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R.I.P Zac

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Zac died this morning. We think he may have had a stroke in the night. When we found him in the morning he was very slow and unsteady and had lost his co-ordination. He would hobble around unsteadily, and when he picked up food he couldn't get it to his mouth.

We don't know how old he was because when we obtained him last year he was already fully grown. He may have been of indeterminate gender and had a bit of a hunch back but he was lovely and friendly. When we first got him he was very timid and would run away from us if we looked into the cage. After a few months he became much more calm and would readily walk onto our hands if we reached into the cage.

Restoring files from Anchovies

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

We had an email sent round the office in work, describing the disk structure and file archiving procedure. It included instructions for archiving files and also told us who was responsible for 'restoring files from anchovies'. I hope that was a typing error and they haven't invented some fish based storage system.

New Hamster

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

We collected a new hamster yesterday, from a couple in Manchester who were being forced to get rid of their hamsters. Their landlord described them as 'vermin' and insisted they moved them out or risk eviction.

We selected a male Roborovski called Psyche, and he's a bit of a monster. 3 or 4 times the size of a standard robo, closer in size to the Winter Whites. He's really cute and friendly though.
Psyche, the giant dwarf

Birmingham Nature Centre

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

Located a couple of miles from the city centre, this is a small zoo next to Cannon Hill Park. They had a good range of animals, including the obligatory Lemurs, a cute selection of rodents (including the Striped Mice pictured below), and their latest star exhibits - some Red Pandas (which kept themselves hidden while we were there).
Striped Mice Fallow Deer

Psoriasis at Psainsburys

Story location: Home / Blog /

We were leaving Sainsburys yesterday when someone stopped me and started talking about Psoriasis. It wasn't a completely random event because I have suffered from it on my scalp for a couple of years and it's visible at the top of my forehead. He had suffered from it for several years and wanted to pass on some advice. He told me to avoid anything with red berries in it, and that included red wine. He also suggested the original Head & Shoulders 'all-in-one' shampoo and conditioner rather than the coal tar shampoos which are usually recommended for the condition.

We chatted for a few minutes, then thanked him and left the shop. It shouldn't be too difficult to follow his advice. It certainly won't cost much when the only thing we need to buy is a standard off the shelf shampoo. Some of his other suggestions, such as avoid processed food and additives, we do anyway.

We were back in the supermarket tonight. We realised that the definition of red berries was a bit ambiguous. It might mean:

  • Red Grapes (and by extension, raisins)
  • Strawberries and raspberries
  • darker berries such as blackcurrants
  • possibly even tomatoes

We had to buy some more squash because the ever-so-tasty Vimto and the blackcurrant drink in the house might be unsuitable. We had to buy apricot jam because the strawberry jam in the fridge might count. I had to put the malt loaf back on the shelf because of the raisins. I won't be able to drink the purple grape juice in the fridge.

I'll give it a few months and see if it improves.

Llid y Bledren Dymchwelyd (Welsh Bladder Trouble)

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

When I was publicity officer for one of the university societies in Aberystwyth, everything had to be bilingual and we had to get all emails and publicity materials translated into welsh. I was warned not to use any machine translators on the Internet. This is a good reason why you shouldn't:

Cyclists have been baffled by a new road sign which warns: "Your bladder disease has returned."
The sign - in Welsh - was meant to tell them to dismount at roadworks. But council chiefs made an error using an online translator and confused the words 'cyclists' and 'cystitis'. Amended signs are now being put up as soon as possible in Penarth, near Cardiff.
Welsh speaking cyclist Matt Lloyd, 27, said: "I thought someone was having a laugh. I've never even had a bladder disease."

I read this in the Metro newspaper on the train this morning but the story was also covered on the BBC News website, where they have a picture of the sign as well.

Almond Snickers

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

A couple of weeks ago I bought a packet of 'Almond Snickers' from the 99p shop in Coventry. I ate one today for my afternoon break and had a quick look at the pack. It claimed May contain peanuts and Tree Nuts. I'd not seen that particular warning before - the snickers were made in Australia so it might be a pecular antipodean warning. But as they were almond flavour surely it should read May contain peanuts but should definitely contain at least some Tree Nuts.

The Almond Snickers were really tasty but I've still not forgiven Mars/Masterfoods for changing the name from 'Marathon' here in the UK.

I did a quick search on Marathon Snickers to try to find out when the name changed. Instead I discovered that Marathon is a type of energy bar sold in the USA under the Snickers brand! The cheek of it. They change the name then steal it from us.

Hamster Sushi

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Not made out of hamsters. Not even made for hamsters. These are actually 'Trill Toppers', made out of assorted seeds with a flavoured centre. There was nothing in the ingredients which would make them unsuitable for hamsters so we thought they would make a nice treat for them.


