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The week that was (holiday week one)

Monday - the hammock

I got up at six and fed the cats while the kettle was boiling. A tea later, I went back to bed until ten.
As I was wandering into the kitchen for another tea, a Eurocar rental van drove up. I threw a towel over me, as I wasn't wearing much and it's too early for the post. The guy took one look and was like "oh, okay" and wandered off until I was more dressed. I apologised and said I am on holiday and was up late watching Netflix. Which actually wasn't that far from the truth.

He handed me a small parcel. My hammock.

The weather wasn't so great, but it was dry enough to go and find two trees close enough to hook the thing up.

Swing your cares away
Swing your cares away.

I'm not entirely certain that it will last for very long, here's the stitching at the end.

Built to last
Built to last.

However, assuming it lasts for the holiday... well... assuming weather suitable for sitting in a hammock!

I got "The Chemist" to read. Some day, perhaps?


Included with the hammock was this dubious looking card.

I Haz Won Prize
I Haz Won Prize!!1!!1!

The rear has a code under a scratch-off thingy, which asks you to go to for an Extended Warranty Service.
Warranty? For a hammock?

Here's the site:

Does this look dodgy to you?
Does this look dodgy to you?

Registered via Alibaba Cloud Computing, using the name servers HICHINA.COM and absolutely no information on who actually registered the domain.
Do I look that stupid?

The winning prize card is in the recycling bag. Best place for it, if you ask me.


Tuesday - strimming

I took apart the head of the smaller strimmer and fitted the heavier line into it. The strimmer wasn't happy, there must be a lot more drag or something, as it didn't want to kick itself up to high speed. So with 2/3rds choke, I let it run rich and at a reasonable speed to get work done.

The heavy brambles fought back, and won, but the difference between what can be done with a 3.5mm line, and one half as thick is quite impressive.
I emptied a tank of fuel taming some of the weeds that I couldn't get to with Marte.

Afterwards, I went to the local supermarket to get milk. I meant to pick up some in Châteaubriant but forgot. I was all ready to go into autistic mode when I noticed that I didn't need to - the entire supermarket had gone into autistic mode for me.
That meant, they turned off the music and dimmed the lights. They forgot to do something with the video displays trying to promote some rubbish so they could be heard from several aisles away but... it was surprisingly quiet and the lower illumination made for a pleasing shopping experience. Usually I put on my headphones to block out everything else (I am one of those people who can concentrate better with music - I'm listening to The Dark Element as I write this) and sometimes also wear sunglasses. The first time was because I wore them for driving and forgot to take them off, but quickly realised that it was better than the harsh glare of the lights.
So, the supermarket might only do about two hours a week to help "autistes" (that's actually why they were doing it, it's an initiative being made by the U franchise), but it's a start and it was appreciated.


Wednesday - my second vaccination

During the day of Wednesday, I did some programming. It was chilly with erratic rain. In the evening, I drove to the chemist. I arrived at half six.

Safety first - always wear the seat belt
Safety first - always wear the seat belt.

"You're early", the man said.
"I don't like being late", I replied.
"You're half an hour early", he observed.
"When I had to be at the Prefecture for my residency permit, I was there at 10am for an appointment at 2pm. I don't like being late."
Behind him, the assistant chemist dropped the box she was holding, and then realised that she was staring. Yup. Four hours early.
There was actually a reason for that to do with how the timing of everything fit together, but whatever, I don't like being late.
My opinion is that if they are late or running behind, that's their problem and it's them making a bad impression. If it's me running late? That's not a good look.

"In you go", he said pointing to the room where the injections were given. Like, right away! I popped out my carte vitale (health service card) and handed it over.

He ambled in, noted the teddy (allow me a moment of being wussy, not a lot bothers me but injections really do) and rubbed off my arm. Oh crap oh crap oh crap.
He appeared to be having some measure of difficulty getting the needle out of the packaging. A lot of fiddling and farting around, then he leans over and says "I did it about twenty seconds ago, it's over".

