Few things more lovely than looking out a window and seeing a wild animal obliviously eating the garden. At first I thought it was a young hare, as that’s the lagomorph you get most often around my mother’s place. But somehow there’s an unmistakable cuteness about rabbits; they’re to hares as Spaniels are to Great Danes.
Pictures aren’t great I’m afraid. Pushing the poor Note’s camera well beyond its designed limits again. Obviously I was nowhere as close to this nervous wild animal as it looks. These were taken through double glazing from 10 metres away.
I’ll be darned if I’ll write anything today. It’s my birthday! I will sit around ruminating on fantastically old I am. And yet, how still very unfinished.
I didn’t plan anything much. Last time, you might remember, I took a walk in the Burren, but I’m not trying to impress anyone this year. I’d already had dinner a couple of days ago with a dear friend who couldn’t be here today, so I just met up with one of my bestest buddies and went out for a non-drink. She’s being healthy too, so she drank rice milk while I had what I’ve come to call artificial beer, or Toybräu. I tried to drink so much and so fast that it would give me a sort of simulated sensation of getting out of it, but I can’t honestly say that it worked. Then I was so busy talking I only managed four pints of the stuff. What’s happened to me? There were times when I would have had four pints – of actual beer – before breakfast.
Not good times, no. But times. Anyway, good night!
We spent a lot on roads in this country. Probably more, with hindsight, than we really ought to have. So I can’t help feeling ungrateful when I don’t use them. Motorways – highways, autobahns, what you will – are convenient, sure. You can cruise along at 120k (75mph), faster than on ordinary roads. You can steer like you’re on rails. You can sleep.
No wait, not sleep. That’s the one you’re not supposed to do. But honestly, if they wanted you to drift off at the wheel this is exactly how they’d design roads. They’re so safe they’re dangerous.
I spent last night at a friend’s near Dundalk, close to the M1 that runs Dublin–Belfast. The M4 and M6 take you from Dublin to Galway, so I could have gone home entirely by motorway. The route makes a perfect right angle, but nevertheless it’s what the satnav recommends.
I took the hypotenuse, the direct route across country via N-roads (national routes). At least, it would be direct if it didn’t wind like a bastard. These roads live from bend to bend, forcing you not only to concentrate on steering, but to change your speed and even gear constantly. Though it must be said that these have also been the object of serious investment in recent years, with accurate lines and chevron markers on every bend. Driving them is hard, but not particularly dangerous.
This is the only way to see the country – insofar as there is anything to see in the midlands. Not counting a (very necessary) break then, it took me four hours to get from the Irish Sea to the Atlantic coast. I could’ve done it in an hour less by motorway, but dammit, it would’ve felt longer.
Lying on the floor of a cottage by the sea, theoretically trying to sleep, feeling guilty about how little I’ve written in the last couple of days. It has been a great break though. An adventure in a lot of ways, particularly driving ways. I’m not used to steering by satnav, and kept missing my turning. I have literally no idea where I’ve been. Wandering around the back roads, I think I crossed the border with Northern Ireland about six times. You can tell because the quality of the roads suddenly drops. Not so long since it was the other way around; the British really seemed to stop trying after the peace agreement. I also ended up driving on motorway for the first time, something I wasn’t allowed to do before I passed my test. Shouldn’t have been doing out now either, I was going in the wrong direction.
Had my first flat too! Changing a tyre is quite exciting when you’ve no idea how to do it. The Japanese like puzzles, so they make it interesting. Along with the jack they give you a couple of bits of metal to see what you make of them. As it turns out, one levers off the hubcap, one undoes the wheel nuts, and if you fit them together and revolve them in a really rather surprising way, it turns the jack. All pretty straightforward really; I had it nearly figured out by the time I was finished.
Sorry no blog post today. Instead I drove. And drove and drove and drove and drove and drove. Tomorrow is the test. I am just in bed now, entering into a state of profound preparatory relaxation. Ha.
But I am… almost confident. I feel I’m a far safer driver than last time. I’m a lot clearer about what you’re supposed to do with a car. But there’s still the worry that in one moment of inattention I could make a simple error and blow the whole thing.
One such error of course would be to sleep late and fail to turn up. So… Wish me luck.
I used to think this was a peculiarly Irish term of abuse – “Ya shitehawk ya” – with origins obscure and possibly whimsical. Some say it originally meant a manure pedlar. But it seems not; for the shitehawk is a real bird.
And not just any old bird either, but one of the most attractive and impressive of the smaller raptors – the red kite. This is a beautiful creature with ruddy feathers and a swift-like forked tail. It also happens to be a hawk for shite.
Or to put it in more scientific terms, as well as being a bird of prey it’s a carrion feeder, eating the bodies of animals it didn’t kill itself and other handy leftovers. A lot of the raptors double-job like this; after all if you’re built to chase down and murder living food you’re probably pretty high up the queue for the dead stuff too. Indeed debate still rages over whether their cousin¹ the Tyrannosaurus was mainly predator or scavenger. So the red kite is attracted to human settlements, because we pretty much live knee-deep in delicious detritus. It hovers – literally – about our dumps and middens.
It’s as a predator though, taking things people wanted to keep like rabbits and young chickens, that it became persecuted as vermin and was once in danger of extinction. Though not before British soldiers had a chance to apply the same vivid name to the carrion birds they met abroad. In India therefore the shitehawk was a vulture. And apparently the word persists in this role in parts of England, except applied to that new ubiquitous flying rat: the seagull.
I like that – I think I’ll refer to gulls as shitehawks from now on. The name suits those raucous opportunists (video) far better than it does the rare and pretty red kite.
It’s true. Birds are basically just the dinosaurs that didn’t die out.
Sorry I’ve been missing a while. Finally, broadband access has reached the country retreat (a.k.a. my mother’s house), and the last couple of days I’ve been setting us up a network.
It’s all gone pretty well. There were problems of course – these things always assume you’re starting with fresh and shiny computers instead of ones that have lived real lives – but in fairly quick succession they’ve all been solved. The Internet speed itself is not that great at about 1.75 Mbits per second; I’d frequently get faster download using 3G. But 3G was frustratingly intermittent, dropping out several times a day – sometimes several times an hour. This connection may not be blistering but it’s consistent, and that’s better. What’s better still, we now have a lovely all-wireless network that can shunt files around and back them up like nobody’s business. I may even take a break from criticising Eircom, the national-yet-privatised phone infrastructure company, for the first time since the year 2000. It’s all very satisfying.
Apart, that is, from one minor glitch. No actually it’s not even minor. It’s beyond trivial. There’s just one place on the network I can’t connect to from my laptop. It’s not something I actually need to connect to¹. But the thing is, I should be able to connect to it.
Do you understand what that means to a geek? The network is not complete. This incompleteness is intolerable.
This is not all obsessive-compulsive disorder. The reasonable worry is that an apparently inconsequential fault on the surface of a complex system indicates a fundamental one below. Unexplained problems ought, where possible, to be tracked down.
Which is where the OCD really comes into its own… Almost always this is a slow, iterative process of experimentation. “What will happen if I try this? Nothing. OK, so what happens if I try this… Nothing. OK, so what happens if I try the third of these two hundred and seventy-eight possibilities?” Curiousity draws you in, but an almost robotic repetitiveness gets you out.
Most of the way out, at least. A day later I’ve figured out what the problem is and I know how to fix it. Actually implementing the solution though, that’s not interesting at all.
So hi, how’ve you been?
If you must know, it’s the root of one – though only one – of my USB external drives.