Monday, 23 August 2021

22nd August 2021 NYT Crossword

 I completely failed to do both the Saturday and the Sunday crossword puzzles on their designated days this week, but thankfully due to the joys of living in the future, I was able to preserve my crossword solving streak on the NYT app, something that I have become suprisingly attached to. All things must end, and this number going up is surely something that will come to an end soon, but for the moment I'm enjoying keeping it going, even with puzzles like this one, which took an age for me to complete.



Friday, 20 August 2021

The Confidence of Hades

This week has been a bit of a write-off, blogwise, which is a bit of a pity because as far as the traditional Blaugust focuses of the week goes, 'Developer Appreciation Week' is the one that I actually feel like I have a little something to say about, for once.


It won't come as a surprise that along with pretty much everyone else in the world and the judging panels of something like fifty Game of the Year awards, I'm a big fan of Supergiant Games' Hades. It's a game that I finally got around to playing just a couple of months ago and that has been in very heavy rotation here at Leaflocker HQ ever since, in a period when I really haven't had the time to spend on videogames, a clear marker both of just how good it is, and also my persistent lack of an adequate dose of self-control. Hades does a great job of making me feel both clever and powerful as your progress through the underworld, which is no mean feat when we're talking about me (not the finest gamer in the land), so I add my voice of recommendation to the choir. Play it.

Apart from the the main attraction of the gameplay loop itself, there's a number of aspects of the design of the game that I wanted to touch on today that I think really speak to the confidence of Supergiant as a developer.


First, there's the seamless inclusion of the little things that are just expected in game with modern sensibilities. The whole game is set around the rivers of the underworld, so of course you can pause in your relentless killing spree to stop and do some fishing (complete with terribly fishy puns). Heck, the game wants you to, it will even pause the relentless timer to allow you to do so. And in a world where it's important for those launch-day metrics to be able to satisfy @canyoupetthedog, not only can you pat the terrifying hellbeast Cerberus, despite him being set-up as the penultimate boss of the game you give him treats instead of fighting him, because who could possibly want to fight such a good doggo? And of course, there's the romance subplots, Supergiant were happy enough with the core game that they had the time and the inclination to add a little of something for everyone, that just oozes confidence in what you're making.


Then there's the confidence of saying "yes, you're going to have to play this dozens of times to see all the story". That's pretty much a requirement of the roguelike genre, but the ability to ask the player to see the game through to the end over and over, seeing the same content again and again, and rely on the small changes of the systems between play-throughs to keep it interesting, and to double down by throwing in little jokes about it as you make them start again, that's true confidence. And players have definitely reponded. A quick look at the Steam Achievement stats as they sit now show that almost 50% of players finished the game once, 24% finish the story, and 7% reach the epilogue. Given that seeing the epilogue took me over 70 runs, those are excellent retention rates. Compare that to something with a similar campaign length, something like FTL, where only 17% of players ever defeat the boss on easy difficulty, and you'll see just how impressive those numbers are.


And finally, in my favourite example of showing confidence in your gameplay, there's the excellent way that Supergiant didn't tie the achievements in the game to the end of the things to do in the game. Now I love achievements and I love ticking them off, but I greatly enjoy that there's still a whole heap more for me to explore and discover in the game well after I ticked off "100%" according to Steam. The hardest Steam Achievement, the one for finishing the game with the Pact of Punishment set to level 16, is explicitly the second of three in-game bragging prizes. You can tick off all the achievements without perfecting your bonds with every character, without completing every fated path, without unlocking all the cosmetics, and without engaging at all with the Resource Director, the part of the game that the game itself explicitly tells the player is just there for nutters. Supergiant is happy to give you that coveted Platinum trophy, secure in the knowledge that you'll be back to find what you've missed in the game so far, just because the game feels so darn good. And they're right, almost 40 plays after I ticked off my last achievements, I'm still diving back into the depths of hells, for just one...more...room.

That's confidence.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Blaugust 2021 Half Time Show

It's the 17th of August, and that means that we've passed the half-way point of the annual blogging festival that is Blaugust, so it's time to have a quick review of how it's all going so far.

