Sunday, 20 June 2021

father's day 2021

Today's the day when Dads get slippers from their kids. Turns out that the crate of beer I opened on Thursday was meant for Father's Day. It's okay there's still some left

The cake [R] was definitely for my birthday. I've written before comparing the simply delicious, minimum ingredients, Victoria sponge with shop bought cake. By request, the 2021 bday cake was filled with whipped cream and strawberry jam. Note to self and cook next year: cake with candles is fine, cake dusted with icing sugar is fine together they make a Woody Allen moment but at least we didn't have a >!WHOOMMMPH!< moment.

Friday, 18 June 2021


Projectiles are in the air! [har har]

Massive fail news on Bloomsday involved a case of a spectator getting concussed by a sliced golf ball . . . and suing the golfer, the club [no, not the 4-iron club; rather the "19th hole" club], and the organizers of the tournament. WTF? here's a grown-arsed man, a golfer even, who got dressed, left the house, put himself in the line of fire and then wasn't looking or paying attention when something happened on the golf course. Golf. like baseball and cricket, is only intermittently active, so you'd think you'd be awake when the ball was struck. The Judge in the High Court, quite properly IMO, ruled that Mr Campbell from Donegal was responsible for his own safety. Mr Campbell's lawyers will appeal because they are embedded in Ireland's compo culture.

Baseball crowd heroes is a regular youtube trope. Although I guess there's a grimmer parallel universe if you google "MLB tonk paramedic" [don't go there]

For aircraft bird-strike is an occupational hazard. Like golf, airports have a lot of green space between the fairway / runway: grass needs earth; earth hosts worms; birds eat worms so keeping birds out of the flight-path is important. Many airports take a leaf out of the Duke of Wellington's quip-book. When The Great Exhibition was opened in Paxton's giant glasshouse in 1851, Queen Victoria noted the presence of a great many sparrows [shitting] inside the building. Seeking a solution from her entourage, The Duke suggested "Sparrowhawks, Ma'am". But even with the best prophylaxis in place birds gonna strike and aircraft manufacturers need to engineer their planes to survive such an assault. It's a minimax problem: you don't need to worry about wrens Troglodytes troglodytes [10g]; but an Andean Condor Vultur gryphus [12,000g] strike is so rare that you can discount them also.

Boeing and Co have for a long time been using chicken as their preferred projectile and employ a flight impact simulator or "chicken gun" to fire at vulnerable parts [pilot windscreen and engine intakes] of commercial aeroplanes. They also worry about fatigue cracks around port-holes but birds will just glance off the sides of aeroplane fuselages. What everyone is concerned about is an uncontained disintegration [bloboprev] of the engine where bits fly out of, or through, the engine cowling and start peppering the fuselage, or the hydraulics of the rudder.

Chicken guns typically use compressed air as propellant and can deliver standard-sized chickens to target at up to 600km/h. Anything that breaks has to be sent back to the engineering drawing board. Now you may have noticed that a chicken is only approximately a cylinder. TIL [today I learned] that the chickens are usually inserted into a properly cylindrical cardboard "sabot" to make a snugged fit for the gun-barrel. Sabot is the French for clog. The old joke is about some noobs using a chicken-gun for the first time and causing consequential damage to their kit. An enquiry to the suppliers elicited the laconic reply "first defrost chicken". Snopes assures us that this is a joke rather than a True Story

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Jarige jongen

🎂 Hey, it's my birthday today. If the 🎂 is not sufficiently convincing, there is a birthchart. When The Boy turned 18, just a week after his sister Dau.I was born, I went down the offy and bought 18 different bottles of beer for a coming of age in Ireland appropriate present. Heck they were different times, I think I was probably driving with drink on board back then. I never drove hammered but we didn't adopt a rigid designated driver policy until nearer the end of the last century. Finding 18 different brands of beer in 1993 was actually scraping the bottom of the firkin as to availability. Now there will be at least 18 different independent craft brewers, each with multiple lines, to choose from. Indeed there are 16 such breweries beginning with B!

