July 2006

Toronto, gosh

Back from a whirlwind weekend trip to Toronto, where, while visiting Tania, we visited the Apple Store at Yorkdale (which was smaller than I thought), browsed through EftonScience (a very dangerous scientific supply and telescope store), got Jen properly fitted, and visited the Toronto Zoo. Zoo photos to follow. Unbelieveably hot, humid and uncomfortable: those few extra degrees — and smog — really make a difference.

Update, 4:25 PM: My zoo photos — mostly of homeothermic megafauna, uncharacteristically. It was too muggy for me to think clearly, much less take photos, inside the pavillions.

Update, July 31 at 8:10 PM: Jennifer’s blog entry and photos.

DreamHost and revealing feedback

DreamHost, my hosting provider, has been having a whole mess of trouble lately — enough that I started a separate blog to chronicle any outages and downtime (see previous entry). Yesterday, I noticed that rebuilds on Movable Type were abominably slow — it took as long as 10 minutes to rebuild if I saved an entry. I suspected a MySQL or network issue. So I opened a support ticket.

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WordPress for outages, Vox for — I don’t know yet

I needed a WordPress API key for an anti-spam plugin; signing up for that gave me a blog at mcwetboy.wordpress.com, which of course I had no idea what to do with. Seemed a waste to leave it fallow, but I really didn’t need it.

I have now found a use for it, as an off-site place to report on outages. Many web sites have an alternate address, hosted independently, where they can tell you what’s happened when their own network has gone blooey. It’s happened to me often enough that I can see the value of it; also, minor outages (like e-mail) can be reported there rather than be peppered over my network.

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RiffTracks, ShareCrow and audio commentaries

For a while now, I’ve had the idea of recording an audio commentary on a few favourite movies and making them available for download on the web. (Never mind which ones, though I’m sure you can guess.)

I was a little worried about the copyright implications: I thought it’d be okay, because I wouldn’t be reproducing any copyrighted material, just a recorded commentary that you could listen to as you watched a DVD; since you had to buy or rent the DVD in the first place, no harm no foul, I thought. But you never know. Anyway, I put it on the backburner; I had plenty of other things to worry about.

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I may well be terrified by large insects, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them from the other side of a screen: we’ve had katydids on our kitchen windows a couple of evenings this week. There are no katydids in western Canada, so this was a new experience for me. Very neat — as long as they’re on the other side of that screen.

(Meanwhile, while out on a late-evening walk, Jennifer spotted three species of frog: American toad, gray treefrog, green frog. Not bad for one walk.)

See previous entry: In Soviet Russia, zoo visits you!

JPII, the Charter, and entitlement

Even though preparations to move staff and students from John Paul II High School to Pontiac High are well under way, The Equity reports today on a last-ditch effort by opponents of the school’s closure: they’re teaming up with the Regional Association of West Quebecers (the local English rights group) to seek an emergency court injunction to prevent the school board from closing the school — on the grounds that closing the school violates their Charter rights to an English-language education!

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On phobias

I’m generally quite sympathetic to people who confess to being afraid of snakes, especially since I’ve got a phobia of my own — entomophobia, or a fear of insects — well, arthropods generally.

Phobias vary in intensity, I think, and mine isn’t particularly severe — or at least it’s not as bad as it was when I was young (and teased mercilessly about it). It helps that I have no choice but to be exposed to it every summer, particularly living out here. You just can’t avoid insects, so each summer I get a little more desensitized.

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Five years

Today marks the fifth anniversary of The McWetlog and, as a result, my five-year anniversary as a blogger. This is, if you can believe it, The McWetlog’s 2,070th post; in the past five years there have also been 1,252 posts to The Map Room, 116 posts to DFL, and a whole bunch of posts elsewhere. I dabble.

In that five-year stretch, I have gone from an underworked, overpaid government employee who blogged to stave off boredom, to an underpaid, overscheduled, full-time/semi-freelance blogger who never has enough time or energy to keep ahead of all the work. Five years ago, I would never have imagined it — who would?

Black pine snake eggs!

Black pine snake eggs I wasn’t sure whether Lilith, my female black pine snake, was going to lay eggs at all — she doesn’t every year, and she’s usually the last to do so — but she’s laying eggs right now. Look!

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the eggs will be fertile; she’s laid slugs before. Cross your fingers.

Reptiles at Risk

Jeff Here’s what I’ve been working on lately: Reptiles at Risk. My friends at Sciensational Sssnakes!! have done road trips before, but this time, thanks to some external funding, they’re kicking it up a notch. Beginning this summer (actually, beginning last Monday), they’re embarking on several multi-province tours to bring the message of reptile conservation to small, rural communities that would not normally be host to reptile shows, but that are also host to populations of threatened or endangered reptile species. As usual, I’m doing the site; it’s mostly done now (I think the IE-specific bugs are taken care of), but there are likely to be further refinements and embellishments as we go.

‘An open mind, an open heart, and a smooth, blunt, lubricated probe’

Watching a rerun of The Colbert Report the other day, Jennifer and I ended up laughing ourselves senseless over this bit, which combines the gay marriage debate with reports that a woman in India had married a snake, and takes it into very strange territory …

Of course, part of the reason we were laughing so hard is because Colbert is actually describing the right way to sex a snake. We were pointing at the screen and screaming: “Ahhh! He’s actually doing it! Oh god oh god oh god.” (Gasp. Breathe.)

When you’re snake people, it’s not something you expect to see, you see. Wow.

iCalendar format links

I’m trying something weird with Movable Type that includes creating calendar files from the blog’s entries; for that to work, I need to code up a template in iCal/vCal/iCalendar format. To do that, I need to learn that format. I’ve been reading up; it’s still quite bewildering, and I’m probably going to get it wrong and have to abandon it. But here are some of the links I’ve accumulated so far.

Remembering Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin’s long-time friend, field naturalist Fred Schueler, has posted a long remembrance of Mike that chronicles their time together doing field work for the Canadian Museum of Nature, and offers a look into Mike’s politics, sense of humour, and his generous humanity.

I intend to write something myself, if I can manage it; keep watching this space.

The Ottawa Citizen obituary is now online.

See previous entries: In lieu of flowers; Mike Rankin.

Canada Day

Red flags I stayed home for the fireworks, because by then I was just too sore and tired (though I could still see most of them from the bedroom window). But I did catch Shawville’s Canada Day parade, which was what you’d expect from a small-town parade. Everyone seemed to be wearing red except me. Shawville is arguably the most federalist town in Quebec, and they take Canada Day very seriously. My photos turned out very well, I think.

Thanks to my involvement in the Archives, we’d been invited to a do at the town hall prior to the parade, where I felt a bit out of place: it was a bit more formal, with a lot more politicians — mayors from half the Pontiac, our MP — than I’d expected. I don’t get out much even by Shawville standards.

In lieu of flowers

In lieu of flowers, Mike’s wife Jo-Anne has asked for donations in his name to Turtle SHELL Tortue, the Ottawa-area turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre.

Visitation Tuesday; service Wednesday. Newspaper notices in the Sunday and Monday editions of the Sun and the Citizen.

See previous entry: Mike Rankin.