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Weasel’s rambling adventure

There’s a local farm shop we like to go to – it is actually attached to the farm and the meat lives there. The farmer’s wife makes the best steak and kidney pie ever, so Uncle B tells me. I don’t eat organs. She makes them on Wednesdays, but last week they all sold out before we got there.

So this week he phones up and reserves two pies. Yes, we had pie reservations.

On the way to pick them up, we got stuck in a traffic jam. A rural traffic jam means one of two things: road work or an accident. It was an accident. Trailer jacknife started it, if I had to guess. By the look of it, nobody was hurt, but it was a giant mess.

So we came back the long, long way to miss it. It was a road we haven’t been down for some years. Had we been a couple of weeks earlier, it would have been white with hawthorn and mayflower. It was still a beautiful drive.

We passed a pair of swans on the banks of a stream. Fields of potatoes and wheat. We nearly smacked into a couple of cars ourselves (what is it about twisty backroads that makes locals the world over drive like loonies?).

Last time we were down that road, we found a lamb on the verge of escaping the fence into the road, so we turned up the drive and had a chat with the farmer. This felt quite wicked and subversive, because it was lockdown and we weren’t supposed to talk to strangers. We all had a laugh about it. We weren’t even six feet apart!

Anyway, we made it home with his pies (I got a wickedly expensive piece of cheesecake, for my part). And I hadn’t taken a single picture.

So enjoy this picture from June of 2020. This great rambling thug of a rose is, can you believe it, even bigger this year. The smaller white blossom you see to the upper right is an elder tree, that has now been completely covered in roses. And that was my Wednesday.

June 19, 2024 — 7:21 pm
Comments: 5

Look at that silly little tail

I, too, had a chick called Albert and this morning he tried to kill me again. Look at this goofy-looking little fuzzball and picture it.

He’s still goofy-looking but he grew into a giant, ridiculous, rage-filled monster. Only to me, though. He’s never attacked anyone else. Because I raised him, nature is telling him I’m the final boss and if he defeats me he will be crowned King Chicken. They say there’s nothing more dangerous than a hand-reared bull, for the same reason.

I’ve posted about his spurs before. You may laugh at the idea of a chicken-related injury, but he’s heavy enough and they’re sharp enough to do real damage. He caught me in the soft part of the knee once and crippled me for days.

Yes, I can easily fend him off if I see it coming, but he goes days and days without incident and then wakes up one morning with murder in his heart.

He’s the very last of my polands. I miss those silly bastards and their feathery afros.

June 18, 2024 — 6:52 pm
Comments: 7

Peep!

My new favorite YouTube binge channel is A Chick Called Albert. He’s a Dutch hippie with an animal rescue – ho hum – but his claim to fame is (and this is unheard of) he will take rescue eggs and try to incubate them.

When gamekeepers are instructed to clear out the nests of ground-nesting birds, or poultry keepers or aviaries find abandoned mystery eggs, he’ll take them in and give them a shot. I’d hate to think what his failure rate is, but he does seem to know what he’s doing and his successes are awesome.

Several times, to my horror, he’s helped a chick along at hatching time. Poultry keepers are told never, ever to do this. The very first sign of life in an incubating egg is a robust vascular system – gnarly veins – growing along the inside of the shell (on candling, it’s honestly spooky as hell). These veins are not totally inactive at the time of hatching, and hurrying things along can kill the chick. But, again, he seems to know what he’s doing.

The little peeper in the thumbnail turned out to be a zebra finch. Watching him giving it a first feeding with a pipette and a magnifying glass was something else.

I absolutely adored hatching eggs, which is how I ended up with three roosters and one hen. Never again, I’m afraid. I’ll have to hatch vicariously through my friend Alwyn here. His posts have slowed way down, but his back-catalogue should keep me busy a while.

p.s. If you think it’s a little creepy that the first thing he does is kiss the newly hatched bird, he’s not. He’s warming it up with his breath because he’s taken it from the nice warm incubator into the cold room to examine it.

June 17, 2024 — 7:25 pm
Comments: 7

The wheels on the bus…

I had an errand to run in the big city. It’s only, like, ten miles as the crow flies but it’s an hour and a half on the slow bus. The one that stops every couple of blocks once it gets to town.

I left Uncle B happily digging in the garden and went for a slow pootle around the sunny countryside on the upper deck of a double decker bus. Most enjoyable. The city was fun, too. All kinds of neat architectural details on the upper floors of the older buildings that you’d never catch from a car.

I never took the bus to school (well, I did but not for very long) and I got a car as soon as I was legally able, so I’ve never had to ride the bus. I have neutral to positive feelings about them. The buses here on the coast are clean, frequent and cheap (they’re also old and rattly and the roads are awful, but you can’t have everything).

There’s even a neat app that shows my bus moving toward me on the map in real time.

I have had a day. I hope you all have a weekend!

June 14, 2024 — 6:48 pm
Comments: 2

Pinched! (I hope)

We have to go out tonight, so I shall fob you off with something short and pointless. I’m not sure I’ve ever posted a picture of my demitasse from the House of Commons.

See the little icon of Traitors’ Gate? That’s their logo.

It was an Ebay purchase. I’d dearly love to think it was pinched, but for all I know they have a little gift shop and they sell Parliament-themed tchotchkes.

June 13, 2024 — 6:00 pm
Comments: 7

Huh. You really can’t go home again.

I’m applying for my absentee voting form and it asks for my location when I lived in the States. I don’t remember that question from before.

Even though I had lived in Rhode Island for twenty-five years, when I sold that house to move, the only property I owned was my mother’s farm in Tennessee. So I took a field trip to the farm and registered to vote at the local courthouse in Smithville.

