July 2004

Apple Product Cycle


The Apple Product Cycle is a brilliant parody, not so much of Apple’s product development (though it does skewer its launch and ship dates), but of the ridiculous reactions of Mac fanboys — and the tech media — to expected or rumoured product releases. It’s funny because it’s true. Via Cult of Mac.

More entries below »

Camera phone hysteria

You may have noticed a certain amount of hysteria out there about the presence of camera phones — cellphones with a built-in digital camera. Apparently they could be used for all sorts of malfeasance, from pantsuto fetishism to industrial espionage. Case in point: at the Newmarket reptile show last month, there was a notice on the community centre banning digital cameras in PDAs and phones. This was a community centre where selling reticulated pythons was legal, but they were deathly afraid that someone might use their phone to surreptitiously take a picture of you taking a pee.

The reaction to camera phones is not unlike what happened when the inexpensive Kodak film camera was introduced in 1888 (via Kottke).

Satellite Internet for the masses

Affordable high-speed Internet by satellite?

[The new Anik F2 satellite] will, for the first time, let an Anik satellite deliver two-way, broadband Internet service to any location in North America at a price that’s competitive with residential cable or DSL high-speed services.
Previously, you’d have to spend at least a couple hundred dollars a month to get high-speed access to your cottage or rural business. Bush estimates Telesat’s consumer high-speed Internet service, which will be sold through a distribution network yet to be announced (but likely to include Bell Canada), will cost only 5 to 10 per cent more than what Torontonians pay for high-speed services from Sympatico and Rogers.

Via Boing Boing. As it stands, I’m fortunate that Shawville and a few other places around the Pontiac have high-speed Internet via DSL or cable. But, while I like living out in the boonies — most of the time! — the absence of high-speed Internet outside certain towns and villages is rather limiting. Absent this satellite, my choices were to (1) limit myself to places like Shawville that have it, (2) resign myself to dial-up (making do with dial-up accelerators), or (3) shell out for seriously expensive satellite service. So this is good.

Olympic bacchanale

No surprise: the Olympics are a two-week long, alcohol-fuelled fuckfest for athletes — especially those who’ve been eliminated or who’ve finished early and have nothing left to do …

At the Albertville winter Olympics, condom machines in the athletes’ village had to be refilled every two hours. And in Sydney the organisers’ original order of 70,000 condoms went so fast that they had to order 20,000 more. Even with the replenishment, the supply was exhausted three days before the end of the competition schedule. (For the record, athletes who were in Sydney report that the Cuban delegation was the first to use up its allocation.) Salt Lake City in 2002 went even bigger: 250,000 condoms were handed out, despite the objections of the city’s Mormon leadership.
“There’s a lot of sex going on. You get a lot of people who are in shape, and, you know, testosterone’s up and everybody’s attracted to everybody,” says Breaux Greer, a shaggy-blond Californian who competed in the javelin at the Sydney Games.
“It’s not an orgy,” says one alpine skiing champion, Carrie Sheinberg, “but it is socially vigorous.”

Via MetaFilter. Back in Edmonton the then-husband of a friend regaled us with tales of the sexual escapades of Olympic athletes during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary — he was working security at the athletes’ village — and mentioned some famous medal winners who paired up with one another, whose names I will not repeat here for obvious reasons.

Comments closed

I’ve decided to close down comments on this blog. Existing comments will remain, and I may open up comments for specific posts in the future, but from now on the default setting will be not to have them.

Comments came when I switched this blog to Movable Type from Blogger in November 2003. Since then there haven’t been many legitimate comments — 64 in total, many from me. My readers, such few as there are, do not appear to be the commenting sort. But more time has been spent weeding out comments from comment spammers (MT-Blacklist helps but there is some effort in maintaining the list), clueless types who think that an individual post on a personal blog is in fact a bulletin board for all comers on the subject, and, most recently, a family member who was using the comments to smack me around a bit online.

