Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Suuuuper SANDY!

Sandy is feeling much better - so much so, she and Kyle spent the afternoon sizing each other up for dominance. There was some gentle tail biting, lots of running and even more posturing, before Kyle decided that Sandy can have the downstairs tank after all.

Sandy doesn't even mind the mess and noise I made as I was sewing the Darigan hoodie - quite the opposite, she's been quite interested in the whole process.

Actually, she is a very bright young dragon; I showed her the door of the straw Tiki hut in the front room a couple of days ago, and she really took to the idea. She knows to run straight through the door and dig round in little circles until she's comfy. Much brighter than Kyle who sleeps behind it unless you post her in, or Tsam who sleeps behind the guitars, missing the point entirely.

Plus she has an awesome "BACK OFF BEEYOTCH!" face.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Yooniform! (The Making Of)

Phew! So, this time the Random Competition was to make your Team Hoodie for Yooyuball. Yooyuball is a major sport in Neopets, part of the Altador Cup Championships every year.

Most of you are still clueless, so I'll explain: The game play is very similar to Lacrosse, but uses a sling, much like the one in used in Jai Alai. It's pretty simplistic, but seriously addictive and highly competitive. There's 18 teams, and you select your favourite to play for - I've always been Darigan, for their devastating colourscheme mostly. It's served me well, because they're a very good team, coming in third last year. Currently we're ranked 6th, but there's still a couple of days left.

And the competitive attitude has rubbed off on the Random Competition entrants. So in true Darigan style, having been given three weeks, I went all out on this project.

The first few days I spent sourcing a great black and white material with 6cm stripes. I then learned how to use Machine Wash Dylon colours to stain my monochrome material into the wonderful deep violet and black required by my team. I studied guides and helpsheets on how to cut patterns, ordered a little sewing machine and made templates from newspaper.

Meanwhile, I also started stitching some old packing foam to give it the quilted look required for the sling, and got Rich to fish out his spraypaints.

After fighting with the sewing machine (it's been 10 years since I last used one, and this isn't a great one) I finally got the hang of it. I cut my pattern and set to. Multiple muckups and unpickings later, I surprised myself: I actually had something half decent.

I wore out two permanent markers drawing up the Darigan Citadel logo on heat transfer paper, in three different sizes. Huge for the back, medium for the breast and small for the bandanna. Well, TNT rules say you can't have your face showing.

The sling proved infinitely tricky. The base was easy enough, quilted style and sprayed red, it's very effective. The spikes, carved from a finer packing foam and then coated in black matt spray worked nicely too, once invisistiched onto the main body. The TRIM however was a real problem. (Not shown.) Pipe lagging doesn't like to be curled...

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Dragon Disaster..!

Mum suggested we call her "Ampersand", to match Hyphen. So we trimmed it to "Sandy" as that's not a million miles from her old name.

As you may know, Sandy came to us as a rescue, and we were informed that she had pinworms. This turned into a bit of a fiasco in itself, namely that Pests At Home wouldn't sell me the Panacur 10% solution I required. Because it said "Cats and Dogs" on the front. No, it doesn't specify horses, avians or any of the other uses on it either.

So I went to my lovely vet, who confirmed Panacur was what I needed. I went back, told them I'd seen the vet who said NO, I don't need a prescription and I could just buy it. But no. That's not store policy. I could buy some Beaphar wormer though.

Which is great, except it doesn't treat Enterobius. Beaphar treats hookworm and other parasites, but not the common pinworm, which is why I needed the half-mil per kilo dose of Panacur which DOES. I ended up paying an extra fiver to get it from my vet. He rolled his eyes. This is why I don't shop at Pests At Home.

Some Saturdays we have the Jehova's witnesses in for a cuppa and a chat - but this week they left in a bit of a hurry. Sandy's stomach was a bit mixed up from her previous poor diet, parasites and relocation stress, and now, because the medicine was doing its job well, it unfortunately upset Sandy's already wobbly digestive system, and she explosively pooped ALL down me! Never had a dragon do THAT before - but at least I know she's well hydrated...

I cleaned us both up, and then she vomited all over her tank a few minutes later. Thankfully I'm always prepared for such events and was able to disinfect everything before giving her a dose of vits, AviPro, calcium and banana sugar with water. Upchucking is quite serious in reptiles, as it burns their throat, but the calcium and water would settle that, and the AviPro is a specialist probiotic culture which would help prevent her being sick and squitting any more.

