The Great Flamingo Uprising

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I told this story to a few guildies a while back and decided to archive it in a longer format; so here is the story of The Great Flamingo Uprising of 2010 as told to me by my favorite cousin who was a keeper at the time.

In addition to the aviary/jungle exhibit, our zoo has several species of birds that pretty much have the run of the place. They started with a small flock of flamingos and some free-range peacocks that I’m almost certain came from my old piano teacher’s farm. She preferred them to chickens. At some point in time they also acquired a pair of white swans (“hellbirds”) and some ornamental asian duckies to decorate the pond next to the picnic area. Pigeons, crows, assorted ducks and a large number of opportunistic Canada geese moved in on their own.

I lost it at the bit where the koi blooped again.

Morals: geese are evil, swans are eviler, flamingos and peacocks are weird as fuck, and this story’s hilarious.

Goat LARP

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Goats are the main characters. You are the supporting cast.

This game is about running mind-blowing live action experiences for goats. You will act as director and storyteller, transporting the goats to an unforgettable dream world of mystery and magic, etc etc.

Goat Larp is one part larp, one part hangout-with-animals-and-take-silly-pictures. In some ways, we are roleplaying that this is a larp.

The Goat Larp Rulebook

Rule number 1 through 100 is BE NICE TO THE GOATS.

Your Character

Show up at the farm dressed as any character you want. You could be an elf, a steampunk, the mayor of space, Hulk Hogan, Darth Vader, whatever.

Your character has no knowledge of how you got to this mystical goat farm, but you can sense that these goats are IMPORTANT. They need to be entertained. You need to run a larp for them.

Goat Activity Cards

There will be a stack of Goat Activity Cards. They are suggestions for activities you can do with the goats. For example:

One goat plays as Frodo, another will be Sauron. Use lawn posts to mark off an area representing Mount Doom. If Frodo visits Mount Doom before Sauron touches him, the world is saved. If Sauron touches Frodo, all is lost.

Another example:

President Goat’s cabinet must advise them on an important decision. The fate of the world is in this goat’s hands. One post is labeled “World Peace”, another post is labeled “Nuke Everything”. If President Goat bumps into a post, their decision is made.

Both teams may try to persuade the goats using any (safe) means they can come up. You are encouraged to ham it up, over-act, and monologue about what’s going on. This gives the goats a nice, immersive experience.

You may also come up with your own quests. In fact, you should, because most of the stuff we’re writing is garbage.

You can read more ideas for Goat Activities here.

Oh, I thought: it’s LARPing but with goats. You know, like Goat Yoga is yoga but with goats. Okay, fair enough: whatever floats your goat…

…but no, I was wrong. This isn’t so much LARPing with goats as LARPing for goats. As in: the goats are the player chatacters; any humans that happen to come along are mobs there for the entertainment of the goats.

The Internet remains a strange and wonderful window into a strange and wonderful world.

So, a shipment of crickets for the lizard arrived via FedEx today…

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So, a shipment of crickets for the lizard arrived via FedEx today. It was my first time ordering bulk crickets off the internet, and I naively assumed that they would be in like, a bag or some other contraption to facilitate easy transfer to another container. They were not.

They were in a cardboard box. And I cut the tape and opened the box and SURPRISE! Crickets everywhere. It was the middle of the workday and I didn’t have time to deal with cricket logistics, so I put the tape back on the box.

And then I put the box in the upstairs bathroom, the only semi-contained place in the house where I knew the kids and the cats and the dogs wouldn’t be able to get at the box and tear it open and unleash 250 hungry crickets into our warm, semi-humid environment.

About 20 minutes later I’m back at work on my computer, and I hear my wife in the kitchen: “where are these goddamn crickets coming from.” I freely admit I had not kept her fully up-to-date on my cricket purchasing plans.

And at first I was like “okay, maybe one or two got out when I initially opened the box. No biggie.” I kept working.
With the benefit of hindsight, this was a mistake.

I’m trying to wrap up a story but I keep hearing cricket-related exclamations coming from the kitchen. Eventually I get up to investigate. I say, “So uh the crickets got here toda–”

“I REALIZE THAT,” she says. “WHY ARE THEY ALL OVER THE KITCHEN”

I say “That’s a good question. Let me check something.” I walk over to the bathroom. I open the door. There are crickets. Everywhere.
Crickets on the floor. Crickets on the walls. Crickets in the sink. Crickets in the toilet.

For some reason my first instinct is to flush the toilet, as if that will do anything to solve the problem of crickets in all the other places that were not the toilet. I shut the door. “Uh, don’t come in here!” I try to sound cheerful.

Apparently I had not sealed the box shut as well as I should have. I ended up rushing out to the shed, in the 18″ of snow and below zero temperatures, to pick up a spare aquarium we had. I spent about 45 minutes collecting crickets from the bathroom.

Of course by this point many had migrated elsewhere. They were in the closet. In the shoes. Making their way downstairs to the playroom. The cats were having what I can only imagine was the greatest day of their lives.

I tried to collect all of them. It was like the world’s shittiest game of Pokemon. But here we are, roughly 10 hours after the initial catastrophe, and stray crickets are still turning up in odd places.

