See my first and second Rye Meads posts to get up to date with the action so far. It's thrilling, honestly.

This is the last set of birds, with butterflies still to come. A bumper crop today, starting with a female Pochard (at the top) and more excitingly, a Lapwing. It's not especially rare, though it was the only one I saw at Rye Meads, but it's clearly quite an exotic looking winged beast and I hadn't seen one before. Apologies for the poor photo – it was a long way away,

RyeMeadLapwing 6481

Next a pair of Gadwalls – male on the left, female on the right. It's really very similar to a Mallard in most respects, especially the female which is most easily recognised as a Gadwall by the nearby presence of the more obvious male! And it lacks the blue/green flash on the wing of a Mallard.

RyeMeadGadwallMale 6482  RyeMeadGadwallFemale 6483
Here's a pair of Cormorants on a perch on a raft. If only I had something further to say about Cormorants.
RyeMeadCormorants 6484
Finally, what I believe to be a Kestrel – one of a pair that were soaring high above, perhaps as part of a courtship ritual. It's hard to be sure with these birds, especially if you're me and lack practical experience in the field, but I think that the single black bar on the tail makes it most likely to be a Kestrel, having studied the book long and hard. If you think different, please let me know in the comments!
RyeMeadKestrel 6485
Some more photos of the range of interesting bird life at Rye Meads. See my previous post for the first instalment. There's still more to come, bit by bit. It took me a while to figure out what all these things were as I'm new to it, so I don't want to swamp my dear readers (both of you) with too much at once.

First, a twofer! That's two for the price of one. At the top a male Gadwall, and at the bottom a Coot collecting lumber for a nest I imagine. I have better pictures of both male and female Gadwalls to come in a later post.

RyeMeadGadwallCoot 6477

A Greylag Goose (actually a pair of them) flew overhead and I managed to get a half decent shot.

RyeMeadGreylagGoose 6480

This taxed my powers of identification but I'm now certain that it's a female Tufted Duck. Comparing it to the male in my previous post it's quite different, though there is a suggestion of tuftiness still.

RyeMeadTuftedDuckFemale 6479

Finally a Pochard, which on the day I was confusing with Shovellers, but on reflection (picture pun intended) it's clearly quite different.

RyeMeadPochard 6481
Bank holiday Monday and it looked like the skies might clear for the first time in the long four day weekend. So off we drove to Rye Meads wildlife reserve near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire – a slightly strange split between RSPB and Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. It's also right next to the Rye House go-karting track where Lewis Hamilton apparently learnt his craft, and I've been karting many a time. So I can highly recommend this spot on at least two counts!

Just a very quick report for now: it's a fairly large place with loads of lagoons, ditches, reed beds, ponds etc. and 11 hides from which to look out for interesting things. A couple of notables below (but more to come).

First up, a lone Redshank. It took a bit of leafing through the book of longish billed wadey things to figure this one out.

RyeMeadRedshank 6472 
Next, a tufted duck – this is a male. The female is all dark and without the obvious tufting on the back of the head.
RyeMeadTuftedDuck 6474
An Oystercatcher, with it's very colourful bill. Apologies for the poor sharpness of this photo. It was probably at least 50m away.
RyeMeadOysterCatcher 6475
Finally, a Shoveller – a duck with a great big spade like bill. More interesting sights to come…
RyeMeadShoveller 6477
It was a bit of a miserable grey day today, punctuated with rain. So an imperfect opportunity for a stroll to Verulam Park in St Albans, but we went anyway. There were herons with chicks to be seen on the island in the middle of the lake, a grebe, swallows swooping around and the usual less exotic bird life. Here are a couple of highlights. You can see two ugly Heron chicks in the nest below.

HeronChicksVerulam 6410
GrebeVerulam 6408
HeronFlightVerulam 6409
A brief expedition with macro lens in the evening light. It's all springing up out there.
LeafShoots 6376 Green 6378
07. April 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Mac
I've seen quite a number of MobileMe sync problems over the last couple of months. Some items that I add/delete/modify in my calendar don't make the jump between laptop and desktop, or vice versa. It's completely intermittent and always works perfectly if I deliberately try to catch it out. This is extremely unhelpful of it, as it means I just can't trust my calendar on either machine to be correct.