Poor thing doesn't like being syringe fed, but a couple of days later (after a better contained squitter incident), we upgraded it to a plum and mixed fruit puree with water, AviPro, bee pollen and other healthy bits. Since then, she's gone back onto proper food and luckily none of the other dragons were bothered in the least by the wormer.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Seeya Boys!

Goodness, sorry for the delay - here's a speed download.

The new dragon is starting to settle in, having insisted on running out of her tank every five minutes and trying to sleep in the most awkward contortions around a chair leg. She's finally got the idea that the corkbark leant against the wall in her tank might be a good place to sleep.

Since then, I've bagged Erwin and Neville ready to go to their new home - a lovely chap with LOTS of fish already has a nice colony of weather loaches they can join and, as social fish, they will be much happier with a gang of their own kind to squirrel with. They're such sweet fish, they happily nibbled my fingers as I put them in their bag with the airstone for overnight. I know they'll be happy, though I will miss them.

I'm also covered in black speckles, kickback from spraypainting. I've been working on a new Random Competition on Neopets - this time I'm carving leftover foam and painting it the right shades to make a Yooyuball mitt. I'll take pictures later so you understand, but it's quite fiddly. Lagging foam for pipes does NOT like to bend. Worse, my black spraypaint ran out of accellerant with over half a can of paint left. Pff, that's what happens when you use ancient cans I guess...

Oh, and His Lordship has "painful hair". It's all gone anime spiky and is irritating his scalp, so he's wearing a beanie hat. "I think it's because it's going it's normal hair grain, and settling wrong in the follicles. It always does that, and makes my head go tense. Hair hurtiness." He describes it as pokey and has now combed it back hard with some water to try to control it. He looks like a slicked back 80's dealer, like something out of Trainspotting but nicer.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Savin' Sparrows.

Poor wee sparrow - she's just a tiny little fledgeling and she fell off our roof today. She was badly dazed and on her back when we found her, so I fed her, made sure she was alright and popped her back out for parent sparrows. She's hiding in the raspberries at the moment and I'll look for her this evening just in case parents haven't found her. (I didn't take a picture because I didn't want to scare her too much.)

To feed her, I ground up some bird seed in a clean pepper mill, added some vitamin powder for animals and some crushed oystershell grit; little bird really enjoyed that mixed with a bit of water and had a good crop full before I put her back outside.

Don't worry, a bird's sense of smell is actually quite poor, so my scent won't keep the parents away - she's in hearing distance of the nest, so I'm confident she'll be safe. If I have to care for her (if her parents don't find her) I will add caterpillars, waxworms and other proteins to her seed meal - but I hope they do find her. She has greater chances of long term survival if they do.

Update: It's three hours later: I can see her parents hopping up and down the white rose, so I think they've found her under the mock blackcurrant. Noisy little terrors!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Badass Animal of the Year Nominees:

First Entry: The Pompom Crab.

It didn't get a good start in life. The poor thing has a bit of a girly name, likes dancing and is pink and stripy. But this is a badass crustacean, because the tiny candystriped beast got kinda fed up of having a hard time and being eaten by everything else in the ocean - so he cottoned on to an awesome idea.

Why not ask someone with vicious poison to help, in return for seeing the world and some free meals? So the anemone teamed up with the crab. Alright, so the little dude looks like a cheerleader, dancing around with fluffy pink and white pompoms clutched in its cute little claws - but these "pompoms" allow the wee fella to deal venom-loaded punches to enemies and dinner... He also uses his anemones as "mops" to sweep tasty bits of food off the floor - food bits get grabbed by the sticky tentacles, and the two species share the results. Neat!

Second entry: Thaumoctopus mimicus - The Tentacled Ninja. AKA The Mimic.

This beastie so good at not being an octopus that it eluded human discovery until 1998. This is kinda handy, because the octopus's soft bodies are made of nutritious muscle, without spine or armor, and not obviously poisonous, making them desirable prey.

So he got clever. The Mimic Octopus can decide which animal to impersonate, depending on ehich predator is being a bit of an ass. For example, when he was being attacked by damselfish, he "turned into" a banded sea snake - and banded seasnakes EAT damselfish. The octopus did this by turning black and yellow, burying six of its arms in the sand, and waving its other two arms in opposite directions to look like the snake!

Other animals it can copy include the: seahorse, stingray, anemone, starfish, lionfish, crab, sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, flounders, jellyfish, and mantis shrimp. Oh, and the venomous sole. Though it is a bit of an ass when it mimics the crab - it's only doing it to get cozy with another crab with a bit of flirting. And then eat it.

Third entry: Honey Badger: The Chuck Norris of the animal world.