The experiment, in other words, was not a success: I was beginning to spend more time dealing with, worrying about or reacting to comments than I was writing the damned entries themselves.

Continue reading this entry »


Today marks the third anniversary of this blog (first, second).

As personal blogs go, it’s surprisingly impersonal most of the time, with occasional forays — as you’ve no doubt noticed recently — into extremely raw, personal territory.

I’ve been thinking about this a bit: about writing with emotion, about writing personally revealing subject matter, and about public blogging as a way of overcoming excessively high personal barriers. I’ve been planning a post about this, but it’s been stoppered. Suffice to say that I have plans to be more vividly personal, partly as an exercise in catharsis, partly as a challenge to myself to be bolder and more fearless about what I write.

I’ll explain it in more detail once I’ve figured it out myself.

Blogging from your Palm

HBlogger, currently in beta, is a Palm OS application that allows you to post to your blog (Blogger, LiveJournal and Movable Type) from an Internet-connected Palm OS handheld (via Palm Infocenter). This plus Bluetooth connection sharing — or an affordable and strong GPRS signal — and I’m set.

Healy Pass

Remember how I said that the Healy Pass photos would be up in a few days — back in April?

Ha. How little you understand my inability to choose which photos to use. (Drove Dave nuts at the paper: I’d give him a full card of photos and he’d only want a few — I just couldn’t figure out which ones were good.)

Anyway, they’re up now: 30 photos from Geoff’s and my hike of the Simpson Pass—Healy Meadows and Healy Pass trails (see previous entry).

The trails section has had another redesign, too — replacing tables with CSS elements. It may not look 100 per cent on Internet Explorer, but you’re not supposed to be using that browser any more anyway.

Unless I happen across a store of forgotten photos somewhere, that should be it for photo galleries on the trails section until I go hiking again.

Negative campaigning and persuasion

James writes about the inefficacy of negative campaigning in the last federal election:

But the Conservatives never seemed to crack the 33% barrier, primarily because while Canadians knew every reason why the Liberals deserved defeat, they were short on reasons why the Conservatives deserved victory… .
In my opinion, Canadians seem to tune out negative advertising saying, in effect, “Yeah, yeah, Stephen Harper is the anti-Christ, whatever! But what would you actually do for this country?”

I take a slightly different view. I’m of the opinion that negative campaigning does in fact work, but you can’t win an election on negativity alone. This was the mistake that both the Liberals and Conservatives made: they spent all their time explaining how terrible it would be to elect the other guys, without making the case for themselves. In a nutshell, they both ran terrible campaigns — the minority result is, I think, proof that neither side was persuasive on their own behalf.

Governments tend to get elected on positive messages — Chrétien in 1993 with da liddle red book, Clinton in 1992 — even if they’re combined with a strong negative message. “We can do better than that crap, and here’s how” is much better than “This is crap, and they’re all assholes” — which may well be true, but it doesn’t necessarily make the case why someone should vote for you.

The Missing Sync

The Missing Sync 4, available next month, is a full replacement for the increasingly creaky HotSync Manager for Mac OS X. Previous iterations of the Missing Sync have enabled Mac compatibility with a whole whack of handhelds, Palm OS or otherwise. This version integrates all the previous hacks for Palm OS handhelds (Sony Clié, Tapwave Zodiac, Garmin iQue) and adds features not available in HotSync. Me, I’m looking at the iPhoto plugins and the Internet sharing via Bluetooth.

This software is what will enable Palm Cobalt compatibility with the Mac; PalmSource had earlier indicated that they would not ship a Mac version of HotSync for Cobalt, but that third-party solutions would be available (see previous entry). Here’s that third-party solution, even though no Cobalt devices have shipped yet.