Picture 7 
I've found a way to at least get things back in sync (as far as I can tell without doing an exhaustive comparison) though it remains to be seen whether it will actually stop things going wrong again. On all machines, open the iSync application, open its Preferences, then click the "Reset sync history…" button, and select "Merge" when asked. It might ask several times, for various types of sync data, with big spinny-arrow pauses in-between. You're putting yourself in the hands of MobileMe's sync algorithms here, so don't come crying to me if it makes your kettle fur up with scale and your cat leave home. I'll update this post as and when I determine if the more general problem is licked. Sadly my gut feeling is that it's too much to hope.

Update: Still been having problems and have been tearing my hair out. The recent OS X 10.5.7 update promises some sync improvements though isn't specific about what. I'm hopeful, but I won't know for a couple of months as it usually picks just one or two important items to not sync every now and then. Enough to keep me on my toes.
I've endeavoured to rely on NetBeans' auto-formatting feature before now, but I've never been able to configure it quite to my tastes. In particular I had struggled to get rules for braces and line wrapping setup how I wanted for Java, with them almost always on a new line. I'm not sure whether I had simply failed to find the right options or if they're new in 6.5.1 or another recent release.

It's perfect for cleaning up code that you're copying and pasting from the web, taking the labour out of it. All I need now in NetBeans is a less tedious way of generating getters and setters that requires less mouse clicks, remembers your last preferences (put at end of file, no comments) and can have m_ prefix on the vars but not the accessor method names.

That said, better still would be for Java to grow up a bit and gain a better way to do boiler plate accessors. Which is better:


public int getFoo()
  return m_foo;

public void setFoo(value)
  m_foo = value;

public String getBar()
  return m_bar;

public void setBar(value)
  m_bar = value;


attr_accessor :foo, :bar
I bought a pack of these unpretentious cans on holiday in Cornwall, as there wasn't much choice in the small Co-op. I could have had John Smiths Extra Smooth, but I'm not a fan of the smooth creamy head on my pint. It's shame that Cornwall seems to be one of those areas that puts the cream-flow spouts on their draught beer taps, like they do up North. A classic way to ruin a perfectly good pint if you ask me.

JohnSmithsOriginal 6348
There's not much to say for this very straightforward bitter – it's got good colour and a decent enough flavour, but it's very one-dimensional with pretty much zero in the way of extra interesting tastes coming through other than the basic bitterness. A good cheap beer to keep in for light mid-week requirements, but I find Greene King IPA fills that role better.
Spurred on by Antonio Cangiano's recent campaign, I've been trying to make a permanent move to Ruby 1.9.1. I've been on 1.8.6 by default for a good while, as that's what you get with Mac OS X 10.5, though it's actually not too hard to get going compiling your own Ruby from source – no special tricks are required and it works great. I hope Apple makes 1.9.x the default for OS X 10.6 when it appears later this year. Go on – be brave!

So what have I found in this exciting new world?
  • It's a bit faster, as expected, though nothing to get especially excited about.
  • Some very popular gems just don't work straight off the shelf. Mongrel for instance – though I'm told it's really easy to get it working with a couple of tweaks. Still, it's a shame for the sake of the community that the official latest gem can't have those tweaks made to it and save a lot of people an awful lot of fuss. Actually I hear that Mongrel 2 is on the way, taking advantage of more of Rack's infrastructure. I look forward to it. 
  • ri now works really quickly compared to my 1.8.6 install, which always thinks for a couple of seconds before giving me a result. I think this is due to a new caching mechanism that was introduced around 1.8.7. Simple things like this make a huge difference to my life!
  • ri actually finds docs for the standard libraries, which it didn't for my 1.8.7 install. I think was due to some issue in the standard makefile for 1.8.7, but I'm not really sure. Again, for someone like me who only just knows what he's doing, this makes a huge difference.
  • Proper string encoding support! Finally the promised land, as long as you can take the hit of string indexing now being incredibly slow.
  • Rubygems at 1.3.1, which is much more refined than that bundled with ruby 1.8.6 on Mac OS X. You can get this for yourself on any version of Ruby with gem update –system BTW. No more "Bulk updating Gem source".

I recommend everyone tries to move on up, at least with a parallel install that they can easily switch, and applies pressure to the holdouts to get it happening. Commercial pressures will make it tough for many, but when we break on through to the other side it will all be worth it I reckon.