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¶ On geese and turtles
We do a lot of our testing at South Weymouth Naval Air Station, a decommissioned naval air base that's been abandoned for 10 years. The people who manage the area have been very generous about letting us use the space, although it does come with some restrictions. After it closed, the air station went through a big environmental cleanup, and now there are all sorts of environmental rules and regulations that we have to follow. For example, we're not allowed to bring open cans of fuel or gas on the property, or to refill the car on site. We're not allowed to paint the tarmac (e.g. for lane markings) or to use chalk. That actually vexed us for quite a while, until we realized that we could use flour. So every time we want to mark out our test course, we buy a few hundred pounds of flour and then lay it down using one of those field marking machines that are normally used to mark soccer fields and such.

Turns out that (surprise, surprise!) flour is very edible, and birds find it quite tasty. It took the geese less than a week to discover the huge dinner plate waiting for them at Weymouth, and now every evening at around 6pm, they line up along our lane markings and start pecking away.

About a month ago, we also got another surprise visitor. The site manager had mentioned a long time ago that a family of snapping turtles lives near the airstrip, but we didn't give it much thought until one day one of the turtles decided to come check us out.

For a while, we were pretty worried that we'd forget about the turtle and that the car would accidentally run it over. The obstacle detector had a fairly generous threshold, and anything shorter than a foot at that point was generally considered to be a part of the terrain (the running joke was that we have a baby-kitten killing machine). In the end, the turtle wandered off the course on its own volition after strolling around for an hour or so.

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