When I hit the little orange Publish button over of the right hard side of my screen here, I'll have posted twelve times over the first seventeen days of August. That does seem a long way behind aim of one post a day required to win the coveted Rainbow Diamond award. I long ago stopped worrying too much about failing to reach that dizzying height, but as remote as it seems right now, it's not completely out of the realms of possibility until we reach the blog-event horizon of requiring two posts a day, so by that metric, I've still got plenty of time to claw it back.

There's two major factors that reduce the likelihood of reaching that elusive target. One is the fact that we've just returned to the country, so between long-overdue admin and catching up with friends and family that we haven't seen for the last few years there are quite a few demands on our time other than sitting down at the keyboard.

The second is a lack of planned posts. In a usual Blaugust, I'd have a day-by-day plan of regular features giving my a structure for the month, but this time around I've been flying by the seat of my pants, and apart from the ongoing In My Humble Opinion series, the occasional crossword recording, and a couple of drafts that I started earlier in the month and will likely abandon, the future is all looking very unknown. Thus, I have a little request, if there's something you'd like to see me tackle on the blog, put in a request in the comments (or your preferring Owl-contacting method) and we'll see what we can do.

Even if we don't make it to 31 posts, we're on track for a pretty good Blaugust festival post-wise when we compare this year to previous ones:

Blaugust 2014: 34 posts
Blaugust 2015: 31 posts
Blaugust 2016: 31 posts
Blaugust 2011: 27 posts
Blaugust 2019: 18 posts
Blapril 2020: 18 posts
Blaugust 2018: 15 posts
Blaugust 2021: 12 posts*
Blaugust 2017: 9 posts
Blaugust 2012: 8 posts
Blaugust 2013: 3 posts

Even if I can just keep up with the current two-posts-every-three-day schedule, then we're still on track for the fifth-most active Blaugust since festivities began and the best since 2016, and I absolutely refuse to look further into the stats to find out how many of those years that fell by the wayside started strong before burning out early in the month. 

Talk to you tomorrow!

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Howard Springs Quarantine Menu Review

Meals here at the Center for National Resilience are delivered once a day, somewhere between 4 and 6pm, and consist of a package of a hot dinner (and a cold dessert), along with cold breakfast and lunch that can be stored in your cabin fridge. There's no choice, you get what you're given (subject to dietary needs), and if you don't want it when it arrives the only alternative is to let is get cold, but it's not all bad news. There are no repeats for any meal all week, which means that even if one of the meals isn't your cup of tea, at least you know you don't have to have it again any time soon, and the variety of the menu is an enormous positive in a world where every day is much like any other day. 

The menu is (roughly) repeated every week, so as we go through these meals for a second time I thought a little food review might be in order. I'm no connoisseur , being more of the "I see, I eat" disposition, and my slightly strange dietary needs might men that this likely isn't a particularly useful guide for anyone else, but hopefully it gives folks who come to stay here a bit of an idea of what to expect. It doesn't seem like quarantine is going away any time soon, after all.

Monday

I'm not really a granola guy, preferring plain museli for my breakfasts, but when the accompanying liquid is stewed fruit rather than milk, you don't really have a choice but to embrace the whole sweetness vibe and just run with it. It makes for a big ole hit of the sugars, but it's hard to go too wrong with stone fruit, the mix of crunchy granola bits and squishy fruit works well, and the little accompanying croissant makes for a nice palate cleanser.

The Aussie Tuna Salad is one of the less cohesive meals on the menu, being a general selection of veggies, potato salad, corn on the cog, a hard boiled egg, and also a tin of tuna. It's not really a meal that goes together all that well (I certainly wouldn't recommend the potato/tuna combo), but it's fresh and munchable over the course of the afternoon, and if you're still suffering jetlag or adapting to the weather that's no bad thing.

