January 2006

Cell phone cancelled

Those of you who have my cell phone number can safely delete it from your address books. After much procrastination, I’ve cancelled it — I’m just not out of the house often enough to warrant paying for it. Odd: I’m without a mobile phone for the first time in five years.

We only wish to catch a fish, so juicy-sweet!

It’s the middle of winter and two of our garter snakes — the smaller of our two Butler’s garters and our male plains garter — are turning up their noses at mice. This sometimes happens during the winter. So we’re offering them fish fillet, for now. I imagine they’ll start eating something healthier in short order, but in the meantime the implications are … smelly. Or at least they will be in a day or two.

Pontiac volunteer group web sites

I’ve been working on web sites for a couple of local volunteer groups that I’ve been affiliated with, and this week I launched them as WordPress-powered blogs: Pontiac Environmental Protection (or PEP) and the Pontiac Archives. These are my first WordPress-powered projects ever: I’m in unfamiliar waters. Hacking WordPress is quite different from Blogger or Movable Type: it uses PHP directly, rather than proprietary tags. The blogs are still using the default template as a result, and I’ll have lots of tinkering to do as I learn more — it is me, after all — but so far people seem happy with them.

More entries below »

Remembering Challenger

To pick up on Megnut’s and Damien’s memories of the 1986 Challenger explosion on its twentieth anniversary:

When it happened, I was in Grade 8, a space-crazy kid filled to the gills with Star Trek and histories of NASA, and the deaths of seven astronauts was more than just a shock. I found out at the noon hour — I’d come home to make myself lunch and had flipped on the television for background. I was stunned, riveted — but of course, I had to go back to school, where I could think of little else.

At that time the Winnipeg Free Press was published in the afternoon, and I had a paper route after school. It was late that day; in a rare move, the paper had stopped the presses and remade the front page, which now read, in the biggest type I would see until Gorbachev was ousted in a coup, “Shuttle explodes.” Later that night, as I was collecting my paper money from my customers, I couldn’t help myself from talking about it with them — or with anyone.

It might be that for my generation — those of us who were children then, in our late twenties or early thirties now — it was our Kennedy assassination, our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11: the event that brought us to a collective halt.

(I live-blogged Columbia’s destruction three years ago.)

Local results

So, Conservative candidate Lawrence Cannon was elected Member of Parliament for Pontiac last night, defeating incumbent Liberal David Smith, who finished third.

Final results, according to the CBC web site, are as follows:

  • Cannon (Con) 16,067 (33.63%)
  • Émond-Lapointe (BQ) 13,790 (28.87%)
  • Smith (Lib) 11,539 (24.15%)
  • Brault (NDP) 4,759 (9.96%)
  • Garahan (Green) 1,512 (3.16%)
  • Legros (M-L) 107 (0.22%)

The Conservative results are nearly 12 percentage points higher than their results with Judy Grant in 2004; the NDP are up nearly four points, the Bloc results are more or less even, the Greens are down a point, and the Liberal results are 14 points down from last time.

It’s also interesting to compare these results with last week’s poll: Cannon’s up 7½ points, Émond-Lapointe’s down nearly two, Smith’s up five, Brault’s down four. (Which doesn’t add up — the poll results added up to 88 per cent, which presumably means, and I didn’t notice this before, a full 12 per cent undecided, much but not all of which broke for Cannon.)

Break out the beer and popcorn

Never mind that I’ve all but ignored the election campaign on this here blog; like every other poseur with a blog I’ll be live-blogging the election results. Keep watching this entry!

To keep myself out of legal trouble, I will not be talking about the results until 10:00 PM EST, and comments will be closed until after that time.

Continue reading this entry »

Pontiac poll results

The Equity is reporting the following numbers from a recent CROP poll of the Pontiac riding (which is where I live):

Plus or minus six percentage points, 19 times out of 20, yadda yadda yadda. (I’d seen other numbers elsewhere for the same poll — Bloc 30, Conservative 29, Liberal 22 — but can’t source them; they’re proportionate, in any event.)

If these numbers are correct, they represent a significant shift in votes, particularly in terms of the near-total collapse of the Liberal vote — due not only to the Liberals’ unpopularity in Quebec due to the sponsorship scandal, but also because of incumbent MP Smith’s own difficulties — and a doubling of the NDP’s vote from last time, as the following graph shows:

Pontiac constituency: 2004 results vs. 2006 CROP poll

If you had asked me at the start of the campaign, I would never have predicted a single-point spread between the Conservative and Bloc candidates, with Smith well behind. A lot has happened since.

