March 2004


Sites hosted by my hosting company, DreamHost, were down for most of yesterday after one of their routers failed; once they were back up, shortly after noon yesterday, the accumulated traffic backlog crashed several of their servers, causing even more downtime. So all of my sites, along with several tens of thousands of others, were unavailable for much of yesterday. But it looks like all is well again.

iPod mini delayed internationally


When it comes to the supply channel, I’ve noticed that Apple usually tries to err on the side of caution: better to have too little in the channel than too many. Shortages are better than unsold stock piling up in warehouses. (Remember the sudden drop-off in flat-panel iMac demand, for example.) But the iPod mini, on the other hand, is in short supply because there just aren’t enough of those little four-gigabyte hard drives available; as a result, the international release has been pushed back from April to July.

So, another parts shortage. So what does it mean? It’s at least in part due to demand forecasts that turned out to be too conservative; they would have ramped things up differently — tried to order more hard drives from Hitachi, delayed release, or delayed international release. But then if they weren’t expecting limited supply and strong demand, they wouldn’t have opted for a two-tier rollout. In any event, it’s quite different from the conventional wisdom, which was that it was going to bomb.

More entries below »

CPR steam

Steam Locomotives of the CPR is a little incomplete and has a few niggling errors here and there that I can spot, but it’s an impressive, ambitious work in progress, with lots of detailed information and photos of preserved (if decrepit) locomotives.

The blame in Spain

It’s long been established that the U.S. right wing knows little and cares less about the intricacies of foreign politics (see previous entry), so it’s no surprise that the pundits’ condemnation of Spanish voters’ spineless for voting in the Socialists in response to Al Qaeda’s attacks on commuter trains is, well, wrong. As Paul Wells argues in his latest Macleans column — and damn it if he isn’t required reading again — Spanish voters voted against a government that was lying to them about the attacks. Aznar’s government went to extraordinary lengths to pin the attacks on ETA despite evidence to the contrary, and people caught on that they were being lied to: it was more politically expedient to the ruling party that Basque separatists, rather than Islamic terrorists, were responsible. And voters, no dummies, got them for it.

This, of course, has nothing to do with governments trying to link Al Qaeda attacks with Iraq because it was politically expedient to do so. Nothing at all.

Snake conservation on the web

Stephanie and her mother are trying to put together a Snake Awareness Day, which April 17 has been designated as. To that end, Stephanie is putting together a web site at, which is only a rough mockup at the moment and needs donated content. Says Stephanie: “What we need is information pertaining to snake conservation and/or pics of your snakes. If you have good rescue/conservation stories to share, please send them to me. This is a group project and everyone who participates will be given credit.”

Also check out the snake conservation mailing list.

Cancelling the International

It’s probably the first time that long-haul passenger service between two large cities has been discontinued in favour of better local service, but that’s just what Amtrak and VIA have done: they’ve discontinued the Chicago-to-Toronto “International” and replaced it with local services whose schedules do not coincide: Amtrak with a service between Port Huron, Michigan and Chicago that leaves early in the morning and returns in the evening; VIA with a Sarnia-to-Toronto train that more or less replicates the old train.

Usually the traffic between larger centres supports local service, but it seems that the long border delays between Port Huron and Sarnia were driving everyone batty. VIA is touting its new train as better and more reliable — have they been getting complaints about the Amtrak Superliners? (I took them on that route once; they’re not great.) Amtrak relies on state subsidies from Michigan for that route; they needed to provide better on-time local service to maintain that funding, I gather, and the border delays were no doubt adding to the problems of dodging scheduled freight runs. (A late passenger train loses its priority and just gets later, as I discovered.)

(See previous entry; via forums)

Conservative leadership results — the Pontiac edition

Stephen Harper didn’t win too many constituencies in Quebec today, but my own riding was one of them, according to the Conservative Party’s leadership results page: Harper 54.9%, Stronach 38.9%, Clement 6.2%. (Of course, he got nearly 82 per cent on the other side of the river in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, but that seat was won by the Alliance in 2000.)

It wouldn’t surprise me if folks around here had something to do with it: it’s a really socially conservative area that would have an affinity for Harper’s pitch. I once heard the mayor refer to women by their husbands’ first and last names (e.g., Mrs. John Smith). Things like that make me think I’m living in a time warp — it’s the 1950s, but with high-speed Internet and no railroad. And Harper did come to speak in Quyon a few weeks back. But then all the local politicians seem to be active in the Liberal party around here, social conservatism notwithstanding. So go figure.