I make this information public because if I do not send any tweets tomorrow, it is because my wife murdered me after finding a cricket in our bed in the middle of the night.

And that’s the news from Red Lake Falls.
Good afternoon everyone.

I’m pleased to report that I’m still alive, and that my marriage is still intact! You all had so much fun with this that my editor made me turn it into a story, which I present to you here, as a sort of director’s cut of this thread.

To all you monsters who demanded photos of the infestation: believe it or not, while a horde of crickets was marauding through my house I did not think to whip out my phone and start snapping pics

I mean, can you imagine?
Wife: THERE’S A CRICKET IN MY PUMPKIN PIE
Me: This is tremendous content, where’s my phone

But I’m glad you all enjoyed our suffering, we’ve been laughing our asses off at your responses all day which almost makes it all worth it. To my new followers, I look forward to disappointing you in 2019.

Speaking as somebody who’s previously managed to accidentally infest a house with crickets, I feel this guy’s pain. We tried to ignore ours, thinking that they’d die out in the winter, but instead they just huddled into the warmest, least-accessible places in the house, such as under the fireplace and the fridge-freezer, and continued their incessant chirping. It was only when we started putting down ant poison that we began to bring the plague under control.

Best mimicry ever

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From Real Monstrosities via Ed Yong via Matthew Cobb comes one of the best cases of mimicry I’ve ever seen. Natural selection has been a fantastic artist here, giving a perfect illusion of three-dimensionality. In fact, this may be the most astonishing case of mimicry I know.

It’s a moth from eastern Asia: Uropyia meticulodina—a fantastic dead-leaf mimic:

Uropyia meticulodina

What I love about this thing is that it looks 3D. Even looking at photos or videos of the beast, your eyes will deceive you: its wings and back are flat, but look like a dried-up and curled-up leaf. Incredible.

Oxford’s Long-Lost Zoo and Wild Wolves

It’s been a while since I last hid geocache containers and it felt like it was time I gave a back some more to the community, especially as the “village” I live in has a lower cache density than it deserves (conversely, Oxford City Centre is chock-full of uninspiring magnetic nanos – although it’s improving – and saturated with puzzle caches that ultimately require a trek well outside the ring road). I’ve never been a heavyweight score-counting ‘cacher, but I’ve always had a soft spot for nice containers as large as their hiding place will permit coupled with well thought-out pieces of local interest, and that’s the kind of cache I wanted to add to my local area.

Annabel helps hunt for a place to hide a small clip-lock box (with attached chain).
Plus, my second-smallest caching-buddy was keen on getting involved with hiding containers rather than just finding them for me.

So imagine my joy when I discover a little-known piece of history about my village: that for a few years in the 1930s, we used to have a zoo! And I’m not talking about something on the scale of that place with the meercats that we used to go to: I’m talking about a proper zoo with lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). Attractions like Rosie the elephant and Hanno the lion would get mentioned in the local newspapers at every excuse, and a special bus service connected Oxford city centre to the entrance to the zoo, just outside then (then much-smaller) Kidlington village.

Entrance to Oxford Zoo
I’ve stood at the spot from which this photo was taken, and I couldn’t recognise it. A new boulevard, houses, a police station and a leisure centre dominate the view today.

Taking advantage of my readers’ card at the Bodleian Library, I was able to find newspapers and books and piece together the history of this short-lived place. Of particular interest were the unusual events of January 1937, when three wolves escaped from the zoo and caused chaos in the surrounding village and farms for several days. In a tale that sounds almost like a Marvel Comic origin story, the third wolf was eventually shot by local press photographer Johnny Johnson who chased the animal down on a borrowed bicycle.

Graph of the wild wolf population of Oxfordshire
Wild wolves in Oxfordshire were driven to extinction in the 16th century, but made a tiny comeback for a few days in the 1930s.

This formed the essence of our new geocaches: we planned four geocaches –

  1. Oxford’s Long-Lost Zoo (GC7Q96B / OK0456), representing the zoo and hidden at a corner of what used to be the grounds
  2. Oxford’s Wild Wolf One (GC7Q9E6 / OK0457), representing the first escaped wolf and hidden near to a garden it jumped into
  3. Oxford’s Wild Wolf Two (GC7Q9FF / OK0458), representing the second escaped wolf and hidden near to where it was shot by a farmer and his son
  4. Oxford’s Wild Wolf Three – not yet placed, but we’re planning a multicache series that follows places that the third wolf might have travelled through during its extended escape (the third wolf managed to stay at large for long enough to allegedly kill 13 sheep)
Decorated ammo can cache
Sticking to my aim of larger, higher-quality caches, the “zoo” cache is a decorated ammo can filled with toy animals.

Soon after the first three caches went live they were found by a local ‘cacher whose hides I’ve enjoyed before. She had nice things to say about the series, so that’s a good sign that we’re thinking in the right kind of direction. The bobbin – who’s taken a bit of an interest in local history this month and keeps now asking about the ages of buildings and where roads used to go and things – is continuing to help me set out places to hide the parts of the final cache in the series, Oxford’s Wild Wolf Three, so further excitement no-doubt awaits.