When we had this as our first meal here, fresh off twenty-something hours in transit, I have to say that I expected the worst. As we found out over the course of our stay, lots of meals can be cooked en-masse and delivered none the worse for wear in a plastic container, but a chicken parmigiana isn't really one of them. The schnitzel gets all sweaty instead of having a nice crispiness to it, and generally this was all the low-points of the pub schnitzel that many of the highs, even though you can tell that it was probably delicious when it was first cooked. Still, there's a lot of it, and sometimes that's what you need.

Dessert in our first week was a rather scrumptious key lime pie, but this week it was replaced with a cupcake celebrating our returning olympians. Cupcakes are almost always underwhelming (especially when compared to a key lime pie), and this butter-icing flavoured example was either par for the course of a little below. Not the best day on the menu, this one.

Tuesday

I have this one down in my notes as 'the weird one'. Tuesday breakfast is a little pot of mostly mushrooms, along with a little egg and some spinach, which is all very fresh and all, but as a person who somehow never acquired a taste for mushrooms, it's all a little overwhelming. This week I learned from last time and decanted the mushrooms when I first got them, so that they didn't diffuse their taste over the whole meal, and that made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable. Vegetables for breakfast is something I could get used to, I think.

Whereas yesterdays salad felt like a bunch of things thrown together that just don't go, today's ploughman's lunch is much the same sort of idea, but just works a whole lot better. The highlights are a little slice of camembert and a piece of turkey roll, and any small disgruntlement I might have felt over breakfast were soon forgotten. Mrs. Owl, whose pregnancy means that she didn't get either the soft cheese or the cold meat, but a little less favourable about hers, but we both went away satisfied and generally sated.

And then came the dinner I'd been secretly hoping for as soon as I knew we were coming to Howard Springs, the barramundi, because an eleven-year-old Owl drove his parents absolutely mad ordering barramundi anywhere and everywhere we went across the Northern Territory back in the dim dark past. While my dreams had it crumbed or at least battered, this version with a fragrant sauce and rice was a good move given the plastic container, and abolutely lived up to expectations. The little cheesecake for afters was particularly delicious, too.

Wednesday

Todays breakfast saw a return of the granola, this time with a thick, creamy yoghurt instead of stewed fruit. I liked this one better. It was also accompanied with a couple of hash browns, which are strongly in the 'this is supposed to be a hot food' category, but were actually pretty nice alongside a decent cup of tea. Lunch was a lamb and chutney wrap, which was fine and all, but probably the least memorable of the lunches. I'm just saying it could have had a little falafel, that's all.

The dinner for the people with normal digestive systems was an extremely lovely-smelling Butter Chicken and rice, but as a person who explodes in contact with chilies, I got this risotto-stuffed capsicum, which was decidedly less aromatic. The risotto and the capsicum are both pretty nice and the proportions of each are just about right, (although filling the whole container makes for a very large meal indeed), though the meal is brought down by the addition of a tomato sauce that is fine in its own right (pretty sure it's the same one from the parma) but doesn't really gel with the rest of the dish. This week's risotto had a lot less mushroom that last week's version, and given my relationship with mushrooms as described above, I greatly appreciated the tweak.

Dessert was the citrus tart that I missed out on Monday, so that's a win. The balance of crust and lemony goodness and a touch of cream is just right without being too sweet, which is no small feat. Mrs Owl got the same thing but with a layer of meringue on it for some reason, which she said threw the whole thing off, so I think I won this round.

Thursday

Breakfast quiche continues to be the most delicious of the breakfast options, and also substantially more filling than some of them, which is a useful feature when it's typically 16 hours since ones last meal. I got yoghurt as a side this week as opposed to last week's utterly inedible jelly, so that's a nice little bonus. 

Quinoa salad for lunch, which is a nice way of saying that a bunch of vegetables and a chicken drumstick have been added to a pile of quinoa. All of the parts are nice enough, but in what is becoming a bit of a theme of the B-tier lunches, they don't really go together to make a meal in any particular way. I learned from last week and didn't completely drown it in the Japanese dressing, which was a definite improvement.

