Category Archives: Personal

Programming with JavaScript is what I do for a living, but you can never sit still. JavaScript as a language, the environment in which it operates, the context in which it is used, the ideas and techniques for using it, it never stops evolving. It’s important to keep up.

The next big hurdle is TypeScript, an evolution of JavaScript. I was sceptical at first (it compiles to JavaScript and isn’t used natively – without translation – in many contexts) but it seems to be gaining traction and I think it’s a good gamble to get into it. There’s no harm.

Let’s face it, I frequently get books on new languages and then don’t learn them, which is practically criminal for someone who does what I do for a living. Here’s hoping I’ll see this one through.

(I really, really wanted to learn C. And Objective-C, which I got a start on. I always wanted to learn Python, but… I don’t need it for anything. Go is a big deal for serverside development right now. And Swift. Scala… It seemed like a useful way to get into Java. Considering Rust now, didn’t get the book.)

The first photo is how I found it, the second, how it should be. I noticed that the bottle wasn’t hanging as low as it should. The second is how it should be. The Magpies had pulled up the string and looped it around the post, which isn’t a trivial job, in order to get it up and stop it swinging so that it would be easier to get to the other side and get the seeds out (which aren’t really suitable for Magpies, but they never stop trying). When I first put it out, they tried to undo the knot and get it off the hook, so they decided on this as a plan B. I am impressed.

Every day, they come. They walk around, they check every corner, each side, the bottom edge, the top, they do visual inspections, brute force tests… They don’t give up. Sometimes individually, sometimes up to fourteen of them, circling or squabbling viciously amongst themselves. But they don’t tire of it.

The Magpies think that they can get in if they keep working at it and find whatever weakness, some angle of attack that I’ve overlooked, and get the seeds and peanuts inside. And also the tasty mealworms I put there for birds that want them (I’m hoping that the Starlings will come back one day, as annoying as they were in the beginning).

Anyway, it’s fine. The Chaffinches have been in, and I was confident enough to cut a few wider gaps in the mesh to make it more appealing for the slightly larger birds (you might see them if you look closely at the photo). It might be this that the Magpies have been trying to figure out; they know that I did something, that I made a change, and the small bird traffic is steadily increasing, which indicates a possible exploit.

I’m still glad that I did it, even more so. I left some seeds on top of it in a jar lid, and the Magpies threw it off twice. I hung up an old bottle feeder, and every day they come and attack it and try to find new ways to remove it from the hanger. I can’t leave anything out. If they can’t eat it, they destroy it. Magpies. Small, vindictive, flying people.

This morning, while having breakfast, we had a startling, striking visitor to our garden. A Bullfinch! If you don’t know what it is, it is a relatively large finch, heavily built, with black, pink chest and highlights of grey and white. Mid-summer, it is stunning for a small bird. They’re also somewhat people-averse; unlike tits or other finches, they like hiding in bushes or trees and don’t seem to enjoy sharing space with humans (good policy, they’re smart birds).

I’ve long hoped to see one in the garden. There are quite a few of them nearby, I can hear them and occasionally see them, but in the middle of an estate is a bit of a stretch for them so I had resigned myself to not seeing any. This morning, one came, first viewing the garden, then inspecting each feeder in turn, briefly. And then it left, presumably having noted all the available foods on offer.

The new feeder is a mixed bag; on the one hand, it protects the food and the smaller birds from the voracious Magpies, but on the other hand, it’s not high up and with good visibility, which is how many birds prefer it. The tits have finally decided that they like it, so it is now packed for much of the day with Blue, Coal and Great Tits, but no finches, no Robin, no Dunnock (these two don’t feed directly, but on whatever results from other birds feeding), no Blackcap, no Starlings. I haven’t figured out if this is because I moved the feeding post, or the over-abundance of Magpies, or the over-abundance of Magpies was caused by me moving the feeder, or is it seasonal, or the lockdown altered patterns for birds (this has been observed), or because I didn’t put out much food for a month or two during lockdown, or some random factors.

So I was glad to see a visiting Bullfinch, I just hope that the other birds eventually return or at least have found something better than my garden.

Ramble to Maynooth

Some reservations about the Greenwayification, but… the Blanchardstown to Clonsilla section still absolutely scares the shit out of me. Yes, I did put on weight recently. You know where you can take your judgement. And when you’re on the way back, bring me biscuits.

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They brought it.

My apologies for the terrible quality; I’ll try and bring the big guns to bear later. They’ll be back. They always come back.

I’ve started, over the past few days, to build a new bird feeder. It’s entirely different to the previous efforts; this is about building a Magpie-free space in which all birds of Starling-size and smaller can come and feed safely without having everything eaten in the space of ten frenzied minutes by what are effectively hungry, angry, vindictive flying children. Magpies are omnivores, and will eat anything that you or I can eat, and so much more. They can also work around by ingenuity or brute force any counter-measures that you can conceive of; they are strong, and clever, and persistent.

There are also too many of them. This year, the competition for food has heated up enormously, and they are getting more pushy, eating things that they would previously have passed up, more daring. They line the peaks of the rooftops, watching the gardens. I think that they know me, sometimes I hear squawks when I shake out a cloth or a breadboard, and they’re always in after I do anything in the garden, to see what’s changed.

So I heard a noise downstairs just now, the sound of wood falling, and thought that one of the pieces of wood that I had been varnishing earlier this morning had somehow fallen over. I had been careful about setting up, so even as I was running down, I was thinking that this was odd. No. I had been careful. There was a Magpie in the kitchen, which had come in to have a look at what I had been up to, because they can see it from outside, and the bird had come in from a door which was slightly ajar in a different part of the kitchen, and come around to have a poke at my work, to inspect it, to see how it is going. And poop on things, of course. I went to get the keys to open the big door to let it out, but no, it went around to the door that it came in by, and walked out. Casually.

The absolute cheek. I can’t wait for this feeder to be finished, they’ll hate it.

From Blanchardstown to the park, and just shy of 22 km in all. Might try for the full 27km menu next time. The road parts were occasionally scary though.

To make it harder for Magpies to clean out the peanut feeder and keep the smaller birds away, I made a cage. It works, up to a point. You can’t really keep Magpies out of anything; what they can’t solve through brute force, they solve through ingenuity, and vice versa, and if you defeat them on both levels, nothing else will get to whatever you’re protecting either. My idea is the increase the amount of energy they require to extract peanuts so that they spend more energy than they get from them, and hope that they’re smart enough to make this calculation too.

I think that there are too many Magpies in this area for the resources available to them, and they’re resorting to eating things in bulk that they would not normally be so keen on, such as peanuts. If anything is out there for any length of time, there can be up to 12 or more Magpies in the garden, checking it out. I took the feeders in because I felt that I was basically stocking Magpie feeders, and so encouraging them.

What pushed me into trying to solve the problem was the sight of a lean Greenfinch frantically dancing outside the kitchen door, trying to figure out how to get to the peanut feeder inside. Clearly, still some demand not being met out there for small birds. We’ll see how it goes, but I’ve already planned out a protected ground-level feeder for the ground birds that seem to have stopped coming.

On Dating Apps

The profiles went live, and then the hits came in. They came, and they kept coming. It was exhilarating and flattering. You can’t see who has matched you, you have to pay for that, so after a couple of weeks of this, where I seemingly racked up somewhere in the region of 80 or so […]

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