In the meantime, this’ll be compatible with Palm OS 4 and OS 5 devices. This means that Jen’s m500 and my Tungsten T2 will work with this, though OS 3.x devices won’t — too bad for imminent switchers Florence (Palm m105) and David (Palm Vx), who will have to use HotSync (which is at least free).

iPod mini available internationally; AirPort Express not listed in Canada

Apple is now taking pre-orders for the iPod mini from international customers; they will begin shipping on July 24. The mini’s availability has been limited to the U.S. for months due to high demand and constrained supply (previous entry). The Canadian price is $349.

(Meanwhile, why doesn’t AirPort Express appear in Apple’s Canada Store? The Canadian page says “Coming soon.” I’d love to know what’s behind that.)

Feeding and egg issues

The gopher snakes, on the other hand, don’t seem to feel like eating at all. I was concerned that the male may not be eating because he’s stressed out by the presence of the female — they’re housed together — and she’s been known to nip at him every now and then. He’s finickier than she is — it’s a snake male thing — but now neither of them are eating. (Update: She ate eventually.)

My current working theory is that they’ve gone into aestivation. We’ve had them on extra heat because we were concerned about their digestion. They’re from B.C. stock, so they may not be as comfortable with the heat. We’ll see. Inappetance is one of the most common health issues with snakes, and there are about a zillion reasons why a snake won’t eat.

Meanwhile, I just had a quick look in the incubator. Little Guy’s eggs have collapsed a bit — at least the ones I can see — and there’s mould growing in there. A sign that at least some of the eggs are no good. Only one of Ruby’s four eggs looks good — it also looks huge. No change on Lilith’s eggs: two white eggs, a little dry and dimpled but reasonably good nonetheless, and one smaller egg going greyish-brown.

Not a fecund year by any stretch, but that was expected.

Killer Butler’s garter snakes

It’s now safe to say that after nearly four years, my two Butler’s garter snakes have overcome the shyness that is inherent to the species. The hungry little fuckers were trying to eat my fingers tonight — I narrowly avoided being the only person on the planet ever to be bitten by a Butler’s garter.

Alligator errors

Just sent the following letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail about this article about the comeback of the American alligator, which I would have enjoyed more if it had been a bit more accurate.

William Illsey Atkinson’s article about the comeback of the American alligator (“He’s Back,” July 3) contains two statements of fact that require correction and clarification.
First, to say that alligators consider their own offspring a delicacy, or that they practice cannibalism as a form of crocodilian birth control, is not quite accurate. Alligator mothers guard their nests and protect their young for the first year; the young alligators will call for their mother when they feel threatened. Crocodilians are among the few reptiles that show parental care. Alligator males, on the other hand, have no such compunctions, and will certainly prey on younger, smaller alligators if they are abundant, even if they are blood relations — and that might serve, indirectly and unintentionally, as population control. Perhaps that is what Mr. Atkinson meant, but the article may leave a different impression.
Second, calling alligators omnivores is at the very least ambiguous: they are omnivores in the gustatory sense (in that they will eat all manner of animals, including fish, molluscs, reptiles, birds and mammals), but they are not omnivores in the strict biological sense. Like all modern crocodilians, they are decidedly carnivorous.

Atkinson is apparently a technology consultant; what’s he doing writing about alligators? (Then again: what’s an historian like me doing messing around with snakes? Fair enough.)

More on the American alligator.

Hour of the wolf

Fewer elk, more vegetation. When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, it meant big changes for the Park’s ecosystem.

Although the jury is still deliberating the effects of wolves, early evidence strongly suggests that the canids are unwitting restoration biologists. By simply doing what they do — mainly preying on elk — they are visiting great changes on the Yellowstone ecosystem. Many of the changes are positive for those things humans value, and for experts to accomplish some of these same goals would be hugely expensive.

Reducing the numbers of elk allowed vegetation long suppressed by elk grazing to begin coming back, and that had a cascading effect on other species dependent on that vegetation. And, since wolves are the only predator capable of bringing down a full-sized cervid, their reintroduction was beneficial to scavengers, too. Via Rebecca’s Pocket.