derp

Made a gate...

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, things have been rather rough after the breakup with Haku.  That doesn't mean I've been doing nothing though - I bought myself a bunch of power tools and made a gate for the chicken enclosure!

It definitely beats the old gate, which was the lid off an old chicken run lashed to the post with some rope - ahh, farms.


Construction was pretty simple: I started off with a 2x4 and ripped it down the middle to reduce the width.  I cut the square frame and used a spade drill bit to drill 25mm holes, then glued in some dowels.  After checking it for squareness, I cut the cross-brace by simply lying the gate on top, lining it up, and drawing pencil marks where I needed to cut - it fit perfectly.  The final part of construction was to make the hoop on top by cutting three angled segments and using 10mm dowel to join the ends together.  Doing the dowel this way was quite complicated because I had to hold the stock at an angle in order to drill perpendicular to the end, and it didn't fit awfully well when I put it together, but I planed it all level.  I did this way because I didn't want the dowel to be visible, just to improve the look.  I rounded over the top with a rasp and sander, but unfortunately didn't have any tools that would allow me to round the inside radius (a drum/bobbin sander would be required here).  Finally, I attached the hoop with a couple more bits of dowel, straight down into the top of the frame.  With the construction complete, I gave it three coats of varnish, tacked on some wire mesh to stop the chickens hopping through, and was done!

There were a few mistakes and miscalculations along the way but I think the end result is acceptable, even though it's not perfect.  It would have been a lot simpler to construct without the hoop on top, but I like the look of it and it gives you somewhere to hold it while opening/closing.

Tools used: Circular saw, hand saw, tape measure, set square, clamps, power drill, drill bits, spade drill bits, hand mitre saw, power sander, plane, rasp.
derp

Christmas 2012

For Christmas this year, myself and Haku made a flying visit to the UK.  We departed the Netherlands together on the 22nd.  The flight was quick and my parents picked us up from the airport, so by mid-afternoon we were safely back at my house.  We didn't do too much on Sunday, just a few final preparations such as wrapping the last of the presents and writing gift tags.  We also set up our 2nd Christmas tree and decorated it together, including some round biscuits with holes in that Haku had brought.  They are traditional in the Netherlands - you pass a ribbon throught the hole in the centre and then hang it on the tree.  There were two kinds, one sort of sugar biscuit with large chunks of sugar stuck to the top, and one that was a thin shell of chocolate chocolate filled with some kind of sugary substance.  Haku was feeling a bit unwell - she has a dust allergy which seems to be set off by my house and was wheezing and struggling to breathe a bit, however the headache that she's had for 2 solid months after a concussion had faded.

I had to work on Monday morning, but I got the afternoon off and we could relax a bit.  In the evening we went to visit my parents, taking with us a whole pile of presents.  Their tree looked very pretty as always, and there was already a large pile of presents beneath it.  When we added ours it became a veritable mountain!  My mum had cooked a nice lasagna for all of us.  After the meal, however, Haku was still struggling to breathe.  It had been 24 hours now and and she wasn't showing any sign of getting better, indeed it seemed to be getting worse, so we decided to take her to hospital.  I drove her to the hospital in Bangor and we were directed to A&E.  She went through triage reasonably quickly, and then we had to wait a little while longer before seeing the doctor.  He put her on a nebulizer after a quick diagnosis, and after about 10 minutes of breathing from this mask she was starting to feel much better.  By about 20 minutes we were starting to think we'd been forgotten, but eventually the nurse returned and removed the mask.  The doctor prescribed a small course of tablets and gave her an inhaler which she used a couple of times throughout the following days, and it seemed nicely effective.  Not the ideal Christmas eve, but what can you expect when you have a wuff?

On Christmas day we went to my parents' house, stopping to pick up one of my grandmothers on the way.  We gathered together myself, my parents, my two grandmothers, and of course Haku for her first British Christmas.  We settled down for some tea (despite my dad being keen to start on the presents already) and chatted for a little while, then we gathered all the presents in the middle of the room and started to hand them out.  There was a huge pile and everyone was very happy.  My highlights included a large zebra patterned rug and "Dutch for Dummies".  Haku got a game for her new Nintendo 3DS XL, and a graphics tablet!  After the unwrapping was finished and the excitement died down, it was time for a traditional Christmas dinner.  My mum always makes a wonderful full dinner: turkey, roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, beans, cauliflower, stuffing, sausages wrapped in bacon, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce... everything!  We all enjoyed it very much.