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Click on the thumbnail to view the image


Story location: Home / food_and_drink /

There seem to be two types of blackberry growing around here. The first to ripen has fewer clusters of larger berries. The other is the more familiar type with more plentiful fruit, with tighter clusters of berries.

The blackberries within the city also seem to be ripening earlier than the ones out in the countryside. The latter type are already ripe in the nearby park but are still mostly green further afield.

two types of blackberry
On the left, the more common later ripening fruit with smaller berries. On the right, the less common version with larger berries.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2

Story location: Home / Blog / films /

If it wasn't for Orange Wednesday I don't think we'd ever go to the cinema. At £6 each to watch a film, I think we'd wait for the DVD to come out either to buy or rent. Watching a film for half price is always good and waiting until it's been out for a while, so the cinama is half empty and you get a choice of seats is fine as well.

I didn't expect the film to be so long, at 2½ hours. It didn't feel so long and never got boring. Johnny Depp's performance as Captain Jack seemed more camp than I remember from the first film. I'm sure there was a lot more mincing this time around. A good film, well worth watching.

Friendly Cat

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We seem to have been befriended by a local cat. This actually started about a month after we moved into the house but today she decided she really wanted to get into the house and not leave.

She was waiting outside the house when I was leaving for work and as soon as I opened the door, she ran in. I followed her upstairs and carried her out. I went back into the house to get my bag and keys but as soon as I opened the door again she was back in.

For some reason the cat seems to really like us. If she sees us from the other end of the street she'll rush up to us. She often sits on the bins outside our house, trying to attract our attention. Ocasionally when I'm walking to work she will lie down on the pavement in front of me and roll around, as if she's trying to stop me going any further.

Our small cat friend Our small cat friend

Alysia Summer Roborovski

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

We have finally decided on a name for our new hamster: Alysia Summer Roborovsky. Alysia from the greek name meaning posessive. Summer was the original owners name for her, which we used until we could decide on a new name. Roborovski is the breed of hamster. !!-- more -->


Alysia in a tube

We are trying to introduce her to Zac and Gel by taking them out to play together and also by having them in a 'split cage'. This has Zac and Gel in one side and Alysia in the other, with a wire mesh between them. This allows them to get used to each other's smell, which should hopefully reduce the chance of fighting when they are put together.
Hamster cage with wire divide

Reggie, eating a peanut.

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

At first he tried to pouch the peanut but it got stuck and he couldn't get it out again. Emma had to help him by gently massaging his cheek pouches until it started to come out. He then decided to eat it properly.

Reggie eating a peanut

Reggie eating a peanut

Aroma, Northampton.

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

We were in the area visiting a couple of hamster-owning friends of ours and they suggested we go out to a chinese restaurant. They are big fans of Wing Wah whenever they are in Coventry so they wanted to take us to their local equivalent.

The food was very good - an all you can eat buffet with a wide selection available. Plenty of choice of meat, fish, vegetables, rice and noodles. I managed to try one of almost everything and it was all good. They also had a tepanyaki area where you could choose the food and have it cooked for you. Unlike Wing Wah, the chef doesn't put on a performance but just cooks the food plain and simple. It was well cooked though next time I'll forgo the chilli sauce - it was a bit too hot and overpowered the rest of the flavours.

Ira the Hamster 2004-2006

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Ira died yesterday. He was around 20 months old, possibly a couple of months older but we don't know how old he was when we bought him. He's buried in the back garden next to his brother Uri, who died last year.

We took him to the vets last wednesday because Emma found him with his leg trapped in the cage and thought it might be broken. He appeared to be in pain and had difficulty walking. The vet gave him a tiny shot of painkiller and he perked up and was soon walking about, so it must only have been injured.
We removed the wheels from the cage and blocked off the upstairs of the 'hamster castle' to minimise any chances of him hurting himself. We waited until he seemed ok for a couple of days before putting the wheels back in. He must have built up huge reserves of energy because he was running around much more than normal.

We thought he had made a full recovery but the ordeal may have put too much stress on him.

Although Uri and Ira were both girls, it is quite difficult to sex roborovski hamsters, especially if you only have a picture or diagram for comparison. Although we have known for quite a while that they were actually female we had got into the habit of calling them 'he'.

How soon we forget. . .

Story location: Home / Blog /

. . . about the hot weather. After a heatwave which lasted about a month with almost completely clear skies and temperatures regularly into the 30°s, the weather broke over the weekend and we've been having grey cloudy days with either drizzle or downpours.

And if that wasn't enough, the rain has started to come in through the kitchen wall again.

The Corpse Bride

Story location: Home / Blog / films /

Tim Burton has to be one of the more original filmmakers working today. I can't think of anyone else who has produced such a varied output of both live action and animated films. The Corpse Bride is a very good film, although I was surprised to see John Prescott have a role as the prospective Father-in-Law.

Not John Prescott John Prescott
John Prescott
Finis Everglot