in to lay between 20 and 24 months weeks, and the new ones are 21 and a bit. I stare forlornly into their nest box every day. Their faces are all red, though — that’s how biology tells roosters it’s Go Time.

Yes, the two speckledy hens (who are biological sisters) interact with each other more, often leaving the lavender Odd Chicken Out. Yes, the old girls are still picking on the new girls. Well, all except Head Chicken — such things are generally beneath the dignity of her office.

I’ll let you know when I finally get an egg from a noob. Good weekend!

ATTENTION – ATTENTION – ATTENTION: Jenny has laid her first egg! When I let the girls out this morning, she was sitting on the nest, so I waited in the garden. Glad I did – after she laid it, she was pecking at it hard. Probably a case of WTF IS THIS?, but if she’d penetrated to the delicious innards, I’d have a real problem on my hands.

July 29, 2016 — 6:46 pm
Comments: 8

I love this


This isn’t mine. The caption, I mean. I did the artwork, but someone else — I know not who — put the words on it, and now that’s the most common version you’ll find on the web.

I cannot tell you how much that tickles me.

Sometime commenter bikeboy wrote me last night looking for the Hillary! poster I did. Turns out, the ‘steal my art’ button broke when I moved the blog. It didn’t even occur to me until that moment that NOW-NOW-NOW is the very last chance to recycle my Hillary! campaign art (and I devoutly hope I will not be making President Hillary! art, ever).

So I figured I’d gather it all together for you. Feel free to steal, alter, recaption, get a tattoo, eat a piece of cake, scratch your butt. Honestly, I don’t care. Have fun.

The original hag (there’s a bigger version of that somewhere, used in the picture above, but I can’t find it), the one for the election poster, the election poster, big and in color (this is the only one I have in a much higher res version, if you want it for anything), with a walker, derping, as Kang (of Kang and Kodos), as Queen Elizabeth I, as Humpty Dumpty, more derping, with a beard, taking a bite out of her blackberry, Hillary Clinton.Δ16, lizard woman.

There may be more, but that’s all I could find in a Google images search (anything but fire up Adobe Bridge).

July 28, 2016 — 8:00 pm
Comments: 9

Thou sank’st my longboat!


There’s a paper out by Mark Hall of Perth Museum exploring the 36 ancient Northern European burials that have included board games. Two of the game burials were in the Orkneys, which were under Norwegian rule until Tudor times. I tried (and failed) to find the source paper online, not least because the article about it in the Scotsman was behaving oddly in my browser. Fair warning.

Two reasons, they speculate (I remind myself that any discussion of the reasons our pre-literate ancestors did things is always speculation). First, there was such a thing as gamer cred. Prowess at strategy games was regarded as a warrior skill.

Secondly, they wanted to keep the ghost entertained so he wouldn’t come back and mess with the living.

Eh. Who knows? The delightful chess pieces in the picture are real, by the way. They’re called the Lewis chessmen because they were found on a beach in Lewis, Scotland in 1831. Late 12th, early 13th C., carved from walrus ivory. There were 93 pieces found. It’s well worth following the link to read more and see them up close.

And with that, I’m off to play the vidya!

July 27, 2016 — 7:21 pm
Comments: 14

A cheerful ditty to brighten your Tuesday


We just finished watching the BBC’s six part The Living and the Dead. It was meh. Pretty to look at, couple of interesting plot devices, ran too long, took itself too seriously.

The theme song was a version of a very ancient song known as the Lyke Wake Dirge. Most Brits know it from this version made popular by the folk-rock band Pentangle. But I like this slightly older version better. Common consensus is that it predates Christianity by a long way, and the Jesusy bits were tacked on later. It’s spooky as shit.

“Lyke” is an old word for corpse, of the same origin as lich, a few of which you might have slewn with smitings, if you are a gamer. It also survives in the term lychgate, which is the thing in the picture: a covered walkway at the entrance of a church. They used to lay out the corpse under the lychgate at the beginning of funeral proceedings.

Anyhoo, here are the lyrics as they survive today:

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

When thou from hence away art past,
Every nighte and alle,
To Whinny-muir thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Every nighte and alle,
Sit thee down and put them on;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
Every nighte and alle,
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Whinny-muir whence thou may’st pass,
Every nighte and alle,
To Brig o’ Dread thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gav’st silver and gold,
Every nighte and alle,
At t’ Brig o’ Dread thou’lt find foothold,
And Christe receive thy saule.

But if silver and gold thou never gav’st nane,
Every nighte and alle,
Down thou tumblest to Hell flame,
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Brig o’ Dread whence thou may’st pass, Every nighte and alle,
To Purgatory fire thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gav’st meat or drink,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

And here is a version in modern English, I pinched from this interesting short essay:

On this night, on this night,
Every night and all,
Hearth and house and candle-light,
And Christ receive your soul.

