News from Chateau Gladstone en-us Wildwater World Championships <a href=""><img src="" align=right></a>We just returned from Charlotte, NC to watch our niece (Olivia Churchill - GBR) compete in the <a href="">Junior Wildwater World Championships</a> (Kayak). She ended up with 2 bronze medals for individual classes, and one gold for a team class. The Charlotte races were held at the <a href="">US National Whitewater Center</a> which has a completely manmade course suitable for the short sprint races. Apparently the water is swimming pool clean -- and there are some enormous pumps that pump it round to generate the raging torrent to kayak down. The photo shows Olivia on her second run (the sprint races involve adding the times from two runs together) which led to one of her bronze medals. <p> USAir managed to cancel our (8 am) flight down to Charlotte on Friday morning and couldn't get us there until 8pm -- by which time we had missed the team race. <p> For a full trip report from my sister's point of view (she was travelling with the British team), see her <a href="">trip report</a>. Hats off to Tilley Endurables I have worn a <a href="">Tilley</a> hat (a size 8&#8539; <a href="">T3</a>) for 15 years or so, and it finally wore out after too many visits to the washing machine. I wanted to get a couple of new hats, so I got the catalog, and measured my head, and ordered two (a <a href="">TH5</a> and an <a href="">LTM6</a>). I was somewhat suprised that the sizing guide ended up with me being a 7. Of course, the hats showed up and were too small -- well, actually they fitted on my head, but were too tight (they are supposed to be held on by gravity and not by pressure on the forehead). <p> I shipped them back, asking for a size 8 (which is what my old T3 had shrunk to). On a whim, I put the tattered remains of the T3 in the box, along with a note requesting replacement. I know that they say that their hats are warranteed for life, but I had no idea if it would actually work. <p> Imagine my suprise, when, a week later, a box arrived with three size 8 hats: T3 (replacement for my 15 year old hat), and the correct sizes of LTM6 and TH5. These guys come highly recommended. Web Crawlers and Content Compression Since I managed to get content-compression working on my web server (which was way harder than it ought to have been), I have noticed that most of the web crawlers do not make use of it. However, the googlebot and Yahoo Slurp both do enable compression, so it is possible. <p> I have started sending email to all the contact points that I can find when spiders reach my website. One implemented compression within hours, one discovered that they had a bug which prevented it from working, and a couple more are looking into implementing it. The rest have yet to reply. <p> I have now built an automatic <a href="">Hall of Shame</a> page that lists the current sinners. What you don't see from this page is that many crawlers do support compression. The suprising thing is that some flavors of IE 6.0 don't appear to do compression. Is winter ending? The ice has finally melted from the pond, and all the snow has gone. Our thoughts are turning to spring and summer projects -- including ice cream. We have put together a list of <a href="">Birthday Icecream Flavors</a> that tell you what your special flavor is, based on the your birth month. First big storm storm of the season We received 13.5 inches of snow today. I guess that the snow started at about 7 AM. At 8 AM we had between 1 and 2 inches. We then received another 12.5 during the day till it tapered off at about 4 PM. The total is 13.5. You may wonder how that can work out -- it is because the later snow compresses the earlier snow. See the <a href="">Snow Measurement Guide</a> for the full gory details of how snow measuring should be done. <p> If you are interested in measuring snow, then check out <A href="">CWOP Snow Measuring</a> to see what you need to do. <p> The major problem with performing these measurements (apart from having to go outside in the cold weather) is trying to find a suitable ruler -- it should be marked in tenths of an inch. These are very hard to come by in the US. Flight 93 Memorial Project A family friend (Laurel McSherry) entered the national competition for the Flight 93 Memorial that will be built. She got through to the final round, and is one of the five finalists. I urge you to visit the <a href="">Flight 93 Memorial Project</a> site where they have details of the final round projects. Laurel's project is '<a href="">Fields, Forests and Fences</a>' -- I like it, but I did get a personal pitch as to its merits! I particularly like the fact that each visitor gets the chance to leave their own message behind -- in the form of a tag attached to a specially designed fence. <p> As a side note, the website is (I think) poorly designed. It is difficult to figure out what are links to more detailed information, and some of the PDF files have been converted in such a way that you cannot actually read the text. Also, when I tried to leave a comment, I got dropped into an administrative interface to all the comments (though I couldn't actually make it work). <a href=""><img src="" align=right></a>Polyphemus Ecloses and Cecropia mates The female crecopia attracted two males to the screened porch where she was being kept. At least one of them was wild (as I had only released one male at that point). More interestingly, the wild male that hung around was significantly larger than my captive raised ones. I suspect that I was not feeding the caterpillars the right food. In particular, I have been told that the trees that I thought were Cherry are actually Pear. <p> The female then mated for almost 24 hours (not bad to mate for 10% of your lifespan). I have now put her in a paper bag to lay her eggs. <p> Today two polyphemus eclosed. This is the female (you