Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Summary:Psychotic birds, crumbling software, arrogant telcos and upgrades that never go as planned? Looks like business as usual.

Monday 29/5/2006

It might be a bank holiday where you are, but it's not in Sweden. I've spent the past two weeks holed up in a lightly converted chicken shed some 100km south-west of Stockholm, enjoying the absence of mobile phone signals and any form of connectivity other than the World Service on shortwave. Perfect conditions for putting the grasshopper mind out to graze and actually concentrating on a project. There are times when you really don't need the deadly distractions of Google, IM and blogs written by those more clever and interesting than oneself.

However, technology still has a way of intruding. I work on the first floor, at a desk (actually an upended crate) by a window which looks out onto a veranda and the verdant loveliness beyond. While I could use the laptop for music, it's far more satisfactory to light along the iPod and portable speaker set. These, I prop up on a couple of bricks behind the computer, just in front of the window.

And so to work. After a couple of days of tapping, I have a visitor, a neat little monochrome wagtail, black top, white face, black bib, which perches on the veranda handrail and peers in at me. There's no shortage of wildlife in the Swedish countryside — much of it delicious — so I think nothing of it. It flies away.

Then it's back. It seems somewhat put out by my presence, and starts to put on a display — throat puffed out, head bent back, tail up, beak open. I'm not sure whether it's trying to scare me off or asking me to sleep with it — shades of PR parties of the past — but it's entertaining enough. Then it flies straight at the window, bounces off, perches on the sill and starts to hammer away at the glass with its beak.

Blimey. Is this some editor from a past life, reincarnated and angry for copy? I check for a nest in the shed, but find no proof of trespass. And while I have had some success with the birds in the past, I hardly feel a fit match for a wagtail no bigger than half a venison sandwich.

The show repeats itself daily. In fact, I am often woken up after a long night's bashing by the sounds of my new friend attempting to muscle his way in through the glass through beak power alone. Enough is enough — but what's causing it?

Eventually, I hit on a ruse. I go outside onto the veranda and try and see what the bird would see. At first, nothing suggests itself. And then I see it. My iPod speaker system is white — of course — but I've stuck something on the back, a vinyl "Charles Darwin Has A Posse" sticker, which sports an iconic picture of the man himself in black hat, white face and beard, and black coat. To humans, he appears to be the epitome of Victorian revolutionary enlightement — but to the wagtail he looks like another wagtail.

Which leaves the main question open — is this an Intelligently Designed wagtail, specially created by mysterious inventors to attack Darwin, or is this evolution at work?

Topics: Tech Industry


Rupert has worked at ZDNet UK, IT Week, PC Magazine, Computer Life, Mac User, Alfa Systems, Amstrad, Sinclair, Micronet 800, Marconi Space and Defence Systems, and a dodgy TV repair shop in the back streets of Plymouth. He can still swap out a gassy PL509 with the best of 'em. If you want to promote your company or product, fine -- but pl... Full Bio

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