A wireless update

A follow-up to yesterday’s post. Though multiple hard resets were able to resuscitate it for short periods of time today, I’ve decided to declare my AirPort Express clinically dead. Off to buy a new one, probably tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve got a whack of Ethernet cable connected to a laptop that’s sharing its connection via WiFi. (The old AirPort was definitely the culprit in the case of the poor iChat bandwidth; it was considerably improved under the new setup, which is admittedly a hack — iChat was crashing on my iMac for some reason, so I had to haul the iSight downstairs.)


My more substantial RSS feeds are available in OPML format, for those for whom such things are significant.

A faltering wireless network

The performance of my AirPort Express base station has been degrading in recent months and has gotten even worse recently. Videoconferencing with my mother — who’s just bought a new iMac with the built-in camera — is next to impossible due to low bandwidth, but we’re both on broadband. I suspect my wireless network as the culprit there. I also have to reboot my base station as often as several times a day to regain performance approximating normalcy. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s terrible: bad enough at times that I think it’s time to buy a replacement; good enough often enough that I hope I can defer that purchase. The way things have been going lately, though, it looks like I’ll be going shopping very soon.

It’s hard to troubleshoot something as ephemeral as wireless networking: hard to tell whether it’s an ISP problem, a local interference problem (neighbours running a microwave, say), or a hardware problem, though it’s increasingly looking like the last. The base station may have been acting up as early as last June, when we first moved here, though it’s possible that the sudden bouts of weak signal were due to interference rather than hardware problems. The other thing is, I expect hardware to be binary: either it works or it’s broken; having it “kinda-sorta” work is kinda-sorta counterintuitive.

But electronics have a hard time of it out here, thanks, I suspect, to the wonkiness of the power supply — lots of brief outages and, presumably, surges. So far we’ve had to replace our cable modem once — that unit, too, had exhibited some inconsistently weird performance — and have burned through an Airport (Snow) base station and an aquarium pump as well. I’ve got my iMac on a UPS, and, while I’ve got all the living room electronics (TV etc., stereo, cable modem and base station) on a surge protector, I think I’ll get a UPS for that stuff as well, just to be sure. Electronic gadgetry just isn’t safe in these parts, and frankly I’d rather not have to make a new wireless router an annual purchase.

See previous entries: Rewireless; Security alert: Mac networks susceptible to irony.

Preparing for DFL’s return

I spent most of the past weekend tinkering with the design of DFL, in preparation for that project’s relaunch on February 10. Yes, DFL — the blog about last-place finishes at the Olympics — will be coming back for the Torino Winter Games. Last time it was a spur-of-the-moment idea that ballooned into something huge; this time I expect that it will not be nearly as big, but I want to be better prepared anyway.

Continue reading this entry »

Battlestar Galactica on DVD

Thanks to a gift from my brother, we’re working through season one of Battlestar Galactica. Out here in the sticks, where we have two kinds of broadband, our cable company does not carry Space (or a number of other channels), so we haven’t been able to watch this show, which has gotten tremendous buzz around the net. But now we’re seeing it.

We’re quite excited about it; it’s tremendously well done, with lots of moral ambiguities and flawed characters that make the show very interesting, if not necessarily comfortable to watch. Lots of intelligent touches here and there: in the way the spaceships move; in the Cylons’ use of technology; in the handling of religion; in dealing with the gravity of having a twelve-world civilization reduced to fewer than 50,000 people.

This is nothing like the original, which looks embarrassingly juvenile in comparison. We’ve come a long way in two and a half decades of TV science fiction.

Snow day, and a belated holiday update

We declared a snow day today and stayed in: Jen got to work on George R. R. Martin’s Feast for Crows; I got to work on my sites again. I’ve been off my feed a bit for the past week or two; it’s only in the last couple of days that I’ve regained my equilibrium enough to blog coherently. What the hell: it’s the holidays, I suppose, or at least they are for Jen; I’m stupid enough to try to keep blogging and coding regardless of the day of the week or the time of the year.

Owing to the presence of a guest, the holidays were a bit more hectic and stressful than they otherwise might have been, but they went well overall. I gave Jen one of these, since her old m500 was starting to drop lines of pixels; she gave me a number of books, including a couple of hard-to-find histories of the CPR in B.C. and this hella-expensive set. So we were very nice to each other, again.

Afterwards, I found that I had a bit of financial wiggle room, thanks to extra Christmas money and a really good quarter in Amazon associate income, and so we splurged on a new television. Nothing fancy: a 26-inch, widescreen, non-HD CRT, but it’s a world of difference from our previous set. At the moment, we have no access to HD content unless we get a satellite dish, so there’d be no point in investing in an expensive LCD or plasma set even if we could afford one.