June 2006

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin (2001) Mike Rankin, a good friend of mine, a giant of local herpetoculture and a founding member of the OARA, died this morning of a heart attack. We had not seen much of one another in recent years, and from time to time we crossed swords over something or other, but I was proud of him and proud to have known him. We liked and respected one another a great deal, I think, and I will miss him terribly.

I just found out ten minutes ago and I’m still in shock.

Update: I’ve uploaded some photos of Mike to Flickr.

Infertile bullsnake eggs

Infertile bullsnake eggs I wasn’t planning to breed our bullsnakes before next year, but the female had other plans: she laid two infertile eggs in the water dish overnight. In the water dish, because snakes like to lay eggs in moist places, and snakes who aren’t given nesting boxes — e.g., snakes who’ve never mated — frequently pick the water dish to deposit their eggs. That, or they get egg-bound.

This bodes well for next year, but I was really hoping for some nice, fertile black pine snake eggs. (Cross your fingers: Lilith is looking squishy and has been given a nesting box.)


I don’t know what happened to me that my back and hip went so profoundly into spasm earlier this week, except maybe that I overdid it a bit on the walking around on hard urban surfaces on Friday and Sunday. Seems to be subsiding a bit now, but I shouldn’t forget that just because flares tend to occur more in spring and fall, it does not mean that the rest of the year is automatically pain-free.

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Corn snake eggs collapsing

Meanwhile, our corn snake eggs are collapsing. I’m not sure whether it’s simply because Pretzel is no longer very fertile, or because we’re doing something wrong in our incubator. We (by which I mean Jennifer and I) may well have to have Kim over here for a consultation!

Amortizing air conditioning

You will recall that Jennifer and I initially decided on deferring repairs on the car’s air conditioner, on the grounds that the expense is both great and optional. Optional, at least, in the sense that you can drive without it — not necessarily that you’d want to. It became somewhat less optional after our trip last weekend: at 4½ hours each way, it was manageable, but it wasn’t necessarily comfortable. Sweat left behind on every surface our skin came into contact with, that sort of thing. That was enough, at least, to get me thinking:

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Modes of transportation

In Gatineau and Ottawa yesterday to have a Mazda dealership look at the headlights (previous entry) and return a book to Carleton University’s map library. A librarian very generously allowed me to sign out a reference book for a two-week period; the book, a guide to managing small map collections, is a must-read as I look towards cataloguing the Pontiac Archives’s map collection this summer. I wanted to get the book back on time; and Jennifer had made an appointment at the dealership, so off I went.

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Weblogs Inc., TUAW and Procrastinatr

I’ve had mixed feelings towards the Weblogs, Inc. stable of blogs — not because I’m hostile towards pro blogging (since I are one myself), but because of the quality issues inherent to how they compensate bloggers. When you pay people $4 $x per post, you’re rewarding quantity over quality, and even in my favourite Weblogs, Inc. blogs (like Gadling) it sometimes shows: a lot of mediocre posts, either weak on content or weak on analysis. You don’t get occasional posts of substance, but a flood of more mundane material. The signal/noise ratio is worse than it could be.

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Minor technical difficulties

I’ve encountered a glitch with Front Row: it’s not playing nice with iPhoto. I’m not sure what the problem is — probably something is gumming up the works as a result of how I brought the old data over — but I’m assuming it’s solvable. More when I find out how to fix it.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten the Palm syncing with the new iMac — works fine under Rosetta — and I’ve even got Documents to Go working again. My Tungsten T2 came with version 5, while Jennifer’s TX has version 7 — so when I synced up her Palm with my old iMac over Christmas, it overwrote version 7 over version 5 and promptly hosed it on my Palm. Now that we’re on separate machines (she’s using the old iMac), that conflict is no longer a problem. Unfortunately, no sooner had I got that working than I realized that audio was totally hosed on my Palm: I get a faint, high-pitched whine whenever it’s on (not enough to be annoying), but no other sound. (You can tell I don’t use my PDA much any more; it’s been like this for a while but I didn’t really pay much attention to it.)