The grown-ups had what I'm assured was a rather excellent (though bitey) Lamb Korma, but I had a Five Spice Chicken with brocolli mash that was a dramatic improvement on the rather plain roast chicken and rice from last week; I'm rather enjoying the extra little bit of variance in the dietary needs meals compared to what the rest of the crowds are getting week after week. The brocolli/cheese blend was an excellent side to the chicken, so no lunchtime problems here. Could have done with a little more, so I guess I'll fill up on fruit and this delightful little cheesecake.

Friday

It's the strange breakfast! Not to be confused with the weird breakfast. I love the strange breakfast!  Chia berry goopy thing takes a little bit of getting used to, but it is both delicious and surprisingly satisfying. Hoorah for this superfood that I otherwise would only encounter in the pages of my crossword, or maybe I'm confusing it with ACAI. Either way, delightfully scrummy.

For lunch I had a duck and crispy bean sprout bowl topped of with a mild mustard dressing for a little extra oomph, another example of a salad that is definitely meant to go together and really hits the spot, though I suspect the normal version also comes with chilies (I didn't miss them!). The same can't be said for Mrs. Owl's pregnancy-friendly version, which without the beansprouts or the duck was apparently a little underwhelming. I have no idea how bean sprouts made the list of all the things they say you're not supposed to feed pregnant people, but apparently that's a thing, because they were consistently substituted. 

For dinner, steamed atlantic salmon, which in my opinion narrowly beat out the barra (sorry, madam barramundi, I still love you best, I promise). A creamy dill and caper sauce that I was very happy to slurp the last of, some roast potatoes...understated but delicious. The caramel slice afterwards was many things but definitely not understated. Fine with a cuppa and would have done well accompanied by a big ole dollop of cream, but a little over the top all by itself.

Saturday

None of the egg meals have been a disappointment, and that streak was not broken by the scrambled egg and sun-dried tomato roll for breakfast this morning. Definitely improved by leaving it to warm up a little rather than straight out of the fridge (especially since I've turned my fridge right up in the vain hope of freezing some icypoles), but tasty either way, and definitely a lot better thing to put in my mouth than covid swab number five earlier on the morning, which I did not enjoy waking up for at all.

The prize for best lunch of the week was easily taken out by the Chicken Campanelle Salad, a lovely pasta salad with a creamy mayonnaise sauce, with perfectly balanced little splashes of fruitiness (apples and cranberries) and crunchiness (capsicum and celery). It doesn't look like much, but mhmm-hmm, yes please.

Despite featuring Hokkien noodles, normally a automatic win for me, the Chicken Stir Fry that I got instead of the rather incredible smelling prawn laksa that the chili-tolerant were delivered left a little bit to be desired, but it did have the added bonus of not making my glands swell up and try and choke me, so I suppose beggars can't be choosers. Mrs. Owl's laksa had a bit of an accident on delivered and laksa kinda went all over the place, so we hope that the cleaning protocol after we leave will be able to take care of that. The fruity nutty fruit an nut cake was pretty delicious, too.

Sunday

Cute little frittata triangles for breakfast today. They taste like a perfectly serviceable frittata, but they didn't feel like a whole lot, so even after filling up on fruit (oh my word I am drowing in kiwis) we started lunch a little early. Lunch was a Korean Chicken Bowl - which mostly consisted of couscous mixed with what I think was pickled beetroot. The cold chicken has become another old and reliable friend; maybe it's not all that exciting, flavourwise, but I don't think any of it was ever dry, which is quite an achievement.

They saved the best dinner for last, however, because the braised lamb shank is really top-notch. The lamb falls off the bone (another example of a meaty meat that is not hurt at all by sitting in a plastic tub), the sauce is rich but not too much, and the lack of mashed potato for the rest of the week makes mashed potato feel rich and exciting. Very much the sort of meal that makes me feel sorry for the vegetarians, and a very satisfying last hot meal to finish up on. With a little chocolate torte, too (I tell you want, the person you makes the little tart cases must be making a mint).