The online voter application tells me if the address I’m giving is a rural route, to give precise directions how to get there. I’ve spent most of my day trying to find the farm on a map. I’m flummoxed.

It’s sixty acres somewhere in that scrubby triangle between Alexandria, Brush Creek and Hearn Hill Cemetery.

I sold it and I suspect the buyer knocked the house down, so that doesn’t help. The road names are different than I remember, so that doesn’t help. We’re talking dirt tracks in a lot of cases, so they may not show up on satellite. There’s a creek and lots of woods and a valley. Maybe a pond, though it dried up some years. I should be able to find the place!

As for giving directions, my mother always told people to turn left on Dead Dog Corner. This was supremely unhelpful to anyone who hadn’t been there before. Though it somehow astonishingly managed to weather the elements for over a year, the dog had vanished by about 1976.

I am delighted to report there is a non-zero chance that I lived off of Opossum Hollow Road.

June 12, 2024 — 6:34 pm
Comments: 14

Aliens

I found these alien pods growing in a small flower bed this weekend. You gardeners might recognize it; I aren’t one. Google lens (which is very good on images horticultural) told me it was cyclamen.

Yep. Uncle B planted some winter-flowering cyclamen in that bed.

Wikipedia tells me the name cyclamen refers to this round structure. It’s not a seed pod, though – it’s a tuber. Leaves and flowers grow from the top of it and roots grow from the bottom of it. Interesting beastie.

I took this snapshot on my old phone, which I use in the garden as a multimedia device. I spent a very angry half hour getting this image off the phone and onto my computer. Bluetooth failed, but wouldn’t tell me why. Email failed, but wouldn’t tell me why. Upload to Google Drive kept dropping wifi partway through and starting again from scratch. I tried two different USB cables and both were non-data cables (did you know there were data USB cables and charge only USB cables? I spent a different angry half hour learning that once).

Has anybody ever gotten that “nearby sharing” thing to work?

I couldn’t use my regular Google Photos because I’ve filled 99% of my allotted space. Every time I want to upload something I have to delete something first. In the end, I got it onto the Google Photos of an account I don’t use very often.

God, technology gets under my skin sometimes.

June 11, 2024 — 7:35 pm
Comments: 6

Er, happy birthday, I guess

If you don’t have Windows 11 yet, the search bar – pictured – has a different colorful, cartoony icon every day informing you that it’s National Frosted Cookie Day or National Ballpoint Pen Day (I didn’t make those two up – they are two of the things people celebrate on June 10th according to this website).

Microsoft would like you to know it’s Hattie McDaniel’s birthday. They pinched the thumbnail right off her Wikipedia page and colorized it.

Everyone knows Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her role in that movie you must never, ever, under any circumstances, watch. It must make your brain hurt to be a lefty.

Changing the subject, you know how they’ve talked about using VR to help people get over phobias? Do NOT go there. The last, like, three games have put me in high places and expected me to function and I get wobblier each time. It doesn’t help that my headset responds to signal problems by violently shaking my point of view like there’s an earthquake.

I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for Richie’s Plank Experience.

June 10, 2024 — 6:32 pm
Comments: 7

Important life lessons

Playing 7th Guest has reminded me of something: I really, really hate puzzles. I consider them the cost of being allowed to explore. Fortunately, you’re allowed to spend points to skip puzzles if you’re really put out by one. I’m sure there’s a trophy for not spending any points, but screw that.

One of the funnest bits are the 140 paintings scattered around the haunted house. They all have an alternative version you see if you shine your flashlight on them. Some of them made me bark with laughter.

This guy says he did about half of them (gallery at the link). I don’t think he’s the guy who did my favorites though. The really good ones do a bangup job matching the style of the original art.

Pity. I wanted to get in touch with my guy and tell him, “son, count your blessings. You will never again have this much fun and get paid to do it.”

Have a good weekend!

June 7, 2024 — 6:45 pm
Comments: 3

Like visiting an old friend

They’ve released the 7th Guest as a VR game. And actually, no – it’s not like visiting an old friend. It’s a completely different game. They’re both haunted house puzzle games, and there the similarity seems to end.

The original 7th Guest was released in 1993 and even my non-game-playing readers might remember it. It was a literal game changer.

It was one of the first games to be released entirely on CD at a time when not many people had a CD player. Adding one was hundreds of bucks. The game itself was a Benjamin. Remember when anything to do with computers was stupid money? There must have been significant buzz about the game because, according to this short video about it, CD player manufacturers said sales went up 300%.

It was one of the first first-person games and one of the first to use Super VGA 640×320 graphics with 256 colors. It was stunning at the time, which is hilarious when you see it now.

Doom came out the same year and was amazing because you could move freely in a 3D world. The world of 7th Guest was in a much higher resolution than Doom and you thought you were moving freely in it, but it employed a very clever trick: the motion was accomplished with hundreds of pre-rendered video clips. CD made this approach possible.

So for any given spot in the game, you had stand on A and look left, stand on A and look right, move from A to B then repeat with B until you’d built all the possible paths.

I thought that was a wonderfully clever idea, so I stole it. I built a simulation for work where you’re an engineer moving through a warehouse. And because my simulation could live on the hard drive, it was in much, MUCH higher resolution. Like, damn near photo-realistic. Nobody had seen anything like it.

In the end, the idea came to nothing, but I got to spend several years working on it and everyone thought I was a sooper genius.

Dark, dimly lit warehouse. All linear paths. It was actually very easy to make it look amazing. This must have been after 1995, because that’s when we first got 3D modeling. Also, I would never have spent a hundred bucks on a game.

You can watch a full playthrough here of the original game. The comments are hilarious. I was a grown-ass woman when this came out and it was camp and stupid and fun. A lot of the commenters were little kids and it scared the shit out of them.

June 6, 2024 — 7:45 pm
Comments: 2