The car’s headlights are only working intermittently at the moment: they outright failed over the weekend — no daytime running lights, no headlights, no brights — but appear to be working now. Garage suspects the daytime running lights module, maintenance on which requires a Mazda dealership. Sigh — the car is determined to have money spent on it. You can ignore compressors, but you just can’t ignore headlights.

Hot, tired, bitten and pimply

Can I get skin grafts without burning off my current allotment? I’m covered in insect bites and clusters of pimples that are probably sweat-related, and boy am I uncomfortable. All told, it was a hot, sticky weekend. We were off Saturday to visit Jeff and Jenny during their volunteer weekend. Despite hot weather and our lack of in-car air conditioning, the trip there and back was bearable. But it was a hot day, and they don’t have air conditioning: even with my marginal contributions to the outdoor labour, I was overheated for most of the weekend. Fortunately, my sunburns appear to be very mild, and they have a pool.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep, either, thanks to an overnight thunderstorm before our departure Saturday morning, and the fact that I had to run Jeff’s cousin to the hospital at midnight to tend to a pool-related eye injury. Not that I sleep well in hot weather or strange beds anyway. So I was tired when we got back yesterday afternoon. Good thing our apartment is relatively cool despite a lack of air conditioning.

My photos from the weekend are up. Other people will probably post theirs shortly; I’ve created a Flickr group.

Notes on the new iMac

  • It’s fast. It’s really flipping fast. I mean, like, ninja fast.
  • It’s also surprisingly quiet. I haven’t worked on something this silent since my old G3 iBook. I can feel a fair amount of heat from the top vent so, like those scalding-hot MacBooks, this thing’s cooling system may be geared for silence over really cool temperatures.
  • The processor hardly ever breaks into a sweat. I ran a fairly CPU-intensive video conversion program yesterday as a test, and neither core was maxed out, even with other apps running as well.
  • We ordered this thing with 1 GB of RAM, which is an improvement over the 768 MB installed in the G4 iMac, but OS X took it all and wanted more. Yesterday I was staring at a 2-GB swap file. It was still reasonably responsive — that new SATA drive is also flipping fast, and hard to hear — but it will still not be difficult to justify getting that second gigabyte of RAM.
  • The Migration Assistant only worked partially well. It moved over my applications without a hitch, but choked on my user data. After a couple of attempts, I simply brought it over manually via FireWire Target Disk mode. It seems to work — certainly my apps recognize my data, including user settings and registration codes — but doing it this way might, I suspect, be the reason for a couple of the glitches I’ve encountered.
  • My .Mac/iDisk setup got a little wonky at the outset, and I had to unregister and reregister the computer. Nothing got hosed in the process, but I had to sync everything all over again.
  • Printing got strange yesterday: the printer’s output was just plain off, with line heights and vertical spacing a real hash. I wonder if the driver is hiccuping with the Intel setup. In any event, using the open-source GIMP-print driver for 900-series HP inkjets solved the issue.
  • The scanner works just fine. I’m waiting until I install The Missing Sync before trying to sync up the Palm again.
  • While I had to remove two incompatible System Preferences panes manually, all apps tested so far work properly, even using Rosetta. It’s a pleasant surprise that just about all the apps I use are already Universal.
  • Let’s talk about the Mighty Mouse. Meh. I can handle the scroll nipple; squeezing the sides is a bit more of a pain. I had to disable right-clicking because my fingers keep resting on the right side of the mouse, triggering a right-click even when I’m trying to left-click.
  • The new keyboard, ostensibly the same as the one on the G4 iMac, has a much softer, much less pleasant key action. I may have to break down and buy one of these after all.
  • Did I mention that this computer is really flipping fast?