After dinner we had a walk down to the beach.  Haku was a little worried about her condition - she'd had to spend the last 2 months virtually in bed because of her concussion - but she made it there and back without too much trouble, despite the steepness of the hill.  We relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon, then had a nice buffet-style tea afterwards.

Boxing day was very similar - we again collected the grandmothers and went to my parents' house for a meal, this time of roast pork.  We spent the afternoon relaxing and playing some games.

The day after Boxing day we had to ourselves, so we relaxed a bit and packed our bags in preparation for travel back to the Netherlands.  The following day my parents arrived to take us to the airport, and we said our goodbyes - Christmas was over, but it had been a great time and we enjoyed ourselves very much.  There was one final surprise in store, however - when we joined the queue for check-in at the airport there was a familiar face standing in front of us - Ultraviolet!  She was on her way to visit Nimrais and Kage in Germany, and just happened to be taking the same flight as us.  It was quite an amazing coincidence, and we stuck together for the journey.  It was really nice to see her again, and it was good to catch up.

We're now back in the Netherlands and taking it easy - but not for too long.  We're both going to Furs on Fire - a new year furry party in the south of the Netherlands.  We'll be staying in a hostel for a few days with about 60 other furs, some 50% of which are fursuiters.  It should be fun!
derp

Sinterklaas!

Last weekend we celebrated Sinterklaas here in the Netherlands!  In the UK this is all rolled up into Christmas in our rather jumbled traditions, but in the Netherlands it's a separate event.

According to tradition, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) arrives in the Netherlands each year in November, travelling by steamboat from Spain.  With him he brings two important things - sacks full of presents, and Zwarte Piets - Black Petes, his helpers.  (People may try to tell you out of political correctness that they are black due to soot from chimneys, however from their appearance this is obviously not true.)  Once ashore, Sinterklaas rides a white horse around the country, accompanied by Zwarte Piets, and delivers presents to all the good children.  The naughty ones are put in his sack and given a free holiday in Spain, apparently.

As I have come to expect, the celebration involves a great deal of sweet things.  There are pepernoten - small ginger biscuits - by the bucketful.  Every shop has a bowl of them on the counter.  There are also chocolate mice and frogs filled with some kind of fondant icing, gingerbread figures of people, chocolate figures of Sint and Piet, and generally lots of things that will rot your teeth.

When Sinterklaas comes into the country, he first arrives in Rotterdam by steamship.  He then arrives in each town some time after, and we went to see him arrive in Breukelen.  The park was packed solid with excited children, many of them dressed in Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet costumes.  We stood at the back so we wouldn't be in the way for them as they watched the boat dock.  Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Piets disembarked and made their way through the throng, with the band playing (also dressed as Zwartepiets) as they threw pepernoten and sweets to the children.  After they made their way at a snail's pace through the crowd, Sinterklaas climbed aboard a white Rolls Royce (the horse must have been having the day off) and made his way to the town square, where there was a truck with a PA system playing songs for the young children.

After a couple of weeks of 'arriving' at the various towns throughout the country, it's time for the actual day itself.  We travelled to Haku's mum's house for the most important part - presents!  Preparing the presents is quite a lot of work because each one needs to have a poem written for it.  The poems are pretty silly, with dubious rhymes and little jibes against the receiver.  The presents are placed in a big burlap sack and taken out one at a time - the receiver then reads the rhyme for all to hear before they can open their present.  It was a lot of fun, and the poems were really a good laugh for everybody.  I received a great zebra t-shirt (a zebra with his stripes starting to fall off, saying "It must be stress"), some zebra socks, a bird box and some handy key tags.  Everybody also receives a large chocolate letter according to the first letter of their name.  (The rhyme for this: "Try to get a little fatter, it's a chocolate letter").  The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and drinking tea - all in all, a splendid time.

In other news, it's been snowing here!  I haven't been out in it much though because Haku is still suffering after her concussion.  She's visiting a neurologist tomorrow so hopefully a solution can be found.
derp

Fursuiting Time

I went fursuiting on Sunday along with Haku, WhiteShadowFox and SparkWolf.  We had an early start and drove an hour and a half to somewhere near Amsterdam to attend a small comic convention.  The venue was rather strange, it seemed to be some kind of repurposed industrial estate, with large warehouses in various states of disrepair now filled with markets.

The convention itself was not especially busy, however there were a lot of people on the 'street' outside (still a gated part of complex), so we stood there and handed out flyers.  The reactions were very good, containing the standard mix of befuddled babies, crying children, screaming girls, and people wanting photos.

I suited for about 3 hours straight, much of the time spent on my own because the others wanted to rest.  SparkWolf has a huge fursuit, padded over the entire body to turn his small self into a huge teddy-bear of a dog - it must be exceptionally hot.