Master of distraction, that guy.

I went and waited in a little room with a eye test equipment. I didn't feel anything, or at all weird. I was actually fascinated by this diagram on the wall.

It's a wonder we can actually see
It's a wonder we can actually see.

So the left parts of both eyes go to the right side of the brain and the right parts of both eyes go to the left side? How did that evolve? And why? It sounds extremely complicated.

The assistant gave me back my card and a piece of paper, the infamous "Passe Sanitaire". She told me that she printed it now for me, but it isn't valid until this time next week, and I need to wait two weeks until I can consider myself fully vaccinated, unless I want to travel...
I think at that point she remembered that I was very much not in favour of Brexit, so she stopped and left the end of the sentence dangling.

The Passe Sanitaire, the thing all the Frenchies are out protesting over (well, it's France, they have to protest something!) is basically a really complicated looking QR code. It must be a fairly new format as my Barcode Reader app couldn't make sense of it. I found another app without weird permissions, and that gave me a screenful of junk that began "HC1". Well, from some information that I've gleaned on-line, the information is encoded in Base45. Once that has been decoded, the result is a wodge of data that is gzipped. Once it is ungzipped, it's either some sort of URI or key or reference to some sort of server that will verify that this is a real EU Covid certificate and that the holder has been vaccinated. It's somewhere between overkill and technically impressive (given this is a pan-EU initiative). Certainly, the code doesn't authenticate you as having been vaccinated, otherwise people could make knock-off codes. No, this goes to a national database and can bounce to other national databases (for those visiting member states) and it's their database that gives the nod.
I can't help but find it amusing that the EU managed to get this together and working ready to sync up with the mainstream vaccination programmes in member states, as compared to the many times the British government has tried to introduce IT schemes (like the original failed track'n'trace) and, well, pretty much anything to do with the NHS.

By the time I got home, my arm had started to swell up. That was considerably quicker than last time, though by now my body will have an idea about the Covid spike protein.

I have discovered an interesting series on Prime Video, called "Emergence". I don't know if Amazon had it a while and didn't bother to promote it or what, but it "leaves Prime in 10 days", so I really ought to be watching about two episodes a night.

That night, at 11.30pm, I had rather painful diarrhoea, but after a quick emptying, I was able to go to bed a little sore (especially by arm!) but otherwise okay.


Thursday - the acid trip

Close your eyes in a dark room and you'll see a giraffe, teaspoon, wench face, shoe, airplane...
This is because your eyes are not perfect. There are faint little speckles of light and colour. Just like an electronic camera. And like an electronic camera, you don't notice this during the day because regular lighting is bright enough to make these little ripples invisible. It's basically biological "noise".
You see all these weird fleeting images because the bits of your brain that try to interpret images are trying to make sense of this faint random junk.

Thursday was a day of crashing headache. It was a deep one, and the paracetamol just wasn't going to hit that brain blood barrier hard enough to make a dent in it.
At 11.30pm again, intense stomach pain. I find the timing weird, pretty much to the minute the same as Wednesday - was it my circadian rhythm or something? Let's just say the pain this time was more intense, and much longer lasting (about two hours) as my gut entirely emptied, and tied itself in knots in the process.
Finally I went to bed, and... nope, the trauma congo wasn't done yet. This one, actually, was weird as hell but quite pleasing.
When I closed my eyes... my God, how to describe...

Okay, imagine a kaleidoscope. Now make it massive and full vision.
And brightly coloured.
And three dimensional.

I probably should have panicked that I was losing my marbles or something, but to be honest I was much more impressed that my brain was able to render such an impressive thing out of darkness and freaky chemicals. I spent what felt like an hour watching the pretty light show before falling asleep.


Friday - mowing

I stumbled out of bed on Friday and had a tea. My arm was mildly sore, as was my gut, but otherwise I felt alright.