These are highly intelligent animals and are one of few species capable of using tools: It's been observed rolling a log and standing on it to reach a kingfisher to eat, and they also are big for teamwork with the "Honey Guide Bird". The bird points out the bees nest, the badger trashes it, they both tuck in.

I mean, that's a bit creepy, but these guys are also tireless in combat and can wear out much larger animals in physical confrontations. The skin around the neck is 6 millimetres (0.24 in) thick, an adaptation to fighting. Yes. It has armoured skin. Skin tough enough to resist several machete blows, and almost impervious to arrows and spears.

There are some insane AND TRUE stories of these badass nasties in the wild, doing mad stunts like taking dinners off lions - and then ripping the lion's testicles off when he got a bit miffed over losing the meal.

There was another well documented incident where a leopard takes a WHOLE HOUR to kill a Honey Badger. "Meh, that's not so great", you may respond but think of it like this: that a leopard is around four times the weight of a Honey Badger. Oh, and this particular Honey Badger was an old, toothless female with one blind eye.

If you haven't the time to watch the video above, here's the summary of the best bits: Badger thought "I'm hungry". Decided that food that that snake is eating looks tasty. That the PUFF ADDER was eating. So he took the food. The snake went mental, hissing and spitting but couldn't do anything about it, except accept that it had lost it's dinner.

Badger finished the adder's dinner and thought "I'm still a bit hungry." So he went off to pick on a COBRA. Yes, the snake gave as good as he got and landed some good blows, so the Honey Badger only got halfway through eating snake before collapsing from the poison. But not to die, just to sleep it off.

He picked himself up a couple of hours later and finished the rest.

Yeah. That's pretty badass.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Welcome Candy

There's a little dragon arriving on Sunday!

She was rescued by Mez's Reptile Rescue a little while back, but Mez is short on space due to having received another 16 tanks including 7 snakes of various species - so I said I'd be happy to take Candy on. Though I might have to change her name.

She's a pretty young thing, you gotta give her that - and His Lordship isn't complaining too much because I bought him the new laptop he needed. His old one is giving up the ghost and sadly he can't get the proper PC to work at all. He's busy bludgeoning it with Linux.

Friday, 10 June 2011


There were over 125 entries to the Random Competition "Hair-Redo", and I won 8th place! I should receive the Random Contest avatar, 10,000 NP and "an item of DOOM".

The yellow blob is the avatar I'll win, not the item. I have no idea what the item is yet!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

More Munchies...

Everyone likes chocolate. Tsam likes his in bourbon biscuit form, Hyphen likes hers as soggy chunks out of my squareal, and His Lordship likes his in confectionary form. Therefore it is my delight to bring another collection of chocolate testing to you.

First up, the "Forest Fruit Cup".
Recognisable features: White with chunky black crumbly bits on top.
Initial thoughts: More boring cocoa smell.
There's a nice chunky choc texture from the scattered bits, but it smells of nothing really. Even His Lordship agreed. It has a very smooth chocolate filling, flavourwise it has lots of chocolate early on with red fruity low notes and a too-subtle after taste. Sadly, it's been overwhelmed by the chocolate flavour and I expected more fruit UMPH.

Secondly: a strawberry... thing? Pass.
Recognisable features: Double shell, poured coat over a moulded coat, both white, finished with pink stripes.
Initial thoughts: Good texture and bite on the shell, but they tend to "peel" from each other.
There's a subtle taste of strawberry in the shell, possibly from traces of the filling clinging to it, but it might be the stripe - should have thought to check. There's been a nice attempt to keep filling as pale as possible, and it's very thick. Oh no! There's that funny alcohol flavour again! Yuck, I don't know why they've done that. The strawberry flavour is a bit artificial; not offensively so, but would have liked more real flavour than alcohol - for example, freezedried bits of fruit in there would have added flashes of fresh strawberry flavour. (And yes, what IS with the alcohol crap again?! Bleuh.)

The third one, I think, is a Peach Melba.
Recognisable features: Looks a lot like an orange bonbon.
Initial thoughts: Smells faintly peachy.
It has a powdered sugar coating - and, hold on... a ... buttercream filling?! That's WEIRD. It's more apricotty than peach and His Lordship is not enjoying at all. I could see this one getting sickly in an oddly bland, buttercream sort of way because it makes my tongue clicky and feels creamy-greasy. His Lordship had to have a swig of coffee to rid the texture and flavour - needless to say, we're less than impressed with this batch so far...

