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Mouser Williams
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I like pie.
I like pie.

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We have a 1-liter hummingbird feeder here at work that gets a lot of attention from the local birds. At this time of year they are draining it in almost exactly 10 hours during the day.  Yesterday I filled it when I got to work at 7:15 and it was empty when I left at 17:15.  Between 17:15 yesterday and 7:15 this morning, they only managed to drink about 750ml, so their 24-hour average drain rate is about 1.75 liters per day.  

Hummingbirds the size of Black-chinned Hummingbirds, the most common species here, tend to eat "meals" of about 0.29 ml of nectar, meaning that our feeder holds about 3450 meals worth of nectar. The frequency of meals for a hummingbird depends on the sugar content of the nectar and varies between 5 and 15 meals per hour.  This means that our feeder holds somewhere between 230 and 690 hummingbird-hours worth of food. The fact that the resident birds go through the feeder contents in about 10 hours means that we're servicing somewhere between 23 and 69 birds during the day. 

Of course, this assumes that the hummingbirds that use our feeder aren't getting additional food from anywhere else.  This is almost certainly a bad assumption, meaning that the actual number of birds visiting our feeder on a given day is likely quite a bit higher.   

Contrast this with the feeder at my house, some 10 km away, which I think services about two birds.  A liter of nectar, if left in the feeder until it was gone, would last many weeks and I suspect the bulk of the loss would be to evaporation. 

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Broad-tailed Hummingbird Egg

Like a little white jellybean.
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So the Gangnam Style music video has so many views that YouTube is having to re-tool their infrastructure to use 64-bit numbers to store the view count.   But in their G+ post about this factoid, they reveal that they are using signed integers to store their view counts.    Who codes this stuff? 

I realize that some of my readers are not coders, so I'll explain in some detail why this is strange.  Coders and others who understand binary representation of signed numbers can ignore the remainder of this post.  

When you have a set number of bits to store a number, there is a largest number you can store. If you have two bits, you can store any one of four values.   If you want to be able to store negative numbers, however, then you have to reserve a bit for the sign of the value.  Thus, if you have two bits but you want your value to be signed, then one bit is used for the sign and there is only one bit left over for the value, so you can only store one of two values.  Using signed integers divides the number of possible values you can represent by two.  

For 32-bit integers, which YouTube has been using for their view counts, the largest value you can store is 4,294,967,296, or a tad over four billion.   If you use a signed 32-bit integer, the largest number you can store is 2,147,483,648, or just over two billion.   The Gangnam Style video now has over two billion views, and is thus approaching the limit for signed 32-bit integers, but it's only half way to the limit for unsigned 32-bit integers.   The switch to 64 bit integers is probably still warranted, though it is unlikely this particular video will reach the true 32-bit unsigned limit for years.

Most computer languages will default to using a signed interpretation of an integer unless you specifically tell it that a given value is unsigned.  However, it is considered good computer science practice to explicitly label any values that will never be negative as unsigned.  The fact that YouTube is using a signed integer for something that cannot be negative suggests amateur coding somewhere in the bowels of their infrastructure.

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Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.  

For those of you who haven't already heard, I was deep in the wilderness of western Wyoming for the last week and had to trigger my emergency beacon to initiate a rescue.  For awhile on Sunday all of my family, my wife's family, and a host of other people were justifiably freaking out.  There has been a reasonable amount of misinformation going around, so here's what actually happened:

Bob, Tom, and I were setting up our campsite for our fourth night in the Bridger Wilderness when a man with lots of blood all over his shirt ran out of the woods asking if any of us had an emergency beacon.   I said that I did and asked him what had happened, and he said that his 10-year-old son had fallen and cut his leg so badly that blood was "spurting" out of it and that he had to put a tourniquet on the leg to stop the bleeding.  From his description, I judged that this qualified as "grave and imminent danger" to the child, so I immediately triggered my beacon.  

The father and I ran the mile or so to the site of the accident where the kid was being tended to by his mother and sister.  I removed the ace bandage and duct tape that they had applied to his leg and saw a massive laceration below his knee.  I cleaned the would as best I could, applied a QuickClot patch to prevent any further bleeding, then re-dressed the wound back up.  With the clotting patch in place,  I was able to remove the tourniquet without any additional bleeding and eventually we got the kid vertical again and there was still no sign of bleeding.  At that point, I declared him stable enough that moving him was an option (though I still didn't want him to be putting weight on that leg).  

There was discussion of waiting for the SAR helicopter to arrive, which would happen some time in the next 24 hours, or to carry the kid out to the family's campsite, where they had a boat and could take him directly across the lake to their car and then to the hospital.  Since the kid wasn't bleeding and didn't seem to be in much pain, I recommended this course of action and the family agreed.  The boat was about 1.5 miles away from the accident site, and because I didn't want the kid walking on that leg, we elected to carry him.   The father, my climbing partner Tom, and I took turns piggy-backing the 130-pound kid all the way to the boat, which was somewhat exhausting.  

The family suited up in their flotation devices while I wrote out instructions on how to call off the search once they were within cell service (and also how to call my wife so that she could stop worrying if I was trapped under a boulder).  I also left the beacon with them, assuming that if anyone was tracking it down, they'd be more useful with the kid than at my campsite where nothing was wrong.  With the necessary information delivered and the kid still doing very well considering the circumstances, Tom and I headed back to camp and the family headed out across the lake in their boat.  

About an hour later, the SAR chopper arrived but at that point there was no one to pick up.   I learned later that the SAR ground team was at the trailhead when the family arrived at their car, so the confusion over who it was that needed rescuing got cleared up quickly, the SAR mission was terminated, and my family (who had been doing a great job of finding all the information the SAR team was asking for) was informed that I was fine.  

Of course no one knew where I was at this point so there was no means of communicating to me that the search was over, and until we hiked out the following morning and got within cell phone coverage, I wasn't certain that the search for me wasn't still going on.  

Anyway, happy ending all around.  I've since talked with the father; his son got to the hospital in Pinedale, WY, that night and got a whopping 43 stitches and is recovering nicely.    

And that's how I spent my vacation week.   For those who are interested, we did not summit Gannet Peak; the water level was too high for the Well's Creek route and we ended up being too exhausted after finding a shallow place to cross the Green River to continue up Tourist Creek to our high camp.   So it was a great backpacking trip in the Green River Valley for which we each brought many kilos of unnecessary mountaineering equipment.   Helping out a kid in need was a nice way to finish off the trip.  

For all of you whose blood pressure went through the roof when the news of my beacon being activated arrived, I apologize.  
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First post here; critique appreciated. 


Cloudwalker
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), Lake Jessup, FL.  
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