The wonders of the intebrew mean that everything is available and anything can be delivered to any door in the Western World. The Boy decided that it was pay-back time and shipped an International Craft Beer Hamper from Martin's On-line Off-licence:

Looks good enough to drink! And comes with a single beer glass for Little Bobby Lockdown. It arrived yesterday morning by courier. I shall be wearing a purple-trimmed toga all day because this sort of thing became normal in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire . . . not the internet, of course, but the every wish and whim right now aspects of the transaction. Veni Vidi Bibi!
Now here's a wild thing [update 0930 17Jun21] a much battered helium birthday balloon was wind-caught on our front gate in the morning. I don't think it's taken 37 years to get to the right place; and when I was 30 we lived in a different country. I guess it's just the Universe indicating that she cares.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Not Fair

Let's hear it for Lily "Not Fair" Allen. I've just finished her [interim?] autobiography My Thoughts Exactly [Guardian review]. Which is a rather strange way to consume 6½ hours of an old buffer's time. Let me [hasten to] add I knew absolutely nothing about the woman except that she wrote "Chinese" and a rather sweet 2013 Christmas Song for John Lewis. Dau.I and Dau.II would have been the right demographic to be fans, but it didn't really turn out that way, so I was ear-wormed to Bell X1 and Coldplay instead.

Spending even 1 hour on the stories and reflections of an A-list celebrity pop-star might seem peculiar for an Old who was more of the Dylan and Cohen demographic, but borrowbox doesn't offer an infinity of choice and I was taken by the fact that it would be read by the authorial voice and that it was not fiction. Of course, truth is always filtered through our own perceptions and those perceptions may be clouded by emotional baggage and driven by our reptile brains.  

What I find engaging is that she can a) recognise that, say, her parents had their own issues and b) how that baggage caused young [and not so young] Lily trouble and damage while c) looking down from an authorial Olympus of detached interest, rather than bitter blaming. It's a bit schizophrenic, but for me it works.

We live in a cult of youth: young soccer stars, young pop-singers, young actors who are presented with uncountable piles of wonga and ungated access to sex, drugs, cars and bling. How to use these resources wisely or well is not covered in Home Ec classes in school. The young star is battened onto by host of creatures whose only interest is not actually killing the golden goose. Agents, accountants, backers, backing groups, chauffeurs, choreographers, coke-dealers . . . all want their cut and nobody can be trusted to give objective, disinterested, caring advice. No wonder so many go off the rails.

At the age of 21 Lily Allen brought out a chart topping song Smile, and for the rest of her 20s she was besieged by paparazzi and had lies told about her by the tabloid press. From the cosy comfort of their desks, journalists would sit in judgement on this young woman feeling fine about scrutinising and damning her looks, her weight, her friends, her clothes, her decisions and her parenting. But when there was an actual story about her being stalked by a paranoid schizophrenic with murderous ideation, the press was conspicuously absent / silent . . . because Allen as victim was harder to process than Allen as Bad Rich Bitch Person. At the same time, the police seemed to have perverted the course of justice in an ecstasy of of their own judgement. What? the press and police tied up in the same bag of shit? No, that can't be true.

Lily Allen's life hasn't been a bowl of cherries - more like Truffaut's 400 Blows:

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Nothering the travellers

This went off prematurely on Sat 12/06, so I'm relaunching today.
On dit que when people from Scotland do something great they are British; it is only when they do something annoying that they become Scots. And it must be annoying when Tory Nincompoops and foreign journalists use England and Britain interchangeably. But it is pernicious nonsense to claim that this:

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.

is the 4th verse of the UK National anthem. Although it is true that this and the other verses were composed during the '45: the last War Between The States in 1745-46. Culloden, on 16 April 1746, ended that quixotic escapade. 

I really do my best not to make the same lazy-arsed mistake with "The Netherlands" and "Holland". Noord Holland [Amsterdam+] and Zuid Holland [Rotterdam+] together make up on 2/5th of the population of the country. The majority from Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Groningen, Gelderland, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Overijssel, Utrecht, and Zeeland [not to mention Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean] must be mildly pissed off that is the official site of the Netherlands Tourist Board. Feckin' Mokumers they must think.