I'm told this chocolate is a "Buck's Fizz".
Recognisable features: Similar to previous, yellowy orange colour bonbon from external appearances. Already worried in case it's that buttercream.
Initial thoughts: Smells of nothing but sweet. Leaves a trail of pale orange powder down the arm of my comfy chair if I accidentally drop it!
Gritty, granular sugar coating; scratchy in a nice way. Ooh, it's not sugar - it's a sherberty finish on the chocolate coating! Thank goodness, it's not buttercreamy either, though there's not enough flavour to centre. It has lots of potential, but not trying hard enough; I like the use of champagney alcohol (they've not done that weird ethanol burn) because it's soft and smooth, but it needed LOTS more orange flavour. The shell is awesome, however the centre lets it down. I'd have it again, but it definitely needs more orangeyness. Bring on the JAFFACAKES!

Last one: Um, forgotten what this is. Sorry.
Recognisable features: Darker milk chocolate globe with oranges stripe.
Initial thoughts: Can't smell anything - wait, there's an odd faint underscent ... it's not cocoa-y, but I'm not sure WHAT it is.
The shell is very hard, very dark and very sweet, too hard in fact, difficult to get through. Once you're in, it's not so bad but it's very tough. Mmm, tasty! There's a thick, creamy truffle centre in here, slightly gritty where it's contacted it's shell but it has lots of flavour. I think it might be orange though I'm not sure. It tastes hot, which is different. Doesn't last long enough and the flavour settles into slightly too sweet black chocolate very quickly. Shame.

Conclusion: Meh.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Tanks for the memories?

Had a great day mucking around with tanks. Not vivaria, TANKS. Vickers-Armstrongs, Daimlers, Panzers, Tigers... Mmm, tonnage.

My stepfather and bother came visiting at random for the weekend, so we directed them to the Bovington Tank Museum in an effort to keep them entertained. (SD wouldn't be lured into playing Rock Band with us, even though we have a great naff drum set. My little bother was a bit TOO good - but then I guess he's grown up poking buttons so it's second nature. Probably easier for him than actually talking.

So yes, we went to go look at some really big toys, and have a giggle at some of the more outlandish designs. Admittedly, I like the cute but highly practical Vickers-Armstrong International Light Tank Mk IIA, with its practical gun turret and simple defences. I'd have one. Though I'd have to up the Rolls 6 engine, as the MK IIA can only do 30mph.

<-- This one made us laugh. It's a bit Xzibit. "Hey dawg, we heard you like tanks, so we put a tank in yo tank so you can fight while you fight."

This wasn't the weirdest tank we encountered, by a long way. The Praying Mantis Tank was totally the strangest, carrying two hefty Bren guns for fire. My picture didn't come out well, but there's a great one here. It was designed back in '43, but laughed off the battlefield. However, the guy who made it had the last laugh, as his prototype has been put to VERY good use in modern warfare. It just took a while to realise that his practical solution to shooting over walls was actually pretty good.

My brother had a go with a decommissioned Vickers machine gun, brought back into service as a "try it yourself" game. Or rather, "machine to eat your pound coins rather than kill people". He was also delighted to find a tank shell that was as tall as he is. Bless.

It did prompt His Lordship to give "Call of Duty 2" another go on the XBox, but I think he's regretting it. Call of Doody is more accurate, and the game play does feel more dutiful than fun. If I'm honest, it's repetitive with no consequence for dying: dead, go again, dead, go again, dead, go again, ad infinitum. He's died 20 times in 5 minutes due to lack of checkpoint and being made to fight a tank with a pistol. Bloody boring and not very sensible, tactically speaking, but there's no other options. You can't clear an area because everything respawns every 5 seconds until you make the checkpoint. Equalling infinite bad guys. "I think the Nazis would have won if they had infinite respawns."

Our troops would have died of boredom.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Cookies! OmNOMnom...

I LOVE Girl Scout Cookies. Tagalongs are completely my favourite biscuit - but sadly they don't sell them in the UK. Thankfully, I have a very kind friend in Utah that ships me boxes of them every time the cookies are available.

If you've never seen a Tagalong, it's a little round cookie with a sort of cup shaped depression on the top. This is filled with smooth, glacky peanut butter, and the whole thing is coated with a strange milk chocolate substance. The whole is better than the separate parts sound, but it's a lot of fun taking the separate parts apart!

I'm also partial to the harder-to-find "Lemonades" and the crumbly dark chocolate "Thin Mints", but Tagalongs win hands down.

We also discovered that Tsam has a fondness for bits of chocolate bourbon biscuit. Not only that, but he can identify between bourbon and similarly sized/coloured dragon approved biscuit bites. Such a bright dragon when he wants to be, he's got pinpoint accuracy with that sticky tongue...