After lunch Haku started to feel very unwell so I didn't do any more suiting.  She was very cold and had a headache and dizziness, so I looked after her while the others suited for another 30 minutes or so.  She had a bad stomach as well, so I'm not sure if her ill feeling was due to that or due to the concussion that she suffered earlier in the week.

Currently she is at the doctor's, hopefully everything will be okay and she'll start to feel better soon. 
derp

In the Netherlands

I'm back in the Netherlands visiting Haku again!   I was supposed to be here three weeks ago, but I had to delay due to work (that is a whole other story).  Unfortunately I apparently managed to catch a cold on the way here so I am a bit miserable at the moment.

I spent the first night at Haku's mum's house, then we travelled south to Breda to Haku's place.  I saw it before she decided to move there and it was in a pretty poor state but it's been redecorated and is now looking really nice.  I'll write some more when I'm feeling better.
derp

Got a Laptop!

I got myself a laptop!  I've never owned a laptop before, but with my frequent visits to Haku I decided I had better get one so that I can do my work while I'm over there.  I opted for a 15.6" Dell Inspiron N5050.  

CPU: i3-2350M CPU.  This is the second generation of i3 chips, the "sandy bridge" version.  My PC has the i7 version and I love it, so I wanted an i3 in my laptop, even though if I'm honest it's probably well over-specced for what I need.

RAM: 4Gb.  Should be more than plenty for what I intend to use it for.  No swapping to disk here!

HDD: 500Gb 5400rpm.  Laptops always have their speed killed by slow hard disks.  Not much you can do about it other than swapping it out later, as they don't start to offer 7200rpm or SSDs until you are in the range of £1000 laptops.

Graphics card: No graphics card - it uses the Intel 3000 HD that's built into the CPU.  I don't intend to play games on here, and the built-in graphics are more than capable for regular use and probably some older games anyway.

Screen: 15.6" 1366x768.  Not huge, but at least it's easily portable.

Ports: 3xUSB, HDMI, VGA, 3-in-1 card reader, ethernet, audio in/out.

Media: DVD-RW.

Pointer: Touchpad.  I hate the clit-mouse things.

Keyboard: No numeric keypad, no room for it here.  The keys themselves have a rounded edge flat look which I love, and they're nicely spaced out.  usually I hate typing on laptop keyboards, but I find this one to be comfortable.

Webcam:  Disappointing, the quality isn't very good.  I'm only using the generic driver at the moment so maybe the Dell webcam centre will improve it, but I don't really want that kind of crap on here.

Design:  Pretty!  I really like the way it looks.

OS: Win 7.  It came with the home edition but the first thing I did was format the disk and put the pro edition on.  That got rid of all the crapware that comes installed on it, especially McAfee (shudder).

Cost: £360.  Pretty reasonable I think.

Customer support:  I bought the laptop from Tesco Direct.  When the laptop arrived I noticed that it had a stuck pixel, so I rang up to ask what their policy on that was.  They didn't quibble in the slightest, just told me to put it back in the box and a courier would be there on Monday to swap it for a new one.  Very impressed.

And now for a picture!


derp

FIXED - Windows 7 - XP Mode virtual machine very slow network transfer

I use Windows 7's XP mode virtual machine as part of my work.  I recently made some changes to its network configuration and found that file transfers between the virtual machine and the host became incredibly slow - 30kbps or so.  I use a normal network share / mapped network drive to transfer files between the two.

In the VM's network settings, I have only one card - the host machine's network adaptor.

The fix took some googling to find but turned out to be very easy - disable "large send offload" for the network card:

1) On the host machine, go Control Panel -> Network and Internet -> Network and Sharing Center -> Change Adapter Settings.
2) Right-click the network card and choose "Properties"
3) Click "Configure"
4) Click on the "Advanced" tab
5) Click on "Large Send Offload" (IPv4 & IPv6) and set the value to "Disabled"

That solved the problem for me - the speed went from about 30kbps to 20Mbps.  Hope this information can help someone else.
derp

Visiting Haku!

My trip to visit Haku is over (and has been for some time, oops - late posting).  I had an amazing time, which I shall narrate for you.

Friday.

