Beware of cows

Lal the chicken-eating cow:

Lots of chickens were going missing and, naturally, it was assumed that roving dogs were to blame. Lal’s owners were thus a little surprised to see the cow sneak up to the chicken coop and to then grab and eat some of the chicks.

The Big Kill – New Zealand’s crusade to rid itself of mammals:

Listening to Callaghan on YouTube also reminded me of a point that Nick Smith had made the day of the saddleback release: in New Zealand, killing small mammals brings people together. During my travels around the country, I found that extermination, weird as it may sound, really is a grassroots affair. I met people like the Adsheads, who had decided to clear their own land, and also people like Annalily van den Broeke, who every few weeks goes out to reset traps in a park near her home, in the suburbs of Auckland. In Wellington, I met a man named Kelvin Hastie, who works for a 3-D mapping company. He had divided his neighborhood into a grid and was organizing the community to get a rat trap into every hundred-square-metre block.

“Most of the neighbors are pretty into it,” he told me.

Amusingly, just like the Dutch export their knowledge of water engineering, New Zealand exports its knowledge of killing small mammals:

Meanwhile, by tackling larger and larger areas, New Zealanders have expanded the boundaries of what seems possible, and they increasingly find their skills in demand. When, for example, Australia decided to try to get rid of invasive rodents on Macquarie Island, roughly halfway between Tasmania and Antarctica, it hired a New Zealander to lead the effort, and when the U.S. National Park Service decided to get rid of pigs on Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of Southern California, it hired Kiwis to shoot them. The largest rat-eradication effort ever attempted is now in progress on South Georgia Island, a British territory in the South Atlantic with an area of nearly a million acres. A New Zealand helicopter pilot was brought in to fly the bait-dropping missions. One day, when I was driving around with James Russell, he got an e-mail from Brazil: the government wanted to hire him to help it get rid of rats on the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, off Recife. David Bellamy, a British environmentalist and TV personality, has observed that New Zealand is the only country in the world that has succeeded in turning pest eradication into an export industry.

But did they miss the moose?

Most New Zealanders laugh at claims that Canadian moose have somehow survived in the south island wilderness since the 1910 introduction of 10 antlered immigrants from Saskatchewan. Purported sightings of the gangly ungulate are widely viewed as hoaxes inhabiting the same eco-illogical niche as the Loch Ness monster, Ogopogo and abominable snowman.

But a tuft of hair discovered by biologist Ken Tustin — a researcher in the remote Fiordland National Park and a long-time believer in the legend — has tested positive for moose genes at a Canadian DNA lab. The news has sparked a media sensation in New Zealand and prompted one of the country’s MPs to demand urgent protection for a beloved species long thought to have disappeared.

It’s all connected.

Dietary experimentation

Last week’s experiment of being both lactose and gluten free ended in me being “in bed” all day yesterday with the worst case of DNV I’ve had in two years. So does a gluten-free diet alleviate my ongoing digestive distress? I’ll take that as a no.

The Great Way

What I’ll be reading over the Christmas break:

The Way Into Chaos

And the other books in the trilogy, The Way into Magic, and The Way Into Darkness. Epic fantasy isn’t normally my bag of cheese, but I loved Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces books, and I’m excited to see where he goes with these.

I’m equally interested in the novel A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark which he included for Kickstarter backers:

A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark is not your standard urban fantasy. Instead of a twenty-something ass-kicker, the protagonist is a party-loving socialite in her mid-sixties. It’s also a thriller with a pacifist hero, set in a contemporary fantasy world in which the most dangerous enemy you can have is a smart, resourceful human being.

Reviewish things will follow.

Mixed media, Sunday 14 December 2014

Foxglove Summer: No, Ben Aaronovitch, no! That’s not how to end a book. After a relaxed, methodical build-up over the course of the story (befitting the rural setting of this episode), the five-page finale was a “wait, what?” moment. Surely there’s another chapter, the publisher just forgot to include it? (I seem to remember that Broken Homes ended with a similarly short wrap-up, and that I wasn’t particularly satisfied with it, either.) Also, the way DI Nightingale was only reachable by telephone throughout the book made me think that the actor who plays him was tied up on another project, and unavailable for filming. Overall: I used to enjoy this series, but I keep being annoyed by the endings.

Recently watched films:

  • The Maze Runner: Thrilling YA adventure, so long as you’re willing to suspend disbelief for long enough. Specifically: that a group of amnesiac teen boys on a desert island (or whatever) would form that kind of stable, functional, even idyllic society. (See also: ) Also, one of the key points of a story like this is finding our why they’re in the maze, and what it’s for. You have to suspend your disbelief over that, too.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street: Watched this with Mum & Dad, and Fiona. I’d expected it to be more Wall Street and less Scarface. It’s not. Some great performances, and some wonderful physical comedy, but it goes on for far too long.
  • Jack Reacher: Decent vigilante action film, so long as you don’t think too carefully about the ludicrousness of its premise. Having watched three Tom Cruise movies this year (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, and this one), he still reliably delivers that hero persona.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1:
  • Lucy: Just…no. That Morgan Freeman’s professor character’s crackpot evidence-free theories would be getting knowing laughs and nods from an apparently respectable audience in a huge auditorium; no. That he would be living it large in a fancy hotel in the middle of Paris, room service all the way; no. That the criminals would go from apparently not knowing what is in the suitcase to having full-blown plans in place for transporting it, to staging an impromptu all-out war in a city on the other side of the world; no. That Lucy would go from party-hard student to a monotone, emotionless, transhuman sociopath with no steps in between; no. The only evidence of a sympathetic human relationship in the film comes in a single shot where police captain Del Rio (hiding behind cover) briefly asks one of his shot and wounded officers how he is doing, and the officer gives him a so-so hand wave. That’s all. The gun-play action scenes are mediocre; the car chases full of less-than-seamless CGI. Just…no.

Netflix in the Netherlands doesn’t have Continuum season 2 yet, so I’ve been watching it on my trips to Edinburgh. It’s better than the first season, with the interweaving storylines evolving nicely.

Listening to a lot of: Seeds by TV on the Radio (touring in February – might try in and catch them); Sonic Highways by the Foo Fighters; and La Roux (concert in Paradiso last Wednesday; gig report to follow).

Still playing a lot of Elite.