Dave rang from back in Somerset to let me know that Colony One hadn't made it through the winter. He had been doing the first inspection of the year and noticed that while there were loads of bees in the honey-filled supers, only a few bees remained in the brood body. There were no signs of disease. Our guess is that the winter had just been too harsh. The bees in the top of the hive were just moving the stores back to their own hives. We had noticed that the colony was weak in the late summer from the varroa infestation and even then wondered if they'd make it. This year we'll have to be fastidious about disease prevention. The good news is that the two other hives did make it throught the winter and are healthy, so Dave is thinking of doing artificial swarming to restore the apiary to its former size.
A couple of days later, some lemongrass oil arrived. It's said that by putting a few drops on a bait hive will attract bees to it by imitating the Nasonov orientation pheromone. A synthetic version of this pheromone consists of two parts citral to one part geraniol. Lemongrass an easily-available oil which is 65%-85% citral, which gives it its lemon odour. Geraniol has a rose-like scent and is found in lemongrass too, as well as rose oil and geranium oil. It might be a load of rubbish but we thought it was worth a try so I went out and dabbed some onto the woodwork of the hives. I also oriented them south-east so they get the morning sun. In global terms, we're quite far north, so the more use we can make of the morning sun the better, I think.
Our Monday night net on GB3BS was fun, with M7XER joining me and 2E0KZP (who was M7KPZ before he got his licence upgraded this week). My new toy was the Baofeng T1 mini radio. It's a tiny 70cm handheld, about the size (though not width) of a credit card, not counting its unremovable antenna. It costs a tenner. Though it's possible to program it with 2m frequencies, this antenna doesn't cope well with them. I've programmed mine with the frequencies of three local 70cm analogue repeaters to mess about on when I next go for a walk on the hills.
Regular readers will know that my favourite programming language is Haskell. I now use it on a daily basis for programming projects and find it more natural and fun to use and more powerful than many other languages. Anyway, on Friday the Archimedeans and the Competitive Programming Society at Cambridge arranged a talk from Simon Peyton Jones, one of Haskell's designers, and Andy Gordon, both at Microsoft Research. The story is that Microsoft Excel users now have the ability to call lambda-defined functions, which can call other lambda-defined functions, even recusively. So now Excel, arguably the world's most widely used programming language, is not only functional but also Turing-complete.
There were a couple of particuarly interesting points that were raised. The first was about how spreadsheets like Excel put programming in the hands of the domain expert, but that they are limited by having to cut and paste formula that operate on plain old scalar data. Programmers like to modularise, to isolate and share their code, but these domain experts, while being able to get what they want done, don't inherit all the reuse and sharing possibilities that programmers enjoy. The second interesting perspective was how the programming interface of a spreadsheet can be thought as a data-first, live and spatial. For some programming activities such as debugging, that might present a more intuitive interface to get things done. How else could spatial interfaces assist functional programming?
Saturday was spent resting. Dan was going to come over, have some of my chilli, and attach some identifying nameplates to the new hives. He's made some nice woodburnt panels, each combining a futuristic numeral with leading zero, and the runic name of one of the nine worlds of Norse cosmology. Unfortunately my immune system had other priorities. Although he offered to drop them over to my front door, I was happier to leave the installation of the nameplates until a day we could do it together over a cider. Crafted things are special, and demand some ceremony.
On Sunday I woke up with only a headache. In the early afternoon came the thumping sound of Dan's bike in the driveway, and before long we were in our wood. The nameplates look great. Burnt wood suits the environment very well and the runes look unique, mysterious and cool. We went a few kilometres north to visit some woods near where I live, and looking over the expansive fields and the valleys beyond I got a glimpse of what summer would look like. Best of all, my splitting headache had mostly cleared up. Back home, we ate together. The mushroom chilli had lost a lot of its potency in the slow cooker, and we reclassified it as a mushroom and bean stew. While we both agreed it was nice, we together identified four bugs to address in the next iteration.
For one reason or another, a lot of communication with many friends has been in text mode this past year. Real life makes a welcome change.
Finally, from Twitter, here is a Klein bottle climbing frame.