The journey got off to the most unpromising of starts.  I arrived in plenty of time at Bangor train station and waiting on the unexpectedly crowded platform for the train that would take me to Manchester Airport.  Well, not exactly Manchester Airport - first I would have to change trains at Chester, and then again at Crewe.  The train arrived on time and the automatic doors swung open to reveal a man lying face down in the vestibule, with a woman leaning over him and attempting to take his pulse.  I moved along to the next available doorway and boarded there.  Although I was in the next carriage, I managed to pick up a few snatches of speech from the woman indicating that she had found a pulse.  We waited for 15-20 minutes until the man could be removed from the train - I don't know what became of him, but I hope he was alright.  While that was happening I was becoming increasingly concerned about missing my connection and therefore missing my flight.  It was thus a very stressful ride to Chester, but I arrived there in time for the connection.  Check-in at the airport was quick and easy and the flight itself was only just over an hour - much shorter than the journey to the airport.

I arrived at Schipol airport in Amsterdam on time, claimed my baggage from the carousel and made my way with only slight trepidation  out into the public area of the airport.  Haku and her mother were waiting for me and spotted me immediately - she ran over and pounce-hugged me at once.  It was great to be reunited after 6 months of her being in Australia.  We made our way excitedly to her mother's car and clambered into the back, clinging to each other as we were driven home.

Her house is on a quiet side street in a small village.  It's compact in size but very neat, with a spiral staircase between the floors.  Her mother cooked kibbeling, which is basically fish & chips except the fish is divided into small pieces before being battered and it's served with a surprisingly sweet salad, I believe containing carrot and apple.  By the time we'd finished it was was getting quite late and so we retired to bed.  Her room had her single bed plus a mattress on the floor, invitingly sprinkled with red rose petals.  I later found out that the mattress was there just because her mother didn't think we'd both fit in a single bed together, but we managed and spent a lovely night curled up together.

Saturday.

Saturday was reserved as a quiet day for us to spend together.  Her mother was at work and we had nothing particular planned except to take it easy and enjoy each others' company.  We had a breakfast of bread & cheese (as we would every day), and spent the morning watching Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.  I have seen this film so many times, but it never ceases to be hilarious.

In the afternoon we walked into the centre of the village to the Albert Heijn - a small supermarket - where we bought some provisions for the next day.  The shopping baskets had long handles and wheels on the bottom: truly this was a strange and foreign land.

Sunday.

Party Day!  Haku was having a small welcome-home party at her house, celebrating her return from 6 months in Australia.  I'm not sure what crime she committed in order to be sent to a penal colony for 6 months, I didn't like to ask.  The party was attended almost exclusively by furries and allowed me to meet many of the friends she had talked about: Kitsune, Ra-Fluffsky, Ace, Noodles, Tim, and Fruitcake.  It was a sunny day and we gathered in her garden, eating snacks and chatting.  Most of the conversation was in Dutch, so I concentrated on eating as many sandwiches as possible.  Ra-Fluffsky was wearing his Husky fursuit and Haku's mother approached me and asked if I had brought my fursuit, urging me to put it on.  I obliged and disappeared upstairs for a moment, returning with all my stripes.  I don't think Haku had intended to fursuit but her mother convinced her as well, and after some quick repairs to her tail she suited up.  We had plenty of fun, cuddling and playing.  See how cute we are in these photographs!

Tummy Rubs! - Haku having some tummy rubs.  Look at those cute little puppy paws.


Furries are Scary! - Tim, the only non-furry present, is a little cautious...

Nuzzles! - Taking a little moment to ourselves for a nuzzle.

Caught You! - Hauling in my captured wolf by the tail.  She didn't really seem to mind too much...


Monday.

I have no idea what we did on Monday.  I really should write these things down.  I have a feeling that we watched The Life Of Brian.  In the evening we went to a nautical themed restaurant with Haku's mother's boyfriend, Ron.  The food was good and the restaurant was themed with various parts of ships, including a speed selector (the kind that rings a bell in the engine room - I don't know what the proper name is) and a large free-standing ship's compass.  The compass had a large iron sphere on each side, which Ron informed us was to compensate for the magnetic distortion caused by the ship's hull.

Tuesday.

On Tuesday we went to the nearby city of Utrecht with the intention of visiting the Dom Tower.  Haku's mother works in an up-market furniture shop in Utrecht, so we rode into the city with her and had a cup of tea at the shop while they started the day.  It is apparently so up-market that they get very few customers, leaving time for drinking tea.  We wandered around the shop, looking at the very modern and strangely shaped leather settees and chairs, none of which had a price attached.  Definitely the kind of place where "if you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it".  

We wandered around Utrecht until our allotted touring time, pausing at a tea shop for some refreshment.  The tea shop was quiet and cosy, and Haku told me she used to go there occasionally when she lived in Utrecht.  I was a little surprised when the tea arrived as they brought a wooden box filled with a large selection of different teas.  It felt very luxurious and a little ceremonial.


