May 2005

Faces of West Quebec

I was profiled in the West Quebec Post last week, as part of their “Faces of West Quebec” feature. They were passing a copy around the archives on Saturday. Originally the writer wanted to focus on the snakery, but her ears pricked up when I mentioned the web stuff, particularly DFL. So she had a lot of material to cover in a limited space. (It’s a really small paper, too: only 12 pages, tabloid. No web site.)

That article, incidentally, is the first public mention that I’ll be doing DFL again for the Winter Olympics next year. So Kate got a scoop, albeit a tiny one.

Cause and effect and teen pregnancy

Tart Cider amplifies this Guardian column; the point of each is to challenge the notion that teen pregnancies represent a loss of opportunity. It turns out it’s the other way around: teens who get pregnant never had many opportunities to begin with, and so, the logic goes, have nothing to lose by getting knocked up. Their socioeconomic status would have been unchanged had they not gotten pregnant. Teen pregnancy isn’t a cause of poverty, but it’s a definite indicator of it.

My copyright has been violated

These photos of Eastern Milk Snakes, published on this site, are mine: I took them in 2000. I still have the original, full-size, uncropped images. They have been published without attribution and without my consent, in violation of my copyright. I’m doing something about this. So far, I’m raising a stink on the mailing list where this site was first posted. Hopefully it won’t escalate beyond this, but, make no mistake, I’m prepared to escalate this. I’ve been paid for my photos before; I have to defend my copyright.

Update: I’ve sent him an invoice for the photos — a reasonable step for which there is past precedent (The Equity did it when its rival paper inadvertently published one of their photos). We’ll see how that turns out.

Update: Ian has removed the posts in question; I still have screenshots. He doesn’t see what the big deal is. Unfortunately, most people don’t, as a general rule. He made all sorts of excuses in his e-mail reply, but the simple fact is, he didn’t have explicit permission to reprint my photos without attributing them to me.

It’s extremely upsetting to see your own work published elsewhere as though someone else has done it.

More entries below »

More changes

I’ve been making some changes to the template that I hope don’t break things in IE 6. If you’re using Internet Explorer for Windows and this site doesn’t look quite right, could you let me know? (A screenshot would help.) I shudder every time I use clear: both; inside a floated element.

(Once we move to the new place and I have more room, I’ll plug Jennifer’s old Win98 laptop into the iMac’s ethernet port to test pages in IE, but right now there’s just no space for it.)

Another change: I’ve discontinued trackbacks, which were a major source of spam. Considering that I’ve only received three legitimate pings since the start of this calendar year, this seems a safe thing to do.

I’m also planning to reintroduce comments, but it may take some time before I can get that done.


Another update wherein I play catchup. See, I’ve been spending all my time on my other blogs, leaving none for you. It’s not that you’re chopped liver; I just don’t have a lot of energy lately for the kinds of posts I’ve been planning for here. Maybe I’m too ambitious.

Nothing like another bout of pain to make you uncommunicative. Nearly two weeks ago another flare started up, presumably triggered by a sharp change in the weather. Since then I’ve been dealing with varying degrees of pain, mobility, and testiness.

Fortunately things have not been abjectly miserable, even if I have been behind on my web stuff. Saw Revenge of the Sith on Friday and I’ll try to have a post up about that soon. Jen’s parents made a trip out to see us over the long weekend, and that, despite the usual (common-law-) in-law apprehensiveness, went very well indeed.

We’re also preparing for the move, which should keep me very active during the first two weeks of June. (Yes, you might hear from me even less.)


As I mentioned previously, Pretzel has been camped out in her nesting box. She’s been there for more than a week (here she is last Tuesday). We checked on her tonight: once we got Trouser out of the way — male snakes invariably hog the nesting box for some reason — we discovered that she’d laid 13 eggs, which look really good. They’ll probably hatch around July 10 or so, give or take a few days.


I’ve never been much for Doctor Who — low-budget British SF has always left me sort of nonplussed — but I must confess that I’ve been sucked in by the new series. I don’t think it’s just the production values; the writing’s smart, and I’m in awe of the abilities of Christopher Eccleston, who’s already given up the role. This is a profound pity: he’s extremely watchable and an absolutely fantastic actor; his predecessors look positively somnolent in comparison with his hyperkinetic style. The CBC’s Stephen Cole has a bit on the updated Doctor Who (his other columns are worth a read too).

