And in The Times today…

28 09 2017

… from old friend Tim:



Saudi women allowed to drive at last

28 09 2017

Sad that this is actually news, but great that it’s finally happened.

Screenshot 2017-09-27 22.02.24

Quote of the day from campaigner Sahar Nassif: “I’m going to buy my dream car, a convertible Mustang, and it’s going to be black and yellow!”

Hopefully next to go: their disgusting ‘male guardianship’ system.

Best and worst of Guelph

22 09 2017

I experienced the very best and worst of Guelph last week.

At 4pm before my first undergrad lecture of term (10am the next day), I checked on the room I’d been scheduled, and found that my class for 120 students had been given tables and chairs for just 30.  The microphone was also not working as the batteries were dead.


Classroom Technical Support said they’d deal with the mike, but as for the tables and chairs? Phonecall after phonecall yielded no-one who would answer or take responsibility.  So I was pretty trepidatious when I showed up the next morning at 10 to.  Worse and worse, the corridor outside the room (narrowed by rough chipboard as there was building work in progress, and blisteringly hot) was teeming with students who couldn’t get in – the classroom door was now LOCKED! Augh!

Then someone from Physical Resources showed up to unlock it, and as the students streamed in, I begged him to stay just in case the room was still not set up properly.  It was!! Phew! But … the microphone was still dead!! Augh!! Again!!

At this point Physical Resources Guy, said “I’ll run back to my apartment and get you some batteries”. This was even though (as I kept on saying to him) this totally and utterly was not his job or fault. He and his halo sprinted off, and one minute later returned with batteries from his very own home! What a star!!  I wish I’d got his name, but whoever he was, he was a hero, and deserved the enormous round of applause the class gave him.

This place. Sigh. Its sweetness really does, just about, outweigh its shambolicness.



21 09 2017

I spilled water on my keyboard in my lecture today, and now the “f” won’t work.

Surreal email of the week

14 09 2017

“I suggest you devise a new shaving plan”

(from me to Aimee, who accidentally got unblinded to the marking scheme for enriched versus non-enriched mice)

“If these don’t work, we’re getting new cats”

14 09 2017

Part of the giant hen project has involved extending our outdoor cat enclosure to give the hens access (a process that’s still unfinished; luckily the hens don’t know what they are missing).

We had a tunnel (made by Habitat Haven) that for years has taken the cats from a cat door to the enclosure (left), and we now had new custom towers made by the same company so that we could elevate this tunnel to create room for later building. The smaller of the two towers is shown here in its new place (right), while the larger at the far end is about 7 foot high.

But the moment we opened these off the truck I knew they wouldn’t work: the towers were too narrow and their platforms too small  — fine for nimble kittens, but not our overweight cats with their various developmental issues (mild dwarfism and cerebellar hypoplasia). I spent a good couple of days modifying them: expanding the platforms in both, and for the taller one, cutting holes in the sides and adding shelves sticking out laterally to give the whole thing more width.

FullSizeRenderBut 10 days after installation, both cats still showed no understanding at all (despite cunning treat and catnip placement) that the shelves could be jumped between, nor that the towers led up to their much-loved tunnel (because this couldn’t actually be seen from within either tower; and trying to show the cats it from the outside didn’t work because cats simply do not follow pointing …).

Here is Sylvie, wondering where her tunnel has gone, and refusing to look up.

After nearly two weeks of the cats effectively being trapped in the house, or, if we put them outside, being trapped there (stressful and hard work for everyone), we caved in and added yet more holes along with giant home-made ramps.


This work took yet another weekend, and meant that the fancy new towers are now basically just $900 ramp supports… but at least it worked! Within 5 minutes of installation, the cats were freely moving about again. Stoopid cats. Just as well we love them.


Sad email of the week

14 09 2017

From Emma (aka “Little Emma”), on her home-made T maze:

Screenshot 2017-09-13 21.52.29

Hens kill blog

14 09 2017

Been very quiet on the blogging front as absolutely all my spare time has been spent getting ready to adopt hens. Part of this work (the ‘indoor part’) has involved turning a room off the garage that was full of rubbish, stored junk, mouse turds and two mummified rats into this (left)….and then insulating it and slowly turning it into this…(right). I’m hoping the yolky yellow feels cosy and womb-like to the birds.

Then last week I picked up six hens! They’re from the 48 who made up the first batch in Misha‘s giant enrichment experiment (investigating resilience and indicators of positive affect in chickens), and like last time he managed to rehome them all.

So far I can identify three of them, including Red (left, named after her leg ring, her plumage colour, and her general feisty resemblance to Red in Orange is the New Black); Rose (right), who’s pale, pretty, picked on by Red, and has a pink leg ring; and the only one who arrived with a name – Misha’s favourite hen “Mud”, not shown here, but mysteriously named after the film starring Matthew McConaughey (even though she’s very sweet).

And after being daunted for the first day, we’ve got into a groove and I now really, really like them (though the cats are not so sure).  I’ve also learned not to give them treats while some of them are egg-laying (really not fair). There are no treats ’til noon – that’s the rule.