Something has gone very wrong with the database encoding on this blog after a recent update, so all my lovely UTF-8 characters have gone mojibake.

Trying to find ways to fix it. It may have to be manual. Remember, kids: have backups before letting WordPress upgrade!

Here’s the Python equivalent of what I think the database has done:

bytes("I ???? UTF-8", encoding='utf-8').decode(encoding='cp1252')
'I 💔 UTF-8'

Quite why my hosting thought a character encoding from last century was appropriate, I’ll never know.

Update, November 2023: kinda-sort fixed the backend, but the encoding is still weird — can we…?

Ten year blog anniversary!

I’ve been at We Saw a Chicken … for 10 years now. From a tiny first post to now, it’s always been filed firmly under “misc.”: no theme, no ads, no plan, and (until recently) no readers ☹

It’s been on two different hosts and two different platforms. It’s still obscurely named. It took a brief orange-carpeted journey into the 1970s. Dave‘s picture of a tiny bunny in my hands still gets more hits than I can believe. There was the whole WindSave thing, and the whole other pointless and ugly megabins thing. Then there was Raspberry Pi and The Quite Rubbish Clock; I got more hits in a week than I got in the previous nine years.

Hint: I don’t do this for the money …

I don’t know why getting an e-mail like this one would disturb me so much:

Hi Stewart,

Just a quick reminder message – I’m currently working with [REDACTED], a top electronics and engineering tech company, and we’re still interested in collaborating with you!

We can provide bespoke content by [REDACTED]‘s own tech copywriters to give you something relevant for your readers, based on a topic that you’d like us to write about. We can also offer a $25 voucher to purchase any product of that value or less from the [REDACTED] website (http://www.[REDACTED].com/) which you could then use and review.

If you’re interested, I can send over some rough content ideas for you to have a look at, and you can let us know what grabs you.

Look forward to hearing from you!


It’s not spam; I’ve had this offer before via another channel. I can’t see why anyone would want someone else’s text under their own byline. Running this blog costs me a trivial amount of money, but I’m okay with that. Monetizing, SEO, sticky eyeballs (I’m showing my age …): feh. All I ever wanted to do with this blog is write my own drivel without someone else’s noise polluting the page.

stats stats lay down flat

blog stats for yesterday: over 4000 hitsOh my. This blog is usually a quiet little backwater, ticking along on a few hundred hits a day. And I’m okay with that. But yesterday, my astonishingly impractical QR code clock hit the front page of RaspberryPi.org, and blammo! More visitors than I thought possible. Are there really over 4000 people who read that? Cor, to use a good British comic-ism.

I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years, filed under what could only charitably be called “miscellaneous”. Yesterday, I got 2% of all the hits I’ve ever had. See the tiny little bar just to the left of the big one? Yeah, that was my previous best ever, with nearly 600 hits.

wordpress can’t count: my 2000th blog posting

I was all exited about my 2000th post, because the dashboard is showing:

wordpress can\'t count

So I decided to tabulate my entries by number, and discovered that I really have 2261 (well, 2262 now) blog entries. This is the real story:

Post # Title Date
1 is this thing on, eh? (2003/06/04)
2 Happy Birthday (2003/06/04)
3 mmm (2003/06/05)
4 A century later, worse economy (2003/06/05)
5 Christian Anderson Smith, where were you in our hour of need? (2003/06/06)
6 fishepiphany (2003/06/07)
7 “What a Life!” lives! (2003/06/08)
8 pinholes (2003/06/09)
9 they don’t make ‘em like they used to (2003/06/12)
10 what’s this ear? (2003/06/19)
16 the wisdom of chairman ralph (2003/07/08)
20 Phew … (2003/07/29)
30 Canada supporting copy-controlled CDs (2003/10/09)
32 so long, emusic (2003/11/05)
40 how the blog got its name (2003/11/24)
50 do me a favour (2003/12/01)
60 malicious deomnibusation of maternal relative’s maternal relative strictly forbidden (2003/12/09)
64 DNX-1000 Hardware /dev/null Accelerator (2003/12/10)
70 Enoch, the Money Mart ad guy (2003/12/15)
80 Mozilla Mail Went Nuts (2003/12/21)
90 A helpful error message (2003/12/31)
100 very small, but not cheap (2004/01/06)
128 Attack of the Dodgy Duracells (2004/02/03)
200 first groundhog (2004/04/03)
250 freecache doesn’t (2004/06/13)
256 Getting (Not Very) Political (2004/06/23)
300 UofT Solar Car (2004/08/13)
400 let’s get confused (2004/10/13)
500 Good Activism Guide, from an unexpected source (2004/12/07)
512 and this makes news in Scotland: Krankie hurt in beanstalk tumble (2004/12/15)
600 The Passing of The Grammarian (2005/02/22)
700 get yer fives on! (2005/05/05)
750 Lego, ergo sum (2005/06/05)
800 StimpyFest: the time is now (2005/07/14)
900 no cheers for VIA Rail (2005/09/27)
1000 Meet Mr Random (2005/12/26)
1024 my letter to etymotic (2006/01/24)
1100 1656 days from PR application to Canadian Citizenship (2006/03/25)
1200 View from the nacelle of a 2.3MW wind turbine (2006/05/22)
1250 old taters (2006/06/18)
1300 when chitin isn’t enough (2006/07/20)
1400 confused (2006/10/03)
1500 alan_walsh-carter_arter_blues.mp3 (2006/12/21)
1600 all atwitter (2007/03/06)
1700 messing with cars makes you bad at spelling (2007/04/26)
1750 curious_orange-roncesvalles.jpg (2007/06/01)
1800 take your … (2007/07/21)
1900 serene detachment (2007/09/20)
2000 not very walkable here (2007/12/13)
2048 recursive headline (2008/01/22)
2100 glacial (2008/02/25)
2200 the most hateful coining in the language (2008/05/05)
2250 outlook_gone_all_big (2008/06/02)
2261 wind turbine data – we are generating! (2008/06/13)

The numbering seems to have gone sideways in the last 1000 entries; entry #1000 is, as they say, what it is.

thanks, spammer. thammer.