-

And that's it. We're back to Monday's breakfast tomorrow morning before we fly out, but for all intents and purposes, we're done here, and while being stuck in the same room all fortnight has gotten pretty old, I think it's fair to say that the food has been a highlight the whole time. It can't be easy cooking for this many people day in and day out, nor to provide interesting meals given the constraints of the quarantine situation, but the catering team has kicked it out of the park. I suspect I'll be missing some of these lunches when I have to fend for myself again out there in the big bad world.

Farewell, Howard Springs, thanks for everything. Let us meet again in happier times one day soon.

Saturday, 14 August 2021

14th August 2021 NYT Crossword

The crossword streak continues, this time with this rather delightful Saturday puzzle by Nam Jin Yoon.


This whole puzzle was an absolute blast, tough but fair and just generally zippy all round. I am very happy after solving it, even if there were a couple of gimmes that I really should have gotten earlier that I did. Tell me, friends, was this one of those puzzles that had you screaming at your screen?

My audio quality continues to be a little dodgy, a product of the rather primitive setup that I'm stuck with at the moment, but I think my production value increased just a tiny bit as well after a bit of fiddling about in OBS last week. Next step is to try and boost the audio so that the audience doesn't have to boost their speakers to 300% to hear it, but we'll take this thing one step at a time.

Friday, 13 August 2021

IMHO: Deadly Days

It's In My Humble Opinion time once again, and that mean that it's time for my old nemesis, the zombie apocalypse survival game. They just never seem to die, and I am condemned to keep playing them and to keep finding them ultimately unsatisfying. Yes, today I played my next game from the July Humble Bundle, Deadly Days.

Deadly Days is a zombie apocalypse survival game in which you try (and in my short experience, generally fail) to guide the pixelated remnants of humanity through a series of procedurally generated suburbs that are swamped with a never-ending tide of similarly pixelated zombies. Each day you pick a trip based on your little settlement's needs from a small number of options, drive your converted bus to the site, and then try to scrounge up enough food, tools, scrap metal and weaponry to get you through the next day before escaping again on the bus before you're overwhelmed by an ever-increasing tide of the undead.

Now I'm not really into this genre, to put it mildly, but I have to say that this is a pretty decent hookline, colour me slightly intrigued. Unfortunately, while the concept might be a winner, the execution leaves me more than a little cold, and after six run-throughs, some of them depressingly short and all of them well short of seeing the endgame, I'm done. Before this blog series completely dissolves into a sea of negativity, it's worth mentioning that there are some things that I don't hate about this title.

1) It's only a couple of hundred megabytes, and in an age where every game seems to come with a mandatory download time measured in the hours, that's quite refreshing, especially to this guy on an inconsistent wifi connection. I'd be very disappointed if this little game with little art was any bigger than that, but I'm often a little surprised by how big some of these titles are.

2) Deadly Days knows that zombies are silly and isn't afraid not to take itself too seriously. The populace was infected by dodgy burgers and the survivors include an animated skeleton, an astronaut and a guy in a banana suit. This would have been no fun at all if they had tried to go the gritty horror route.

3) Especially once you get some slightly more powerful weaponry, the ability to carve your way through the dead is extremely satisfying, the weapons used and the special abilities gel well for this, and if I were an eight-year-old boy, I would think that was incredibly badass, in the same way that I enjoyed a game like Cannon Fodder when I was that age.

Unfortunately, I think that that's all the things that I liked, and I'm afraid it's Debbie Downer time from here on in. Here's some things I didn't like so much:

1) The game revolves around three currencies. Tools, which can be used to improve your base and weaponry. Food, which is used to heal your dudes and level them up, and is consumed each day. And Scrap, which is used to improve your base and weaponry. Yes, you need both tools and scrap to improve your kit, and getting them on any particular mission seems to be more or less random (with a few exceptions, like the hardware stores missions, where you're likely to encounter tools). Given that you need some serious upgrades seriously quickly to stop your little band being badly overrrun, being starved for one or the other of them is a one-way ticket to zombietown. As is being starved of food, which just might not appear on any given map, or be hidden somewhere inaccessible to you if the procedurally generated town hasn't given you a good path back to the bus. Bad luck, start again, I guess.