I had an easy morning, did some light weeding, and noticed that even though it chucked it down on Thursday, the harsh wind had mostly dried the grass off.

Marte didn't want to go. A lot of battery charging and using the starter, nothing.

I unclipped the base of the carburettor and tossed out the petrol in it (which looked normal). There was a spring loaded metal tube, so I wibbled it in its fittings on both sides. I put the carb back together and cranked. Marte started. I don't know if this is just luck or if what I did actually made any difference. Marte is so capricious that it would be very easy to end up with a cargo cult mentality of mower mechanics - like the way to get it started is to crank the engine seven times whilst standing on the right on my left leg and balancing a lightbulb on my right shoe....
(actually, given how Marte is, that could well work! ☺)

I did a GPS trace of the mowing, but it was surprisingly inaccurate given that my phone claims to be able to receive GPS, Glonass, and the other one. I'd say "accurate to within about fifteen metres" which isn't so bad if you're trying to find a shop in an unknown city, but it's a bit odd when you're mowing a neighbour's field having ploughed through trees...
I'm not going to show you the GPS trace. I'd need to boot the PC to paste the map bits together and we're on thunderstorm warning so I'll leave it.
I can, however, give you some stats. The entire job (mowing everything) meant Marte trundled 4.8km. The maximum speed was 5.93kph (that'll be fourth gear on the driveway between areas). The average speed was 3.3kph. I did the outer ring in first gear (crawling) because the grass was deep. The rest was either second or third gear depending upon how bumpy the land was (I don't want to give that wonky axle too much of a shock). The entire job took about an hour and a half, which was helped by being able to do the smoother bits in third gear.

Marte was thirsty today, the job must have taken four or five litres of fuel. Still, with wonky wheels she munched her way through the grass leaving a haze of grass dust floating in the air.

There's just something pleasing about a nicely mown lawn, isn't there? It's like "somebody lives here".

Meadows of heaven?
Meadows of heaven?



I decided that since two days of the last week were lost in vaccination side effects (and no, I do not regret having it done), I really needed a comfort burger. Okay, granted, that's stretching things a little, but it's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. ☺

So... leave at ten and get it all done to be at the burgers for noon.

Would be good if I had slept well. I didn't. This isn't a side effect, this is just normal. Some nights I just wake a dozen times.

But I was out by quarter to eleven. To find this.

A little inconvenience
A little inconvenience.

Well, that will have been the extremely heavy rain that fell around 8am (guess who was out feeding the cats when that arrived!).
I got my gardening gloves and the saw and started chopping the tree. Luckily I wasn't running to any particular schedule. I wasn't going to work or anything.
It took me twenty minutes to clear. So I cranked up Delain's "Legions of the Lost" (Charlotte has a very interesting accent) and headed towards Châteaubriant.

There was a lot more traffic than normal. I wonder if this is one of the bison futé weekends. Yes, that means "clever bison" and it's a traffic warning system for when there are jams and tailbacks because of holiday makers. There is a weekend at the end of July or beginning of August when it is absolute chaos on the roads as all the July holidaymakers are heading home, and the August ones are heading out, and it ends up with gridlock - especially around the Bouchons du Rhône area. Well, that's not the correct name of the place, but it's a pretty good description of what happens.

My first stop was Lidl. I picked up a fake stone solar light for the lawn.

It means - don't fall in the hole dumbass
It means: don't fall in the hole, dumbass!

I also got a screw/socket set that I have left in Caoimhe's boot. Just in case.

Some useful tools
Some useful tools.

They're not heavy duty car fixing tools, but really anything that needs that kind of equipment is better left in the hands of somebody who knows that they are doing. This is for minor stuff, like fixing a loose wiper or whathaveyou.
And, yes, spare drive belt. Just in case.

Then to the Leclerc for some shopping. When getting the chilled meals, I noticed one of the young shop girls (the summer job girls) watching me as I beeped something, counted to eight (five felt too short), beeped the next one, and so on.
Well, the theory hasn't been proven, but it hasn't been disproven either. Because upon handing over my scanner, I was told "encaissement". That means "pay and go", the system didn't want to check my purchases.

