The start of the week saw a heatwave, with the Met Office issuing a UK weather warning, an amber alert of 'Extreme Heat', over the first four days. At the end of the week we got another weather warning, this time 'Thunderstorms'. In the south east it was amber, but over here, only yellow. For four days this week I was paid my first visit from any out-of-town friends, so this gave us about half a day of suitable weather for exploring. But more on that later.

News from the woods

Now that we have bees (for now), Dan has changed to another way of dealing with the SD cards where we go to the woods and just swap over the cards for another set. Dan then reviews the contents at home and edits the video. We've also moved 'Cow Cam' to point directly at the beehive, in the hope that one of the animals will go and investigate and we'll capture that on video.

This week's video at and gemini:// features rabbits, mice, squirrels, birds, and so on. A badger comes close to the camera that we put far back from the path we take to visit the wood, a popular space under the branches. You can sometimes see that animals have dug there. In the same space we get the sound of some snuffling as two badgers investigate the camera. A fawn also investigates the camera late one night when it was exploring seemingly by itself and then again the next morning. Maybe we've left behind our scent on the camera.

We've promised to leave the bees alone for three weeks. This may sound cautious, but we are fairly sure they are a swarm from a well-kept hive, so there's a low chance of disease. We also want to make sure that the only colony we have is as undisturbed as possible. I did, however, have a quick peep up through the entrance and noticed lots of bees on the bottom of each frame. This was on Day 3 and is a good initial sign. But that was all we were allowing ourselves, and instead we went home for the ice cream with broken chocolate biscuits that Dan brought.


More and more people see to be available on 40m band JS8. Or maybe it's my new antenna doing a good job. It gives a low SWR, but SWR is a crude measure and I should really learn to read Smith charts to get a fuller story.

JS8 does have its limitations. I'd like it only to delete messages on remote stations if they've been retrieved and acknowledged, I'd like relaying to be paused when it's clear the receiving station isn't transmitting, I'd like retries of message delivery, maybe with exponential backoff. Or whatever. But these things will develop as JS8Call does, and as this week showed in my conversation with Steven MM0ZFG covering topics as diverse as Hebridean sheep, a slow-mode chat with ten-minute overs can work very smoothly. Later I got back in touch with Seb F4HVQ, a portable operator based in Paris now partipating in Amateur Radio Outdoors. Later in the week the warnings of thunderstorms prevented me from taking part in the weekly net.

Some emergency communications people enthuse about Winlink, an program that delivers email over amateur radio. There's a Winlink for Mac as well as other Winlink clients like the Pat client. Winlink is illegal in the UK because it requires an amateur to relay third-party traffic which may not be from another radio amateur. The technology is also proprietary, and the requirement for its messages to be decoded by third parties is fulfilled via non-free code, although it is possible to plug in a variety of protocols, not all of which have this property. Its use with encryption, strictly disallowed in usual amateur communications, is pushed and repeatedly granted as a temporary waiver during times of hurricane in the USA. In general, it is not the model of an open standard. So, it's JS8 for me.

I used to play around with packet a fair bit, and specificially London Hackspace Packet Radio. Steve EI2GYB told me about Network 105, a packet network on the 20m band. I have so many TNCs lying around from the LHPR days, so I might try to give this a go in the next few weeks, though I think software modems are likely to be much better. There are also projects like New Packet Radio out there. It's an open-source bidirectional IP traffic protocol. Doubtless there are more.

Visitors from afar

My friends from Yorkshire (Rick, Paul and their daughter Ⓤ) came to visit for four days, staying at Nicola's house, a unanimous favourite. Its central location mean that I could explore more of what town has to offer than I have in the time I've been here so far due to the pandemic keeping me at home. For example, I have discovered a new supermarket that I hadn't yet visited. It felt like we packed a lot in, but I think that says more about the pace of my life during the pandemic and how normality is gradually returning. We all love food but it was far too hot to cook, so we tried a few local restaurants. Much of the town has been closed to eating out and café visits so at least for me this opened up a new side of Bradford-on-Avon.

But as usual, it's the little moments that made the visit fun. Here are a handful of them.

We ate our first meal out at a restaurant near the library and museum. While we waited for the meal, we went to investigate it and a small park opposite. The next day, when it was open, we went back and spent some time in the quiet and cool library and borrowed two books from it to read later. We then went to the craft market, an ice cream shop and so on. It was a pleasure to wander around town together with Ⓤ, who can competently negotiate what we should aim to do together and when to go home.

I love kayaking and canoeing. Just up the road from where my friends were staying there's a cafe where Canadian canoes can be hired. Despite light rain, we headed off on a very sedate and pleasant paddle up to Avoncliff Aqueduct in the nearby hamlet of Avoncliff. Ⓤ played figurehead at the front of the vessel with views of the Kennet and Avon Canal, lined with narrowboats in various stages of repair, various colours, and with various people greeting us. We were a great team and kept the canoe level and going straight. Only a narrowboat full of pirates sent us on a very slow collision course with some nettles. We'd pass by ducks, swans, and a variety of exotic fruits like oranges, cucumbers and even pineapples floating in the canal. Our young shipmate would shout out in delight when she saw these. "Did anyone order a pineapple? Did anyone order a cucumber?". Afterwards, coffee and cake at the Canal Trust Café. Great.

I've mentioned the Two Tunnels Greenway here before. These two tunnels run under the southern suburbs of the city of Bath through to Midford and carry foot and cycle traffic. The largest is is 1670m in length which provides an excellent opportunity to experience darkness during the day (and also is a good plan for a rainy day). Halfway along there is an art installation called Passage. In it, there are circular lights pulsing, triggered by the visitor entering that section of the tunnel. Music by Mira Calix plays simultaneously, classical but sometimes discordant, sometimes melodious, to complete the effect. We walked all the way to The Hope and Anchor in Midford.

After all this, lying around on the attic furniture and relaxing to Ⓤ's musical selections after she loaded them up on the CD player. The sounds of Dusty Springfield and Joni Mitchell filled the air as we did very little.

The development of abstract thinking in children is fascinating to me, and for my own amusement I sometimes ask Ⓤ questions to get some insight into this. One example is when we spent quite a while sorting a variety of marbles into a printer's tray. It's a surprisingly engaging activity. She'd explain the rationale for the sets of equivalent marbles, all very consistent. But my favourite moment for this came right at the end of the visit. We were sat near the chessboard and I got out some go stones and placed one on a square in the centre of the board. I started my experiment. "This game has no rules yet. Make a move and we'll see what it turns into". Her intuition suprised me. She began by playing a surrounding strategy, until she had a much better idea. She tipped the tub of black glass go stones over the tile floor, bunching them up together into interesting shapes. "Raining chessberries!", she explained.

I'm assured there'll be another visit when circumstances allow.

For another view of the visit, check out: Tiny Perfect Things; Marbles; Floating Fruit Salad; Chilling Out With Dusty; A Mile and a Half Under Bath; Raining Chessberries.

Also this week

RDF-star; ssh and collaborate on ASCII art; MST3K; Zombina and the Skeletones; The e-book Haskell Programming from First Principles, which came out when I wasn't looking; #lhs-beekeepers on; using entr to trigger new processes when the outputs of others change; electric fans.