The Birds and the Bees

So, as some of you will be aware by now we've had chickens for 18 months. We presently have 6 birds, 1 Black Maran, 1 Speckledy, 1 Whitestar Leghorn, 1 Cambridge Blue and two Light Sussex bantams. They all lay, some of the time. The leghorn used to be daily but recently she is moulting (bad time of year for it if you ask me).

And now for the news, I said Birds & Bees; I’m going to start having Bees. I’ve joined our local Bee club and I’ve bought a couple of hives, one ‘commercial’ (style of hive) from ebay and one ‘deep national’ from a very nice chap on a beekeeping forum. Now I just need tools and protective clothes.

I’ve got 2 mentors of a sort, both ex-BBC, who have very different ideas on Bees, and a whole host of people locally from the Bee club I can talk to for advice, so I’m REALLY not going to go short there. Only problem is where to keep them, allotment people want a certificate of competence, which I won’t be seeing for 2 years or so, and one of the neighbours is a bit notorious at not liking anything we do; They called out the environmental health last Christmas because of the chickens, they arrived and said there was no problem whatsoever and we were doing everything we should have been doing.

So I am going to start in the garden and see how things go, unless I can find another location.

So either way I thought I’d use the body of this post to keep lots of useful info I’ve been discussing with people so I don’t loose it

Cowboys and Aliens

I’ve just seen the “cowboys & aliens” trailer at imdb. that file is going to kick ass.

For those looking at SEO conundrums.

So what I learnt today is that if you do :


User-agent: * Disallow: /a Disallow: /b

User-agent: Googlebot Disallow: /c


Google’s serach indexer will ignore the lines for User-agent: * and only read the ones specified specifically for itself. So /a, /b get indexed and /c does not

However :


User-agent: Googlebot Disallow: /c

User-agent: * Disallow: /a Disallow: /b


Then google will correctly not spider /a, /b or /c.

Although I can find no mention of this rule in ordering.


Ok, I’ve noted that Google does say this actually; and moreso that if you have a bot specific block then that bot will ignore the rules for all bots.

So I’ve had to go and paste rules into each and every specific bot section

But what I have learnt today (1 day later) is that if you leave blank lines in a user-agent block then some engines will disregard that instruction (Yandex). I also had fun reading translated russian webmaster guidelines

So as a piece of commentary, I was going to say, why the Hell did they send in the American Special forces for a British Hostage. The Americans have a history of firendly fire (allegedly) and the SAS have a history of doing well at this kind of thing.

But apparently it was in the area owned, ahem, I mean controlled, by the Americans; and they knew the area better allegedly.

Still I think it shoulf have been the Brits doing the work with support, if nothing else it is going to strain relations ‘if’ it proves to be that it the Americans grenaded the poor woman.

There have been a few comments on the web though about how much the American media stated so categorically to start with that it was a terroist bomb vest, detonated by the terrorists that did the dammage.

So long and thanks for all the fish...

So someone asked me to post my leaving note from the BBC.

From: Nick Holmes
Sent: 09 August 2010 10:52
Subject: Elvis has left the building...

So it is my sad duty to announce my departure from the BBC.

After 12 years, 5 months, 4 days, and 8 hours, (or 648 weeks, 4538 days or 21.6 months of Sundays), of service to the BBC, my role and I have cast off to find other shores.

In a time before Dinosaurs walked the BBC Online world ( I started as a fresh faced 22 year old, working on the BBC's Trusted Guide to the internet, above the post office on Shepherds Bush Green. One of my first technical queries was, "So where are the technical production guidelines, you know the way you build websites", to which I was told there were none and there began my grand mission.

Brought in by the famous BBC Online names of old, (the late) Helen Gill, Sheila Sang, Jo Gausden and Scott Gronmark, I was annointed with the purpose to serve the public. After just over a year I was elevated to the role of team leader, and stayed there happy in my evolving role and responsibilities; until in recent years the apple cart was upset by reorganisation after reorganisation, and finally resolving to my departure.

In so many ways I will be unhappy to leave the BBC, and I will always have good memories of working with so many wonderful people and fighting the good fight with others, striving to put right what once went wrong. Oops, is that 'Quantum Leap' or just the last thing delivered a day before launch. Either way I was fortunate and grateful to have had so many spins of the wheel.

I will forever remember the Client-side Development team, that I was proud and honoured to be part of for so long, the brilliant efforts contributed, watching people grow in their roles and capability, watching them blossom and go on to bigger and better things, holding back the lump in my throat and the tear in my eye. The team Christmases with Secret santa presents, the team mp3 collation, team Christmas parties and a can of spam left in a desk draw to go off for a fortnight (yes, you Mr Maslen). The SSI tools made in 2001 and retired 12 months later due to lack of management support, which are still in use today on the site. The BBC Opensource site I built in my own time, with no design (clearly) or editorial resource, with no management support or funding, just a tall ship and a star to steer her by. The 43 minute site, from concept by Tony Ageh and Gareth Ford Williams, to publication (under its own tld no less). What would a farewell be without mention of Barley (and nav5 in all its permutations, 4 and 3) that I made so many years ago, so many memories, so many wrestles between creativity and individuality of sites and conformity of being part of the BBC, tied up in code.

I will remember the Standards & Guidelines - creativity, standardisation, politics and bun fights. The way that they were (are) held up outside the BBC as a guiding light in other development teams both domestic and foreign (as is turns out). The browser standards, the download standard, the accessibility standards, the great and all encompassing(x)html integrity standard, that was the father to them all, to name but a few. The versions that were never agreed and so never saw the light of day (SEO, Downloads v2, XSSI, Semantic Markup and so many more).

