My Blog

I suppose that this is really a blog, though I hesitate to call it that. The real bloggers seem so much more interesting. I cover stuff which I find interesting, and I hope that you will too.

If you really want, you can get an RSS feed of Chateau Gladstone news here:

For more information about what I'm interested in, see the Ponding pages.

Topic: Pond   Trying to keep an airhole open in the pond  8 Mar 2003

It has been mighty cold here recently. My two air pumps driving airstones have been doing sterling service keeping a small hole open in the ice (and thereby preventing a buildup of noxious gases under the ice).

The bad news is that when it snows and/or gets very cold, then the hole is covered over, and then the air stops flowing, then the airline freezes, and then I have to take some action!

I decided to try an internet recommendation -- put a large flowerpot over the ice hole to protect it from snow and radiative cooling to the night sky. So far, my experience has been that one flowerpot worked so well that it enlarged the ice hole and fell into the water. The other flowerpot sank into the ice and then froze solid. So I can't call this experiment a 100% success.

Topic: Pond   Discovering old negatives  8 Jan 2003

I discovered a bunch of my father's old negatives that were taken during the 1920s. It turns out that they can still generate a reasonable image, and the fun really begins when you try and work out the story behind the picture.

For the full story and some of the images, see My Father's Negatives. This is very much a work in progress.

Topic: Pond   Wild Animal Tracks  28 Dec 2002

On 27th December, my daughter and I went to a class Holed Up for Winter at Mass Audobon at Broadmoor. We spent most of the class looking for tracks in the new snow. We ended up finding White tailed deer, Coyote, Squirrels, some type of mouse, domestic cat, and people tracks.

When we got home, we had to go and explore outside. Somehow tracks are much more difficult to identify when the expert is not around! We did identify squirrels -- in particular they were digging holes in the snow and then soil underneath to find their food stores. We also found where a bird (possibly a hawk) had caught a mouse. There were many other tracks not identified!

Topic: Pond   Digital Cameras  27 Dec 2002

People keep asking me what features are important when buying a digital camera. I am not an expert, but I feel that the following should be considered:

  • Battery type: I prefer a camera that takes AA batteries -- or some reaonably standard off-the-shelf part. Otherwise you will be on a beach in Greece when your battery dies, and you cannot replace it.
  • Optical zoom: You need at least a factor of three. Ignore digital zoom as it isn't worth anything.
  • Megapixels: 5 is better than 3 is better than 2. Any increase of less than 50% is not really useful.
  • Other features: the ability to rotate the display independant of the lens. This allows you to hold the camera at waist level and take pictures. It also allows you to look over the heads of a crowd.
Merry Christmas!

Topic: Pond   Pond winterization  13 Nov 2002

I finally put the pond to bed for the winter this last weekend. We took all the plants out and cut them back. Most were put back in the bottom of the two ponds, but some ended up in Rubbermaid tubs in the basement. Unfortunately one turned out to be cracked which necessitated an emergency trip to Home Depot to get a replacement.

The pondcam came out of the pond as I was nervous about ice breaking the glass and letting the water into the electronics. I've changed the display to show video that I recorded a few days ago. The fish were moving pretty slowly as it was cold.

Of course, the weather then warmed up....

Topic: Pond   The big freeze came!  15 Oct 2002

On Monday night, there was a major frost warning, so we pulled in most of the tender plants. This included the papyrus, canna and the elephant ear (taro). We are intending to keep all of these going as house plants during the winter. The only problem is finding space to put them all. We had to hack a few bits off the papyrus to get them to fit in the pots (16 inch - emergency buy at the brand new local Home Depot). I expect that these bits will grow as well, so I have to pot them up.

Topic: Pond   Bullfrog eviction (again)  2 Oct 2002

This evening -- it was warm and damp -- I decided to try and evict the bullfrogs again. I used the trick of a bright flashlight to confuse them, and I got two monsters in the net at once! Total weight of frog was 8 ounces. I managed to get another small one and then drove the three of them 1.5 miles to a stream. I hope that they don't find their way home.

I have already evicted one of these guys before, but I only took him a few hundred yards, and he hopped back within 24 hours.

Topic: Weather   Innumeracy a tale of $2.09  10 Sep 2002

I bought a small power connector in Radio Shack for $1.99. It came to $2.09 including tax. I initially handed the clerk $2 and a quarter which he entered into the cash register. I then handed him another four cents for a total of $2.29. This completely floored him, and it took some explaining that I now wanted 20 cents in change.

On to BJs for a few items -- one of which was a gallon of milk. The checkout person managed to give the milk to the person in front of me, and charge her (on her credit card) for it. The checkout person was completely flustered (I think that she had not been working long). I offered to give the $2.09 (for the milk) to the person in front of me as that would solve the problem. This solution was agreed. However, as I'm walking out, I observe that I have been charged for the milk as well (on my credit card). At this point, I decide to write off the money and give up.

John Allen Paulos has written a wonderful book called Innumeracy that deals with the poor state of arithmetical knowledge in the general public. Definitely recommended.

Topic: Pond   Hydra  2 Sep 2002

My water filter is infested with Hydra. I got some pictures - this is typical.

I don't really want to disturb them, but I need to clean out the filter!

Topic: Pond   Snake in the Stream  2 Sep 2002

Over the weekend, a couple of the neighbourhood kids were over looking at the pond, when one of them spotted a snake in the stream. I happened to have my camera handy, and I tried to get a picture of it, but it slithered off.

A bit of further investigation revealed that it was hiding in the 'toad house' that has (as far as I am aware) never housed a toad. I got one (not very good) shot of it. I think it is a Ribbon snake rather than a Garter snake.

This may explain where some of the small frogs have gone.

My four year old daughter had earlier reported seeing a snake chasing a frog (which got away) when she was staring out of her window. I doubted her story at the time, but no more!



The Citizen Weather Observer Program is a loose collection of amateur weather station operators.

Information about SPF (Sender Permitted From)

Neat description of the Gunnera Manicata -- a truly monstrous plant!

Open source audio/video streaming software -- this drives my pondcam

Open source server for the Rio Receiver -- this is what I use.

The Doc Searls weblog -- he seems clueful and I read him.

Philip Gladstone