When from here away you pass
Every night and all,
To Thorny Moor you come at last;
And Christ receive your soul.

If ever you gave hose and shoes,
Every night and all,
Sit then down and put them on;
And Christ receive your soul.

But if hose and shoes you gave none
Every night and all,
The thorns shall prick you to the bare bone;
And Christ receive your soul.

From Thorny Moor then you may pass,
Every night and all,
To Bridge of Dread you come at last;
And Christ receive your soul.

If ever you gave silver and gold,
Every night and all,
At Bridge of Dread you’ll find foothold,
And Christ receive your soul.

But if silver and gold you gave none
Every night and all:
You’ll tumble down into Hell’s flames
And Christ receive your soul.

From Bridge of Dread then you may pass,
Every night and all,
To Purgatory fire you’ll come at last;
And Christ receive your soul.

If ever you gave meat or drink,
Every night and all,
The fire will never make you shrink;
And Christ receive your soul.

But if meat or drink you gave none,
Every night and all,
The fire will burn you to the bare bone;
And Christ receive your soul.

On this night, on this night,
Every night and all,
Hearth and house and candle-light,
And Christ receive your soul.

It seems a little neener-neener to sing the instructions for getting to heaven over the body of someone who is dead and literally cannot do anything about it now, but there you go. Our ancestors, trolling their dead.

July 26, 2016 — 2:09 pm
Comments: 7

I don’t think this bun will recover


Why, yes, that is the ass-end of an adorable baby bunny. This one was good ‘n’ dead before he presented us with it, so I had no moral dilemma about taking his kill away.

He ate it up, every bite. It took him all day. By dusk, there was nothing left but a little fluffy cotton tail. I haven’t had the heart to go see if it’s still in the grass.

I would never scold him for this — it’s his proper job, and besides we need the bun control. But, eesh. I am mighty squeamish about it.

I have never cleaned a rabbit or gutted a fish. I ate a fair bit of game growing up, but I never learned to like it and I certainly never prepared any myself.

I remember standing in my kitchen in my twenties, staring at an uncooked steak and thinking about going vegetarian. I didn’t, of course, but I wont deny it has an appeal.

The day they learn to grow delicious filet mignon in a laboratory tank…

July 25, 2016 — 8:47 pm
Comments: 11



Do those chickens look amused? No, they do not. Chickens probably have the least sense of humor of any animal I’ve ever dealt with. Chickens are serious birds.

I’m not taking credit for this stinker. It was sent to me by someone named Mad Ivan.

But the chicken article everyone is sending me is this one: mosquitoes hate the smell of chickens. They are almost never found with chicken blood in their systems, and putting a chicken in a room results in up to 80% fewer mosquitoes landing in the traps.

The BBC’s somewhat bizarre headline for this story is Chicken odour ‘prevents malaria’ research in Ethiopia finds. The Mail’s headline is the rather more jaunty (and accurate) Forget mosquito repellent! Sleeping next to a CHICKEN will keep the blood-sucking insects at bay.

I have not yet convinced Uncle B to try the experiment, even though he suffers horribly from mosquito bites such we have to sleep with all the windows closed and an insecticide plugin. I have made the case that chickens fall asleep instantly when the lights go out, but he’s made the counter-argument that my chickens burble volubly the moment the sun comes up. Stay tuned!

Good weekend, y’all.

July 22, 2016 — 9:38 pm
Comments: 18

Sticks and stones…


Ladies and gentlemen, my favorite tweet. I don’t know much about Mr the Creator, but he’s a rapper so I’m going to apply stereotypes and assume he’s at least a little bit ghetto. Bullying in his old haunts prolly involved blood loss.

It isn’t much fun to be the target of online abuse. I have been, long ago, not as Stoaty Weasel. But if you get shit on a blog or a forum or Twitter, you have the option to not fucking go there for a while. Not counting having your nudes or your name and address published, which I do see as actual real-world harm, nothing that happens to you in cyber space is real. It’s an essential social skill in [current year] to learn to walk away from, not get wadded up by, strangers in cyberspace trying to get under your skin.

I know, it’s a not-politics week, but I had to mention Milo Yiannapolis’ Twitter permaban, because I’m not sure what the small fry should do about it.

Backstory: Milo got into a slanging match with that black chick from the new Ghostbusters movie. The way I read it, she was ruder to him than he was to her, but because other people went after her with crude racial stuff, he got blamed for incitement. Good writeup of it here, if you care.