I remember doing charity work through the BBC, helping on school kids projects to get them into web building, building community sites for underprivileged areas of Hull. Equally helping various people to start learning a bit of html here and there to progress their careers or just make their own community websites. I remember doing roadshows round the nations and regions offices talking about accessibility, CSS and other web tech; I'm still sad I never made it to Belfast, but they know how to make someone welcome in BBC Scotland :-). I remember being in TVC on the millennium, updating the site as Big Ben chimed, waiting to see if the technical world melted down from the y2k bug; updating the children in need site on the night as photos, stories and new totals came in; getting free pizza while launching the first BBC toolbar, only to find that schools had not built the site, which they had argued so hard to have included on the list of linked sites.

I remember the camaraderie of Bush House bar (leading to a pseudo wife, wonderful 2 children and a home in the commuter belt), the family of the development team (with the occassional dodgy uncle), the New Media Christmas parties (with amusing stories to tell from each), the caring environment where appraisals and objectives were something positive, rather than the one time a year you'd get a proper line management conversation. The training and mentoring, the idealism and values, the BBC we once were.

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."
Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5, 19-28

I had to learn that at school, and seems so pertinent now at the end of all things. I only hope that some will say I made a positive difference, once.

And so, as the die is cast, I bid adieu, I would leave a final note with another :

"When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive
I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand."
"Thank God, I have done my duty."
Admiral Horatio Nelson, The Battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805)


Nick Holmes

Falcon 9 ready for take-off

So the Falcon 9 spacecraft is ready for its first launch given final clearance from the US Air Force to launch from cape canaveral.

As I speak their launch window has 1hr 13 minutes to run (1500 UTC Friday 2nd June 2010), and there is no sign on their site that they have launched yet.

Oh hang on, they had an unexpected issue as the rocket stalled aborting the launch…


Also posting

I'm not sure what to do about cross posting or not. I have 2 blogs : and nickholmes has no adverts, it gets no traffic :-(

for now I've imported all the entries here...

So recently I joined a few organic gardening, seed swaps and related groups on yahoogroups. And in response to one of my introduction mails I got a nice response from someone about how to deal with scale bugs and how to get a weed pile to compost successfully. I have 4 huge weed piles which seem to just sit there and not decompose. So without much further ado here is the advice:

Scale bugs

So here is a one two punch for you for the scales. First you can use either Isopropyl Alcohol mixed at a ratio of 7 to 1. 7parts water to 1 part Alcohol. That will kill the little buggers. Then to repel them you will need to make a journey to the produce market and pick up one Garlic bulb 1 onion, and some Cyanne Pepper. Put in in the food processor and Puree. Then put that into a quart of water and boil for 5 minutes. Strain the Elixir through some cheese cloth and allow to cool. Add a table spoon of dish soap and spray your plants. Now some may suggest the predatory beetles but after they eat all the scales they leave and then what happens when the scales come back and the beetles are gone on another tour.

Composting Weeds

Now about the weed seeds in the compost pile. HEAT is the cure. The Pile has to be generating at least a 140 degrees of heat or better. So How do you do that? If you have access to a High Nitrate animal fertilizer you are in business. Chicken, sheep, goat, have a very high nitrate levels which generates lots of heat in compost.
But if you don't have access to that kind of heat there are other ways! You can go to the nursery and find and Organic bagged fertilizer that has a very high Nitrogen level. and mix that in with the compost and then take a 1 liter bottle of coke and a large can of really cheap beer/ale/stout and let both beverages go flat. Blend them and mix them with 2 quarts of water and spray the pile. Inside and out. So that means you will turn the pile and then spray turn and spray until you run out of spray. Then cover the whole pile with Black Plastic. If you don't have one I suggest you purchase a compost thermometer. Now in the event that the Pile gets into the 220 degree plus zone you will need a length of plastic pipes with some holes drilled in the sides 3/8 inch or better so you can vent the pile so that it doesn't burst into flame. But if your pile does get really warm bring the Kettle It will make a nice pot of tea. And in short order to.
So that should put and end to the weed seed issue.

Thanks to Jeff Strong for all this advice

Sailing again

So in the last year I’ve been leaving to sail, yachts that is. I used to sail dinghies when I was young, earlier by being in Sea Scouts (1st Rhu), later by having a Topper to sail when we lived in the lake district.

Back to recent events, first in August ‘09 I went to Gibraltar to try it out, doing a Competent Crew RYA course with Trafalgar Sailing. I enjoyed it so much I figured I’d go on to try to get certification so I could take a boat out myself. In October I started on my Day Skipper Theory, doing it weekends in Greenwich with OnDeck. Then at the end of the season (3rd November, Brrr) I went out for a weekend with a club that were doing an introductory weekend.

So later today I’m going to start my Day Skipper practical in the Menai straits, North Wales, with Plas Menai. I met the nice people from Plas Menai at the Southampton boat show and they were very friendly, so I have high hopes. The only worry is that Windfinder has winds predicted for Monday (tomorrow) and Tuesday at 27knots (Force 6-7, 31mph) , Met Office saying it will be gusting to 45mph Force 8, aka Gale. So that’s either going to be worrying or stop us going out.

Well, I’ll try to take pictures and put them up on flickr with the tag sailing

I'm not a chicken plucker

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So its would seem that our white leghorn has been plucking and eating feathers from the other chickens. Apparently this might be boredom, protein deficiency or not enough greens. One way or the other we will have to do something, we have 3 chickens now with bare bottoms and its been snowing outside.


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