And then... to Burger King. Oh hell yes!
There was a queue. I couldn't pretend not to notice as somebody was at the exit pointing people to the correct way in.
Only three families in front. When it was my turn blah-blah-blah-blah... okay, wait, I have no idea what you just said, but I'm just going to get a burger and take it home.

She then patiently and slowly explained to me that the passe sanitaire would be necessary as of Monday. And right now I must scan the QR code on the wall using the TousAntiCovid app, and if I don't have the app, fill out the register on the table here. However as I'm not eating in, I don't need to do any of that, just make my order at the terminal and then wait up by the counter for my meal to be prepared.

Okay, I got all of that. But, um, is she paid by the word or something? I thanked her, and ordered a large Double Whopper and a large Double Steakhouse. I added pickles, removed tomatoes (except the Whopper, oops), and didn't maxi-out anything. It was prepared pretty quickly given that the place was packed. I resisted the temptation to drive past the "competition" (used in the loosest possible sense) to see how many cobwebs I could spot.

Coming home, with the mood whiplash of Nightwish and Polly Scattergood back to back on my random selection, I ignored the agitated traffic and rummaged in the food bag (without looking, eyes on the road!) to find the onion rings. They did not survive the journey.

Back home, amusingly serenaded by Apocalytica's "Dead Man's Eyes" (that spends the last third of the song saying "I'm coming home..."). Fridge stuff away, and then a random grab in the burger bag and...

Double Whopper
Double Whopper.
It's the Whopper. And indeed it was. I found that I didn't even need to bother to maxi this. It, on its own, was more than enough. The Steakhouse is in the fridge. I'll nuke it tomorrow for lunch. Total bill, €22. Or a two euro coin and two holiday cheques. I am halfway through the booklet, I have five cheques left.

The only downside (if you can call it that) is that I have a litre of sort-of-fake cherry coke to drink. I'd sit outside but it's sunny/rainy/windy (pick'n'mix) so I'm inside writing this. And... there we go. Finished the drinks.
Now, the only question that remains - will I wet myself before or after the sugar high kicks in? 😂