In response to the whole business, people were re-tweeting some hair raising things other Twitter users had said without getting banned. Like, advocating cop murder and recruiting for ISIS. All of the obvious pushback is against the right.

For those of you not on Twitter (most of my readership, I think), when a topic is discussed a lot, it appears in the sidebar as “trending”. The #FreeMilo hashtag was trending so hard, it was number three or four (it’s different in different locations) for hours. And then it was just gone. People were still tweeting about it in enormous volumes, but Twitter plucked it off the list and invisibilized it.

Now, I’m not much of a Twitter user. At all. So the obvious thing to do is walk away and hope enough others do so to make an already tanking business model tank harder. But social media have become a beloved crutch for lazy journalists everywhere. Whole tracts of the Daily Mail are just tweets from nobodies now. So what happens when all the nobodies are SJW nobodies?

July 21, 2016 — 9:19 pm
Comments: 16

Jack: 2 Rabbits: nil


Well, technically I suppose it’s Jack: 1 Rabbits: 1. It’s hard to see here (easier to make out in color) but that thing in my right hand is the head of a bunny, which is fortunately still connected to the rest of the rabbit. I distracted Jack just long enough for Mr Buns to get away.

Yes, I felt awful for stealing his rabbit, but I just can’t deal with the screams. He can torture a little animal for hours and hours and never get bored.

Earlier in the day, he (I assume it was he) left quite a large dead one on the front stoop with significant pieces missing. Explains why he never turned up for his Friskies today.

We could use the rabbit control and I’m proud of him for taking down such a big beast (he’s a little squirt). I just wish he’d be a little quicker and cleaner about it, at least when I’m in the garden.

July 20, 2016 — 8:33 pm
Comments: 15

Geography lesson


Once upon a time, there was a giant bubble of chalk all around where I’m sitting now. Eventually, the top of it wore off and left a broken ring of chalk hills, now known as the North Downs and the South Downs. ‘Down’ from the Old English dūn, meaning hill. This terrain is now mostly soft, undulating chalk hills covered by a thin cream of short grass.

The white cliffs of Dover you know — that’s the chalky terminus of the North Downs, where it enters the sea. Along its length there are various hill figures made by scraping away the grass to reveal the chalk underneath, like the Long Man of Wilmington.

In the middle of the Downs is the Weald, another Old English word, means ‘forest’ (but it’s not, as you might expect, the related to the word ‘wood’). Most of it was cut down thousands of years ago, but the word “Weald” is still used to describe the area and is incorporated into many local placenames. It must have been a hell of a thing.

All of that was a completely unnecessary setup for this lovely view Uncle B shot this weekend (he’s got a little point-and-shoot camera that does especially good panoramas). It was kind of on the edge of the North Downs, looking due West across the Weald.

The way these country lanes work, there are hedges on either side. Sometimes you can drive for a very long time and see nothing but hedge. And then there’ll be a gate or a break and suddenly — a view! We stop and gawp at this one every year.

You probably have to be there.

July 19, 2016 — 8:24 pm
Comments: 11

Uneasy lies the head that wears the goose

Shhhhh…Gromulin is on vacation this week and we’ve promised not to harsh his mellow with current events and filthy politics.

And so I give you: the Goose Master.

It was a three fete weekend, and the last of the three was in a village noted for its flock of geese. They peck around the village green and occasionally impede traffic and somehow have managed to avoid Meester Fox all these years. Or, at least, made babies quicker than he can eat them.

The highlight of this village fate is therefore naturally goose-related. To wit, goose-shit bingo. They don’t call it that. I’m not sure what they call it. We used to do something similar with cows back in Rhode Island, but a goose is more exciting as it generally shits itself shortly after being placed in the arena.

Mark the field off in a grid, sell grid positions, release the goose, the square he poops in first is the winner.


But this grid has upwards of a thousand positions, I heard someone say, and the prize is the not inconsiderable sum of £500. Serious bidness.

So enter the Goose Master, whose word is law. That’s him. In the hat. With the goose on it.

It’s more exciting than it sounds, at least the first-catch-your-goose phase. They aren’t tame. The poor goose always looks completely gobsmacked to find itself in an arena ringed with clapping humans.

And it shits almost immediately.

But that doesn’t necessarily count — only the first whole and proper poop counts, not some panicked half-hearted evacuation. This year, the poop fell across grid lines and the prize was split.

And a lovely weekend we had for it, too. We’re having a spell of warm weather (at last! We had the heat on repeatedly in June and early July). In a little while, we’re going to crack open a bottle of wine and sit outside under the stars. We can see the Milky Way out where we are.

*raises a glass to Grom*

July 18, 2016 — 8:49 pm
Comments: 9