A (now deleted) comment:

hello , my name is Richard and I know you get a lot of spammy comments, I can help you with this problem. I know a lot of spammers and I will ask them not to post on your site. It will reduce the volume of spam by 30-50%. In return Id like to ask you to put a link to my site on the index page of your site. The link will be small and your visitors will hardly notice it, its just done for higher rankings in search engines. Contact me icq 454528835 or write me tedirectory@yahoo.com, i will give you my site url and you will give me yours if you are interested. thank you

Gee, thanks, Richard! That would be so helpful of you!


Portpatrick, with the Gimp faux lomo effect
Portpatrick, taken with a Fujifilm MX-1200 pretending to be a lomo

For probably no better reason beyond babbittry, I’ve always half-wanted a lomo. Half-wanted, that is, because of my previous experience with “Russian” photo gear (I’ve had a Lomo TLR, a Fed rangefinder, and a Pentacon six) and its legendary quality control. I’m also so done with film.
A while back, Donncha wrote about a  GIMP Lomo Plugin. While it looked handy, the link to the code is now dead. You can find what I think is the same one here: http://flelay.free.fr/pool/lomo2.scm (or a local copy here if that link dies: lomo2.scm). Just pop it in your .gimp-2.2/scripts/ directory, and it’ll appear as a filter. The original author‘s comment on Donncha’s blog contains good settings: Vignetting softness=1, Contrast=30, Saturation=30, Double Vignetting=TRUE.

I knew there was a reason I retrieved my old 1.3 megapixel Fujifilm MX-1200 from my parents’ house. And that reason is fauxlomo!

All the printers I’ve ever owned …

bird you can see: hp print test

  • An ancient (even in 1985) Centronics serial dot-matrix printer that we never got working with the CPC464. The print head was driven along a rack, and when it hit the right margin, an idler gear was wedged in place, forcing the carriage to return. Crude, noisy but effective.
  • Amstrad DMP-2000. Plasticky but remarkably good 9-pin printer. Had an open-loop ribbon that we used to re-ink with thick oily endorsing ink until the ribbons wore through.
  • NEC Pinwriter P20. A potentially lovely 24-pin printer ruined by a design flaw. Print head pins would get caught in the ribbon, and snap off. It didn’t help that the dealer that sold it to me wouldn’t refund my money, and required gentle persuasion from a lawyer to do so.
  • Kodak-Diconix 300 inkjet printer. I got this to review for Amiga Computing, and the dealer never wanted it back. It used HP ThinkJet print gear which used tiny cartridges that sucked ink like no tomorrow; you could hear the droplets hit the page.
  • HP DeskJet 500. I got this for my MSc thesis. Approximately the shape of Torness nuclear power station (and only slightly smaller), last I heard it was still running.
  • Canon BJ 200. A little mono inkjet printer that ran to 360dpi, or 720 if you had all the time in the world and an unlimited ink budget.
  • Epson Stylus Colour. My first colour printer. It definitely couldn’t print photos very well.
  • HP LaserJet II. Big, heavy, slow, and crackling with ozone, this was retired from Glasgow University. Made the lights dim when it started to print. Came with a clone PostScript cartridge that turned it into the world’s second-slowest PS printer. We did all our Canadian visa paperwork on it.
  • Epson Stylus C80. This one could print photos tolerably well, but the cartridges dried out quickly, runing the quality and making it expensive to run.
  • Okidata OL-410e PS. The world’s slowest PostScript printer. Sold by someone on tortech who should’ve known better (and bought by someone who also should’ve known better), this printer jams on every sheet fed into it due to a damaged paper path. Unusually, it uses an LED imaging system instead of laser xerography, and has a weird open-hopper toner system that makes transporting a part-used print cartridge a hazard.
  • HP LaserJet 4M Plus. With its duplexer and extra paper tray it’s huge and heavy, but it still produces crisp pages after nearly 1,000,000 page impressions. I actually have two of these; one was bought for $99 refurbished, and the other (which doesn’t print nearly so well) was got on eBay for $45, including duplexer and 500-sheet tray. Combining the two (and judiciously adding a bunch of RAM) has given me a monster network printer which lets you know it’s running by dimming the lights from here to Etobicoke.
  • IBM Wheelwriter typewriter/ daisywheel printer. I’ve only ever produced a couple of pages on this, but this is the ultimate letter-quality printer. It also sounds like someone slowly machine-gunning the neighbourhood, so mostly lives under wraps.
  • HP PhotoSmart C5180. It’s a network photo printer/scanner that I bought yesterday. Really does print indistinguishably from photos, and prints direct from memory cards. When first installed, makes an amusing array of howls, boinks, squeals, beeps and sproings as it primes the print heads.

a bit better than before

I just ran the fuel numbers for our recent grand trip to Missouri. For 4380km in a Honda Civic DX, we used about 292 litres of fuel. That works out to be 6.7l/100km (or 42.3 / 35.3 UK / US mpg). That’s not quite as good as I’d hoped; I’ll put it down to driving a little fast on very chunky snow tyres.

At least it’s better than last time