September

Cheesy chips with chip shop curry sauce were the new discovery when Dan came over on Monday to check the bees. They are a great colony and Dan is a great beekeeper. We celebrated by attempting to order from the local chippie via the WWW. It failed and instead Dan ventured out on his motorbike to retrieve a feast of barely manageable proportions.

On Tuesday I saw my sister and her children for the first time in ten months. Due to various factors we've been separated for the pandemic. I met my sister in one of the few places to eat that are open, and we headed back to pick my niece and nephew up from their schools. How good it was to see them all. We've promised each other to meet up every week, even if it's just for a few hours, and make up for lost time.

Autumn is arriving in the woods

Dan has put out a couple of new trailcam videos. The leaves are brown and fallen across the wood.

The trailcam video for 2021-09-07 features birds, rabbits and hares digging about and racing in and out of shot. There are mice and squirrels going about their business, the deer strolling around and sometimes really near the camera. There are foxes, and the badgers are definitely around too, looking very healthy and running uncharacteristically quickly. The den cam continues to be a rich source of good video. We should see if there's any similar spots elsewhere in the wood, now that the vegetation is a bit less wild.

You can see our beehives on this video, with two deer about a metre from its entrance. It gives a sense of scale and reminds me how small the deer are, with the camera angle exaggerating their height.

I realise I often write very similar things each week for what's been captured on these cameras, but each one brings a surprise. It's just that what changes week on week is visual, really.

The trailcam video for 2021-09-13 was one of these surprises. Now and then we see a pheasant on the camera, but this episode shows us a group of juvenile pheasants are in the woods, right at the end of the video.

Also, a badger discovers and sniffs the camera. The deer and some of the other animals seem aware of the camera. I wonder if some types of camera are better at being stealthy than others.

Libby Miller tells me that she has produced a short film appearing at Bluescreen, a screening at the Cube Microplex in Bristol on the 29th. The film will feature edited footage from cameras looking into her garden in Bristol. Since June 2021 she's captured some lovely video of the fox cubs that visit, and set it all to calming music.

The quality is pretty nice. At the end of the film, there's a caption saying it's made with a My Naturewatch camera. The My Naturewatch daylight camera is built around a Raspberry Pi using DIY instructions using parts that are widely available at a total cost of about £35. The My Naturewatch infrared camera is similar, but uses an infrared camera module and its parts are available for about £40. Both are run from an power pack and sit inside a food storage box. It looks like a fun project to do in a couple of hours. The results are much better than anything we've got from a camera costing twice the price, though I suspect the power requirements might need more attention than ours. However, if a 20Ah power pack could last a week, that'd be no more effort for us and would eliminate our battery waste.

A glacial game of vote chess

The vote for the third half-move in our game of correspondence chess between the users of Twitter and the users of Mastodon is about to conclude. I wasn't sure why Stockfish suggested h3 as the second move in the French defence and I couldn't find any justification why anywhere else, but I guess that's the cold, statistical nature of a chess engine. Since only four continuations are available for voting on, I wanted to make sure they were as good as I could offer. The engine now analyses the games tree while the vote takes place, currently exploring up to 236 nodes. This gets us pretty far with lookahead, with the Syzygy six-piece endgame tablebases taking over from there.

I'm mostly interested to see whether a group of players can, together, formulate anything resembling a recognisable strategy. Right now, a handful of players are participating on either side. Having more people following the accounts and submitting a vote for a move once a week might amplify the effect. If you have a Twitter or Mastodon account, please follow the account on either side and join in, even if you think you're a weak player. But, even if we stay at a handful of people playing along each week and just keeping things going, it'll be interesting to see where the game goes.

Radio

With my metre-long antenna sticking out of the skylight on a tripod, I can get a clear link to GB3WR. The range on that repeater is impressive. I think it's intended for users in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, but there are regular Welsh voices on there too. Radio waves don't have to drive around onto the Severn Bridge, I guess. The repeater has it's fair share of characters, and is generally a relatively fun place to hang out.

Anyway, after trying GB3FI and GB3WB, Kipz 2E0KZP and I got to have a chat on GB3WR even though he was up in Treharris, about 100km away. Pete G6WBJ had a chat from near Marlborough, Vlad M0VBA did the same from his walk on the hilltops of Gloucestershire, and Nigel 2W0CGM in Llantrisant helpfully taught me the basics in using a repeater (summary: wait for two beeps so the repeater knows your reply isn't part of the previous over).

I've had a bit of trouble with packet loss lately, and my lovely ISP A&A suggested one cause might be electromagnetic interference to the router from my radio activities. So, I decided to move all of that stuff. Last night I cleared out a cupboard I only use occasionally and installed all my radio equipment in it. It's conveniently below the aforementioned skylight and I guess it's the closest thing I've had to a radio shack. Now hopefully I'll be living in a less cable-strewn home. Sometimes you need a cupboard to contain your hobbies.

Also this week

Vivian Stanshall: One Man's Week (1975) and his involvement with The Old Profanity, the boat otherwise known as the Thekla, in The Bristol Showboat Saga (1984); Ambient Chaos; the surprisingly long after-effects of the McCollough effect; the Framework laptop, very repairable and very upgradable, even the CPU.