After finishing our tea we headed to the Dom Tower.  It's an imposing and ornate gothic stone building, and the 465 stone steps are worn smooth and dished from centuries of use.  It was built as part of a cathedral, the construction of which took several hundred years and unfortunately suffered from a shortage of cash half way through.  Because of this the centre section was built without supporting the buttresses that the end sections had.  A freak storm in 1674 caused the centre section to collapse, leaving the tower and the church as two separate buildings.

The climb to the top was quite easy and offered a few stops along the way.  The last 25m or so was quite narrow but upon reaching the top the view was spectacular.  The Netherlands do seem to be completely flat, and so any high vantage point gives you an uninterrupted view for a very long distance.  


Looking down towards the city centre showed rows of houses, all individual and unique, quite unlike the uniform terraces you might expect in the UK.  

Utrecht is a very nice city - everywhere is clean and tidy, and the centre is almost free of cars.  The car-free streets are so much more relaxing than the noise and grime of a city like London.  In place of the cars are bicycles - thousands of them - but people ride them in a fairly relaxed manner and so it's not too bad.  

Wednesday.

I have no idea.  Really.

Thursday.

On Thursday we headed back into Utrecht with the intention of touring the church, however when we got there we found out that it was closed for a private function.  Instead, we spent the day wandering around the city and just enjoying being there.  The tea selection this time was even more fancy.  I opted for "Dragon Eye Oolong Tea" because it sounded interesting.  I can't say the taste was remarkable, but it was worth a try.


Friday.

I'm really bad at this.

Saturday.

Back to Utrecht again!  We went to the HKU school of art for their open day as Haku is considering applying to study there.  The tour didn't take too long and so we spent some more time in town.  We were even accosted on the street to take part in some cheese tasting.  Although I wasn't allowed to enter for some reason, I still got some cheese ^.^  

In the afternoon we met with RaFluffsky and Kitsune to go fursuiting.  We spent a few hours fursuiting around the city - the weather wasn't too hot, which was ideal.  The Dutch people didn't seem overly keen on us, they seem to look down on anything that's out of the ordinary, which I found a little surprising.  Still, we did get some good reactions from people and had fun just among ourselves.  RaFluffsky and Kitsune took photos, but I don't have copies of them yet.

Sunday.

On Sunday it was time for me to go home... but I was taking Haku with me!  Her mum took us to the airport and we fed our baggage into the slightly bizarre machine that swallows your bag up and conveys it through the bowels of the airport to your aircraft.  I'm sure it sounded like a good and efficient system when it was being pitched, but in practice it seemed much more cumbersome than actually having someone at the check-in desk.  My parents collected us from the airport and took us to my house - the drive from the airport to the house is about twice as long as the flight.

The next week.

The time we spent in Wales was much less eventful than our time in the Netherlands, partly because there isn't as much to do here and partly because I had to work.  Haku kept herself busy by working on her portfolio.  We made a few trips out in the evenings to visit the nearby beach (cold and windy as it was).  At the weekend we saw some of the sights that the island has to offer, starting with a visit to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.


My dad taught us how to pronounce it, so we are now both able to say it!  (Incidentally, the guide on the lower part of the sign isn't very helpful unless you already know what sounds the letter combinations should make.)

We visited some of the historic places like the burial mound at Bryn Celli Ddu, and the priory and dovecote at Penmon.

We even did some fursuiting in Menai Bridge!  We had arranged to meet my parents there, but didn't tell them we were going to arrive in our fursuits.  It was quite funny to see their reaction when they spotted us, but they took it in good humour.  We were there to see an event on the bridge and thought we could entertain the expected crowd a little, but it turned out that my dad had got the wrong day and there wasn't anything happening.  Still, we had a walk across the bridge and were very well received by the few people we met, with lots wanting to take photographs with us, and many drivers blowing their horn as they went past.  It was quite a difference to the somewhat frosty reception we got in the Netherlands.  

We didn't fursuit for too long because it was rather quiet in the town, so we got changed and then had a nice pub lunch with my parents.  Haku had a warm chocolate fudge cake which put her in the state of bliss that only a girl with chocolate can experience.

We paid a visit to the Marquis of Anglsey's column, which offers a nice view of the Menai Strait, the mountains and the island.

All too soon it was time for her to return to the Netherlands.  I took her to the airport and we said a lingering goodbye.  I miss her very much, however it's only a month until she'll be back in order to go to Confuzzled with me - I'm looking forward to it SO much.