can tell by the thin antennae), and I let the male go. We will see if she attracts a mate overnight. <a href=""><img src="" align=right></a>The first batch of Silk Moths have eclosed Today, three Cecropia moths eclosed (aka hatched). I got the caterpillars in June 2004, watched them grow, and then make their cocoons in the late summer of 2004. Suprisingly, they survived the winter and are now emerging. Yesterday, I had a single male, and today two more males and a female. <p> The photograph is of one of the males. The wire netting he is sitting on has quarter inch squares, so you can get some idea of the scale. Yes, they have a 5-6 inch wingspan. <p> The males want to fly off and mate, and the females just hang around for the males to arrive. Unfortunately, we had over an inch of rain this evening, so I haven't put the males out to fly. They are native species here in New England, so they may find a mate and start another cycle. Bluebird boxes actually work! I was given a couple of bluebird boxes for Christmas, and I finally got around to mounting them in the yard. Of course, they are supposed to be spaced 100 yards apart (and 100 yards from my other two bluebird boxes). This design rule went out of the window! <p> The collected Internet wisdom was that the entrance hole should be deep to keep out predators -- so I screwed a piece of 2x4 to the front (with the approved 1.5 inch hole). Why don't they come that way? <p> For the last three days, I have evicted a sparrow from one box (by removing the start of their nest). This morning, the other nest box had a pair of bluebirds popping in and out. Not (yet) building a nest, but scouting out good locations. <p> I had intended to mount a camera in one of the boxes so that we could watch what was going on -- I'll have to move that project up the priority list. GEOURL is back online <a href="">GEOURL</a> is a neat website that has come back online after a long period of downtime. It allows you to find websites by geographical proximity. For example, these are the <A href="">websites near me</a>. <p> I notice that <a href="">DeviantArt</a> has local users. I must confess that I really don't understand it, even though my niece has a <a href="">gallery</a>. Frogs on the Ice It has been unseasonably warm here over the last few days (reached 60F) -- the pond is still covered with ice, but there is some open water round the edge. Two frogs (that we saw) climbed out onto the ice to survey the scene. Unfortunately, sitting on ice is not good for a cold blooded animal, and they stop moving pretty quickly. <p> We rescued the two frogs and put them back into the water where they seemed a lot happier. When we picked up the frogs, they felt <em>very</em> cold to the touch. I guess that they were not far above freezing. CWOP makes it into the New York Times <a href="">CWOP</a> is the Citizen Weather Observer Program. This is a loose network of amateur weather station operators who feed their data into NOAA's Forecast Systems Laboratory. From their it moves all over the map. <p> The New York Times had a nice article entitled <a href="">Hobbyists Fill Out the Weather Map</a> which told some of the personal stories behind the technology. <p> This is relevant to me as I run the <A HREF="">Weather Data Quality</a> service. This takes data from the FSL and reformats it and then e-mails it to weather station operators as requested. The data shows how their station readings compare with the surrounding stations. This often allows the operator to spot problems with their sensors. Voice over IP experiences We decided to go with <A href="">VoicePulse</a> for a VoIP provider. The outcome has been mixed. When the quality is good, it is essentially indistinguishable from a regular landline. However, it is more common to get dropouts -- bringing the quality down to a not very good cellphone call. <p> I use <a href="">WonderShaper</a> to provide traffic shaping on my broadband connection (Comcast). This fixed the interaction between surfing and voice calls. However, we still get significant dropouts. The cause appears to be packet loss somewhere in NYC -- this is based on running traceroute at the troublesome moments. <p> On the upside, the service is cheap -- but it sounds that way too. We've Moved! We have finally moved to our new home. We have a new, larger, pond with an assortment of wildlife. We moved the majority of our fish from the old pond to the new pond, and we have hardly seen them since. The bad news is that we saw (twice) a snapping turtle in the new pond -- whose diet is fresh fish. Photographs will follow soon once the house is somewhat more in order! <p> The weather stuff is all shut down for now until I get the mast installed again. I'm hopeful that the pondcam can be made to go again, but it seems unlikely that it will ever see any fish. I reckon that that new pond is around 1,000,000 gallons, so the chance of seeing anything is small! <p> If anybody wants to <a href="">buy the old house (with working fishpond and some fish)</a>, then please call our realtor. <a href=""><img src="" align=right></a>The Hummingbirds are back The hummingbirds came back. We have (at least) one pair -- they were displaying the other night. <p> This picture is not that good, but the light was fading when I took it. I think that in more light, I'd get a shorter exposure and more depth of field. The pondcam will be moving soon We are selling our house -- the open house is today. We will be moving to another house which has a much larger pond. The pondcam will be back once we complete the move. <p> The new pond will be so much larger that I am worried that the pondcam will never see any fish at all. It may take a couple of seasons for them to breed up enough! We will be taking our existing goldfish and shubunkins (those that we can catch), and the new owners will probably end up with all the 2004 babies!