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David Pilling, 8th August 2021, 13:00
Where your Marte start problems due to flooding, too much petrol, usual cure is start without choke, or wait for petrol to evaporate. 
David Pilling, 8th August 2021, 16:23
Since covid parcel delivery has changed. Before there was a lot of making you sign for stuff, and if you were not in they'd take it to a neighbour. Since, they drop it and run. They're not always happy but that's what they do eventually. As long as they know you're there, they are completely happy. 
It would be surprising if there were not fake vaccine passports available. What stops simple copies working - check location, or frequency of checking. This is a bit like what stops your password for an online service working for other people. 
Season tickets on the railways - used to have a secret code that identified the owner as Male or Female, which stopped some sharing of them. 
At the recent Euro football there were fake tickets - imagine with all the new tech. 
Anyway don't demo against vaccine passports just fake them. 
Rick, 8th August 2021, 23:56
I wondered about the faking. The paper says because of confidentiality, it is suggested that you fold this paper to only show the QR code. 
So if the code is the only thing visible, unless the result of the lookup can give some basic information (like male, 40s) then what's to stop me just photocopying it and giving it to somebody else? 
Well, okay, there's probably a fine of a billion euros and two eternities in jail if you get caught, since it'll be your identity on the QR code; but people fake passports and that carries heavy penalties, so I can imagine people will be faking these. 
Rick, 9th August 2021, 00:03
The whole idea of "drop it with a neighbour" should only happen if the recipient specifically demands it. 
Otherwise, it's assuming that one gets on with their neighbours, or even knows them, and that said neighbour is happy to receive your parcel (potential contaminant) from the delivery person (potential contaminant) and then to give it to you (potential contaminant). 
Me? I'd be extremely annoyed if my post was dropped off at a neighbour. I don't know any of them, they're none too close, which means where the heck would it have actually ended up? 
Luckily I live in the middle of nowhere so generally things get left. Things that are too big get put in the shed (there's a notice attached to the mailbox specifying this). 
The only times things aren't left is government stuff that MUST be signed for, and various jobsworths of a certain national parcel company that don't want to leave something, and don't tend to even bother to leave the bit of paper to say they have been (not to mention sometimes reporting to Amazon that they tried to deliver a parcel at 6am that arrived in Rennes twenty minutes beforehand - utter balls).
Rick, 9th August 2021, 00:10
On the subject of this certain parcel company, I recently had to get in touch with Amazon because the tracking said "customer requested change of delivery location". 
Customer most certainly did not. 
So I wanted to be sure it was actually going to arrive. Amazon called me literally thirty seconds after I sent the message. With me on the line, she got in touch with parcel company who were absolutely adamant that the customer requested a change of delivery location. But they were not going to say where, only that it had been delivered to the correct place. 
A rather confused sounding Amazon woman (calling from London, why not speak to me in English?) assured me that the parcel was in my letterbox. 
It was. 
Turns out that some twit in pick and pack had shoved the sticky label into until printer wrongly and about an inch was missing from the left hand side. So, actually, congratulations to the parcel company for figuring out half an address (with an unreadable barcode). That'll be why the change of address, to actually get it sent somewhere. 
But... Customer requested change of delivery address? Hmm... 
Zerosquare, 9th August 2021, 00:45
The QR code on the EU COVID certificate actually *does* contain all the info that's needed to check you've been vaccinated ; it doesn't rely on querying an external database. Technical details here: 
It also includes a digital signature generated using a governmental electronic certificate, so if it's implemented properly, counterfeiting is very difficult. 
It appears to be working as intended, since several health workers have already been arrested for giving out certificates without actually doing the injections ; there would be no point doing that if certificates could be easily faked.
Zerosquare, 9th August 2021, 00:49
And to answer your question about why you can't borrow someone's else certificate: the QR code does contain your name and date of birth. Whoever checks your certificate is supposed to ask you for a piece of ID, and check that it matches what shows up on their screen. (Whether they actually bother doing that is another matter.)
Rick, 9th August 2021, 08:48
Thanks for the clarification, Zerosquare. It's good to know it is more than just a token. The site that I found was clearly...not good. ;-) 
The one you linked to is a great examination of the contents of the encoded data. Thank you for that. 
[though, it does seem weird that the paper says to present only the code because of confidentiality, if the code itself says the same as the paper!] 
It also clears up why faking or photocopying won't work...not that that will stop people from trying.
David Pilling, 9th August 2021, 22:43
I don't want to give you money making ideas, but why not, as with driving tests, get someone to take the shot for you. It's a win-win, they get an extra dose, doing important scientific research. 
Hang around the Vax centre, with a "for hire" sign. 
With parcels, as I said, it has changed for Covid, due to the contamination thing. But back in the old days it was all taking stuff in for neighbours - but they would always tell you, and then, stick a card in the recipients house saying where they had left the parcel. 
Sometimes, knowing what was coming, I would look a bit too keen to take in someone's parcel. Anyway they always trusted me in the end. 
As to the ones who are not friends, many times had to explain to parcel delivery person, no problem they took them elsewhere. 
The tales from Wembley, Euros and all that were interesting. Seemingly if your ticket is not valid you just bribe the person on the gate, or two of you squeeze through at a time (like on the tube they said). Or maybe you just make it clear you will be violent "I've shown you my QR code, now let me in, or else". 
People are the weak link in any security system. Gives the lie to that idea they were injecting microchips. 
Looked a lot of fun at the Euros - Prince George will have learnt a lot on the way to the match - like why his Police motor cycle outriders ignored 1000s of criminal acts taking place along the route. 

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