Larry the Cable Guy avant le nom

Many standup comics stay in-character in all their public appearances. In some cases, it’s simply an exaggerated, if recognizable, version of themselves; in others, the persona they inhabit on-stage might have very little to do with their own personality — I believe this was the case with Andrew Dice Clay.

In that context, it’s interesting to see this footage of the early standup career of Dan Whitney:

Who’s Dan Whitney, you ask? You may know him as Larry the Cable Guy.

Via Screenhead.

John Paul II High School to close

Jennifer’s school is now all but certain to close at the end of this year.

Last night, the WQSB’s planning review committee tabled its recommendations for school realignment. It has recommended that the high-school portion of the combined St. John’s/John Paul II school close, with its students moving to Pontiac High School for the 2006-2007 school year. (And, almost certainly, its teachers — so don’t worry about Jennifer’s employment.)

The elementary side will remain open, and no school boundaries will be put into place. Adult education, currently at PHS, will eventually move into the JPII building, but not immediately.

Formally, the council of commissioners must approve this decision at its meeting on the 27th, but, especially since the committee is a committee of the whole (i.e., the entire board acting as a committee), it’s extremely unlikely that this recommendation will not be followed.

You can bet that a lot of people aren’t happy about this. Chances are, though, this will work out for the best: the 80 or so kids from JPII will certainly face culture shock when they arrive in Shawville this fall, but they’ll have far more opportunities and resources at their disposal; PHS, due to its larger student population, is simply better equipped. The kids will be better off, though they won’t necessarily agree for a while. It’s a pity that so much of the debate over JPII’s closure has focused on what the school means to the community that their kids’ education — many of them are in high-needs, at-risk situations that would overwhelm a small school’s resources (JPII is so small it doesn’t even qualify for a guidance counsellor) — got lost in the shuffle.

New iMac


I was occupied last night setting up the new beast: a 20-inch, 2-GHz Intel Core Duo iMac.

Christ, it’s fast. And this big screen is going to take some getting used to. Much brighter — I had the old screen at full brightness; this one only at half. (Such an ordeal.)

Paving John Street

Paving John Street (photo) We used to live on the only unpaved street in Shawville. Not any more. Yesterday, a road crew came and paved our street in one shot. Of course, it came to less than a hundred metres of asphalt, but when you’re used to road work taking weeks if not months, it was still a pleasant surprise. I took a break from the keyboard and stood on my front lawn snapping pictures of them; I’ve posted a few of them to this photoset on Flickr.

A broken air conditioner

The car’s air conditioner stopped working last week; it turns out that the compressor needs to be replaced. Ouch. We’ll be deferring this repair, partly because we can’t really afford its thousand-dollar price tag at the moment, but mostly because, unlike other repairs and replacements (new tires in 2003, oxygen sensor last year), we can: we’ve been told that there’s no harm in simply letting the broken unit sit there. And I’ve done without car air conditioning before: neither of my parents had air conditioning in their cars before 1994 at the earliest, so I’m used to it. Doing without will not be a significant hardship — though I might change my mind after a long heat wave.

I’m not actually surprised or disappointed: air conditioners break down, and our car is eight years old (we’ve had it for three). It’s an occupational hazard of owning an older car.

Necroscopy report

Jennifer performed a necroscopy on the Butler’s garter snake last night to find out what killed her. From what I can tell, it’s something completely different from what I anticipated.

To be sure, the snake died from starvation. That was the direct cause. There was no fat and very little muscle left; the snake had metabolized it all. But the reason for starvation was that something was blocking her gastrointestinal tract: with a compressed stomach, she had no desire to eat. At first she stopped eating mice, but continued to accept earthworms. Then, at the last, she refused earthworms: the blockage was too large even for worms.

But what was the blockage? What was the cause of the hard lumps I felt along her abdomen? I suspected organ tumours, based on her advanced age. Alternatively, I worried that it might be fecoliths — hardened fecal matter in the intestinal tract — which, unlike tumours, were both preventable and treatable (so if she died from it, it would be my fault). It turned out to be neither.

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