Britain/England . . . Nederland/Holland . . . whatevs?  I caught an example of this closer to home when Miley Doran [R with his dawgs] joined La Torellina and me in the Society of St Adjudor at the beginning of the month. You really wouldn't have known from the reporting of  that young Miley was a Traveller when he plunged into the River Barrow to save a mother and daughter from drowning. 

Saturday, 12 June 2021


Squirrel Nutkin Sciurus vulgaris is [right] cute but I haven't seen any [yet] hereabouts. It's partly because I see nothing hereabouts because, when I'm outside, I'm usually blundering about disturbing the peace with a lawn-mower or saw. But in the middle of last week, a cock-pheasant Phasianus colchicus strutted across the yard and before I'd found a camera he'd been joined by his hennie. These birds are more usually heard grackling indignantly as they fly away from intrusive galumphing people. So it was nice to see them, from the kitchen window, passing through in their own good time.

I've seen loadsa pheasants in my time; but never in all my born days have I seen a pine marten Martes martes. Although several of my naturalist neighbours have. On Sunday morning we were pottering about and a pine marten lolloped through the gate to the haggard and started exploring the yard as we watched from the kitchen window. It was amazin' mystic, wonderful to see this top predator making our home their own. What's that got to do with the native squirrel? You may well ask. Because they are both making a come back in the Irish Midlands and there is some evidence that forward march together is not coincidental. Grey squirrels Sciurus carolinensis were introduced from North America to Ireland in 1911. They are bigger and bolder than their red cousins and have spent the last 100 years displacing the reds from their habitat.

The argument is that red squirrels and pine martens have been living together since time immemorial and have come to an equilibrium in the evolutionary dance of life and death. Greys otoh are naive to that particular predator and haven't yet worked out appropriate defensive strategies. A recent study from QUB applied marten-smell to feeding locations and report that reds avoided such feeders after treatment whereas greys didn't. Fig 3a from that paper [R]. Fig 3c suggests that reds were more vigilant under the same conditions.

Another study from NUI Galway [PDF of original survey results] looked at the relative distribution of greys, reds and martens in 2007, 2012 and 2019. A lot of that data was crowd-sourced after an extensive publicity  campaign so that may cast some asparagus on the absolute numbers of reports [3,402 in 2019 up 20% from 2012] but there are significant differences in the proportions among the three species between the two survey years. On the face of it it looks like reds have gained ground in the Irish Midlands with a little help from the depredations of a resurgent marten population.

These studies were reported without any critical analysis by Richard Nairn in his Wild Wood book. Which is fair enough in a memoir. It's a pity I didn't get to referee either of these papers because, I would have devoted a day of my time to constructively picking apart the methodology and assumptions. With any effort at all I'll say a) If the hypothesis is that it is a specific pheromonal response to scent of martens, I would have used cat urine as a control rather than nothing at all. b) In the 3rd paragraph of the results of the NUIG survey a number of 3 [species] x 2 [years] contingency tables have been analysed with ChiSq. They have looked up the resulting numbers as if there are 3 degrees of freedom. But that's almost certainly not true. There are only 2 d.f. because once you've assigned numbers to #grey and #red then #marten is not 'free' to vary: it must be 1 - (#grey + #red). That's sort of okay, because using the wrong line of the table results in a more conservative test of the difference. Then again, if they can't do elementary stats correctly, critical readers are justified in giving side-eye to the rest of the study.

But here's an interesting anecdatum. Last year we had a plague of rabbits, really for the first time in 25 years. I constructed an elaborate [2x1s and chicken-wire] rabbit proof fence for the two ends of the poly-tunnel so that the rabbits were at least slowed in their depredations on the beans, lettuce and tomatoes. This year looked like being the same. A couple [pair, M+F, breed-like...] of rabbits were to be seen daily in the garden nibbling away at the greenery bold as brass. I would ineffectually peg small logs and large stones at them but I was girding my expectations for no cabbage in 2021. And then from about 3 weeks ago the rabbits weren't there any more and two weeks later a pine marten graces us with their appearance. Like Darwin's ruminations on the relative count of clover, bees, cats and mice; this is another example of my enemy's enemy is my friend.