Last night’s episode, “Dalek,” was a marvel — the Doctor Who equivalent of “I, Borg.” If you get that reference, you’ll understand immediately. (Update: James’s review of this episode: “Dalek stands among the best the original series has to offer, and it takes the series into areas it has rarely gone.”)


I’m missing Boolean operators right now. Neither Flickr’s new badges (by tag, by group) nor Tiger’s new Smart Folders allow them, at least on the surface, and they’d have been handy these past two days.

The care of baby garter snakes

The first major reptile care article I’ve written in more than three years, Raising Baby Garter Snakes: Some Personal Observations, is now online at It first appeared in The Garter Snake, the EGSA’s quarterly, last month. The editor, Daniel Grübner, wanted contributions from North America, so I obliged with 2,400 words or so. The article focuses primarily on what I’ve learned through trial and error in raising more than 100 baby garter and ribbon snakes; it’s anecdotal rather than definitive, but hopefully useful. It’ll also serve as the basis for a chapter on breeding for the long-planned garter snake care manual.

Killer Butler’s garter snakes, part two, and other updates

Further to my post last July, Jennifer is now, as of 30 minutes ago, the only person on the planet ever to be bitten by a Butler’s garter snake. The larger, more aggressive one — how often has that adjective been used with Thamnophis butleri? — was the culprit. Cheeky, ravenous monkey.

Feeding time otherwise uneventful. The new checkered garter has a good appetite despite his propensity to flip out when we’re nearby. Pretzel had her pre-egg-laying shed a few days ago and is camped out in her humidity box. Eggs should follow in about a week. Time to dust off the incubator. Literally.

Great Basin gopher snakes in B.C.

The Great Basin gopher snakes are out in British Columbia; Dave68’s got photos. Even though I have a captive pair of them, it’s nice to see photos of them in the wild. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my grandparents about three years ago, when I was visiting them in Calgary: they move every few years or so, and they’ve had a couple of stints in the Okanagan, where they still have friends. My grandmother mentioned that one of her friends was commenting about the “bullsnakes” on the golf courses in Vernon. Immediately I piped up, “Great Basin gopher snakes. I breed those.” I suspect that my grandmother, who’s terrified of snakes, was nonplussed.

The Okanagan is home to a whole pile of interesting species, including rattlesnakes, rubber boas, racers and night snakes. To say nothing of the railway history, scenery and wineries. I’ve been there before; I must find a pretext to visit again.

Welcome to Ottawa. Now fuck off.

I’ve long believed that Ottawa, collectively, has an attitude problem: a surprising amount of unpleasantness and hostility for a city its size — Calgary is far friendlier, for example. I usually attribute it to pent-up aggression from a city full of miserable civil servants who then set the tone for the rest of the population. I can’t think of a better example than Lana’s experience in the Byward Market last week, where a vendor demanded she stop taking pictures in a public place. In a tourist area, no less. To be fair, it was an isolated (albeit mind-numbingly stupid) case: another vendor and the local business association had no problems at all with photography. But it can only take one unpleasant encounter to ruin your impression of a city; I, for one, had plenty of them during my four years in Ottawa.

What have I been up to?

In brief, a few recent developments, each of which could take up a few paragraphs.

I did our taxes, which was unpleasant, because I had to pay money due to a mistake made a year ago: procrastinating getting onto your spousal equivalent’s health coverage means having to pay the province’s prescription drug plan premiums — which was pricey because of our combined income. Ow.

A local environment group, dormant for more than a decade, is starting up again; we went to a meeting on Saturday, where I talked way too much about organizational, procedural and structural things. Interesting bunch, and nice, too.

Installed Tiger on this machine last night. I backed up all the irreplaceable data onto two DVDs and three CDs as a precaution — unnecessarily, since the upgrade went without a hitch. I’m having fun messing around with the new OS, especially with Automator (I’ve already built a few workflows) and Spotlight.

Oh, and we’re moving to a larger place in June. That was one of the positive developments I mentioned earlier. Same town, roughly the same rent, but a townhouse: three bedrooms and a basement. We’ll have to buy appliances, but we’ll have tons more room. For one thing, I’ll have a room to myself to work, instead of sharing multipurposed space, which can’t be anything but good.