2) Each level sees you running around a map, popping zombies and collecting goodies by sending one survivor to loot a car, house or shop while the others continue to fight against the waves of the undead. The looter can't be attacked by the zombies, but they're going to be overwhelmed when they finish their looting if the rest of the gang leaves them behind. This means that you're more or less tied down to the speed of your looting, and when your other guys are just standing around instead of actively exploring, the game doesn't have enough going on to make that interesting. Given that the looting of the bigger targets can take half of your allocated time on any given level, this mechanic makes the game feel slow and frustrating in a way that might work well thematically but is just terrible as a gameplay element. It feels like some kind of rhythm like this might allow for interesting choices if you could split up and individually control your party, but you can't (you can only direct them like one big brainless horde) and so it fell very flat for me as a result.

3) I want the pressure to slowly build to breaking point to get the sense of impending doom in my zombie media, but the difficulty in Deadly Days ramps up in strange and unpredictable ways that feels like a roll of a dice rather than a ratchet of tension. Buying good items (you know, the ones that might mix the game up and make it interesting) will dramatically pump the difficulty, such that it seems like it's better to poorly equip your guys to stay weak for as long as you can to avoid facing powerful enemies, but some days it just seems to drastically increase overnight for no obvious reason, and if you've been avoiding those over-powered pick-ups, well, I'm sorry to tell you pardner but you are a dead man walking.

So, this was frustrating, and not in a nice "oh if I just do it like that I might last longer" kind of way. At least only playing this one for a little while meant that I was relatively quick to get out the blog post, I suppose.

Some quick numbers

  • Time played: 103 minutes
  • "Survivors": 16
  • Zombies "killed": I didn't count, but probably thousands.
  • Rocket Launchers recovered: 1, but it felt good.
  • Rating: 3 deficits of brains out of 10

The rankings so far



It's frustrating to say it, but despite the lower ranking and this being just generally a less-polished product than Yakuza 3, I think I enjoyed Deadly Days more. Still not enough that I would recommend anyone play it, though.
  1. Hammerting
  2. Deadly Days
  3. Yakuza 3
I'm worried that my rankings so far have been harsh, but they do reflect why this was a month that didn't exactly fill me with excitement when I saw the titles. Let's hope that we'll be more inspired by the headliner for the bundle...Dirt 5.

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Getting Bit

I got bitten by a Ferret in Cornwall, circa 1971. There's a writing prompt for you all. What animals have bitten you and why? ~ Roger Edwards of Contains Moderate Peril

In the fine tradition of "getting to know you" week of Blaugust 2021, I couldn't resist getting down a few words on this delightful little prompt that Mr. Peril dropped over on the Blaugust Discord.

As an Australian I feel like I have a responsibility to carry the flag of 'weird animal stories' for the largely Usonian Blaugust crowd. Again, as an Australian I have my fair share of animal stories that happened to people close to me, like the friend that didn't quite lose his leg after a redback spider bite, or the time my brother didn't quite step on a saltwater crocodile, or that time mother got jumped by a king brown snake that was hanging out in a dustbin at a roadside rest area, or that embarassing interaction between Mrs. Owl and that flock of emus, but the sad fact is that despite my nationality, a combination of my natural homeboyish tendencies and my lack of any kind of willingness to put myself in dangerous situations mean that I don't have really all that many good animal stories of my own, and of the ones I do have, only one involves biting.

Nevertheless, here's my top five animal encounters (thus far), in escalating order of the trauma inflicted. And I do mean trauma, this list might not be for the squeamish.