Frisky snakes

Amorous activity in the corn snake tank this morning. Trouser, as usual, is living up to his namesake, pestering poor Pretzel. He even shed his skin in the process — all that rubbing and moving around, I suppose. (Last year’s antics were recorded here: 1, 2, 3.)

I hibernated no snakes this winter, which should discourage breeding this year, but it still doesn’t surprise me that the corn snakes are going at it — it’s about a month earlier than it would have been had they been hibernated. I would be surprised — pleasantly — if the Pituophis did anything, though. (Black pine snakes are expensive and sell well, heh.)

Incumbents overboard

Sheila’s not alone; incumbent Liberal MPs have been dropping like flies of late, losing their nomination battles. My own MP, Robert Bertrand, lost the nomination for Pontiac to newcomer David Smith from Maniwaki, my old newspaper reports. Though the story only gives the barest bones of an outline — who’s the new guy, anyway? — it seems that Bertrand was simply outhustled for the nomination.

Pesky Joe (see previous entry), who was elected as an Alliance MP in 2000 but switched to the Liberals in 2002, met a similar fate in Richmond, B.C., losing the nomination to Raymond Chan, the Liberal MP he beat in 2000.

Neither of these guys had much of a profile in the House: Bertrand always struck me as the ultimate rural constituency MP; we’re not sure what Peschisolido’s been up to. But it’s interesting to note that while the Pesky Joe/Raymond Chan battle gets national coverage on the CBC web site, thanks in no small part to the notoriety of the story, Bertrand’s defeat is all but invisible. It’s not showing up anywhere in my Google searches. It’s like you now need the interesting angle to get any coverage at all — a sitting MP with a decade in the House losing his nomination battle (and, quelle horreur, being magnanimous about it) is no longer sufficiently newsworthy outside the riding.

Arrogant Worms blog

So the Arrogant Worms have been blogging during their tour; let’s see if they keep it up. It’s fun, and personal, with lots of backstage anecdotes. Sort of like Moby’s blog, only less, um, ethereal.

Bazooka barfing

Well, that was fun. Came down with the stomach flu while travelling over the weekend, which made for a fun, eight-hour trip home Sunday evening: every couple of hours I told Jen to pull over so I could gag, retch and generally paint the highway shoulder. Most uncomfortable. Wasn’t able to keep down solid food until yesterday afternoon. But much better now.


Am I the only one unnerved by the sight of Liberal nomination candidates touting their closeness to the prime minister as a reason for voters to support them? Richard Mahoney did it in Ottawa Centre, Tony Valeri just did it this past weekend, and so did Ottawa South Liberal candidate David McGuinty (brother of). It’s somewhat unsavoury: vote for me and you’ll have a representative who’s buddy-buddy with the boss. I didn’t think that was a qualification for office — at least not in a system not rife with cronyism.

A related argument is to vote for a member of the government party: we’re going to win anyway, so you may as well have someone on the “right” side. This is, essentially, the argument David Northcott is making in Winnipeg Centre.

Crossbucks, lights and wire

Details are where the fun is. One of the things Jen and I have been discussing about a putative model railroad is little animated detailed bits — crossings, traffic lights and so forth. Chances are, we’ll have to go shopping at Berkshire Junction at some point: they do crossbucks (in Z scale!) and other bits of lighting trickery, as well as some elastic telephone lines which is supposedly better than stringing thread from pole to pole.

Pelletier’s firing

Now that Jean Pelletier has been fired as VIA chairman for his remarks about Myriam Bédard (see previous entry), is the media having second thoughts? The Saturday papers mostly put it above the fold (except the Toronto Star). Now John Ibbitson is saying that Pelletier has been treated badly. Warren Kinsella is making hay as well, but he’s not at all neutral. While I think the reason given by the government for the firing — we don’t want to intimidate whistleblowers — is defensible, I think the main reaction is shock that he was actually fired for it. Lots of people in government, after all, have said much more offensive things (as Kinsella points out) without getting fired for it. We’re used to fulminating against people to no avail, damn it!

The next time VIA Rail hits the news, it had better be something to do about trains, or so help me.