Koala

The traditional thing to ask an Aussie is always a kangaroo question, either the potentially Veggietales inspired "do you have a pet kangaroo?" or "do you ride a kangaroo to work". Sadly the answer to both is and has always been an emphatic negative, but my morning and evening commutes through the Adelaide Hills used to regularly be delayed by that other most stereotypical of Australian animals, the koala, who are often found stoned out of their minds of eucalyptus either sitting on or mindlessly wandering along the bitumen roads. Once every couple of weeks or so I would come across a long queue of cars waiting behind the hazard-lit indicators of some poor sod who'd got out to try and tempt a koala out of the line of traffic. Only once was I in the situation of being that poor sod, and thankfully by the time I'd gotten out of my car and wandered over to look helplessly at it (what exactly I was hoping to actually do, I have no idea), the beast had decided that there was a nice spot on the hard shoulder just over there and wandered off. I am not convinced that this experience qualifies me as a koala whisperer.

Deer

Of all the creatures that one might expect to encounter out in an Australian forest, deer are likely not high on the list, but like so many other European species, deer (a kind of horizontal kangaroo, for those of you that might not be familiar with them) were brought to Australia to hunt, and quickly got out of control in a land with no natural predators. I was out running in the forest one day (as one does when one is young and impressionable and an Orienteer) when the undergrowth directly underneath me suddenly moved and I found myself suddenly falling and narrowly avoiding impaling myself on a fallen pine branch after tripping over what I eventually realised was a small deer, which immediately shot off in the opposite direction. Friends, I was shaken, but likely not as badly as the poor deer was. I often think of that poor deer, I hope it's living its best life out there in the forest.

Kangaroo

Thankfully, my kangaroo story doesn't involve any punching, although it doesn't involve me getting taken out by a roo. Much like the previous story, this one was a random encounter in the bush while orienteering, yet more proof that going outside is bad for your health. I was running along a hillside, minding my own business, when a roo suddenly appeared in my peripheral vision, undoubtedly startled by another runner somewhere nearby. I'm not exactly sure how it didn't see me, clad as I was in bright blue and red, but the roo jumped straight across in front of me, and then for good measure, gave me a solid whop across the face with its tail as it disappeared off into the bush again. Kangaroos are surprisingly solid creatures, and this whomp sent me flying, at least half from shock rather than the impact, but I was completely fine and was able to resume my run once I'd stopped laughing.

Bee

I know, I know. Getting stung by a bee is not all that exciting, though as someone with a (mild) allergy I do find the whole experience gets me a little hot under the collar. But no, this stinging was notable not so much for the fact that it happened (these things do when you have a yellow school uniform and ever go outside), but for the fact that at the time it happened I was currently closed in a locker as a joke by some friends, who seemed to find my escalating shouts and screams to be released as I realised what had happened, and my general inability to communicate the same the while panicking that my allergy might mean I could die alone in a dark locker surrounded by my schoolmates, to be extremely hilarious and not at all a reason to stop leaning on the door and let me out. It can't have been all that more than a few dozen seconds in there, but to me, in the dark and away from my antihistamines, it felt like a very long time indeed.

As ever with beestings, though, it was worse for the bee.

Wombat

There are terrifying creatures in Australia's water that will rip you limb from limb, and there are creepy crawlies all over the place that are just waiting to pump you full of horrible venom that will destroy your entire nervous system, and then there is the most horrible of all, the one that people threaten their children with, the common wombat. No-one makes up killer versions of wombats, because no-one needs to, everyone knows the wombat is a killer just as it is. Don't be fooled by the propaganda, wombats are murder machines, biding their time until they strike when you least expect it.

I found this out, to my horror, at the tender age of four or so, while sitting on the edge of the wombat enclosure at my local conservation park enjoying a peanut butter sandwich. I was perched there, unaware that I was just moments from a brush with death, when suddenly I was viciously set upon by one of these nefarious creatures, which swiped mightily at me with its powerful claws and vicious teeth, savaging my four-year-old buttocks and seemingly trying to drag me back into its monstrous lair to be consumed whole by it and its terrible brood. I was only saved by the lightning intervention of my ever-vigilant parents, and thankfully the beast slunk off to await easier, less wary prey, but my buttocks have never recovered, a constant reminder of the cruel, blood-thirsty, merciless nature of this most horrible of monsters.

I'm sure the wombatnip that I'd inadvertently left in my back pocket had nothing to do with it.