October 2006

Introducing FRN

Despite my health issues, I’ve been working on a new project this week. It’s now ready enough that I can formally tell you about it, though links to it have been turning up in sidebars and footers on this site already.

Announcing FRN, a blog about trains and the people crazy about them.

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Web traffic, audience and engagement

Scoble wonders whether “engagement” can be measured like audience. There’s something to this: some audiences, Scoble writes, click on links more than others. In my experience, when DFL was getting more than its share of coverage, print, TV and radio audiences had much less impact on my traffic than web sites: making Sports Illustrated in 2006 got me one or two comments, at most. But it also depends on the content: both The Map Room and DFL got huge traffic spikes when they were posted to MetaFilter; Snakes on Film got a tiny fraction in comparison. Whether the link resonates with the audience in question also matters, in other words.

Flare time

I’m now entering my sixth week of what has turned out to be the mother of all flares, one of the worst I can remember since I was first diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis nearly nine years ago, and probably the worst I’ve had while on naproxen (other meds were less effective, and resulted in more pain).

I first reported it here. It was relatively mild, as such things go, for the first two weeks; then it showed me a whole new gear. For the first time, my neck and sacroiliac joint feel as though they’re fusing, not just stiff; and yesterday I started feeling numbness in my jaw and lower lip. It has occurred to me that my disease may be entering a new and much more unpleasant phase.

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More snakes are finding their appetite again (see previous entry). The female hognose snake and both Great Basin gopher snakes ate their mice like good little snakes last night.

Meanwhile, many of the garter snakes have been refusing meals here and there. This is a known issue, and I’m not overly worried about it.

King Kong, the Peter Jackson version

Two thoughts about Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which was on the movie channel last Saturday:

  1. Ten minutes could have been cut from each but the last act without seriously harming the movie. Too. freaking. long.
  2. A giant-bug scene so vivid and awful I had to leave the room. Yes, I’m entomophobic, but I can usually handle movie bug scenes; this was just too much for me.

Pinkies and acquisitions

After some tweaking of room temperatures and feeding methods, some of our recalcitrant feeders are starting to eat again: the leucistic Texas rat snake took its first mouse in two months, and the male hognose snake is back on his feed. (The others haven’t been tried yet; their next feeding is forthcoming.)

The new Okeetee corn snake was being stubborn about it too, but confinement — essentially, stuffing the little snake in a film canister with a pinky mouse — is working well: she’s eaten twice by that method. I’m confident she’ll be taking mice more enthusiastically, and without assistance, before long.

Acquisitions continue: yesterday we picked up a lovely juvenile female Cape Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer vertebralis), with plans to find a compatible male ASAP. She’s in quarantine with the Okeetee right now. I should take her picture or something; cape gophers, if you don’t already know, are stunning.

Other acquisitions are in the works, and will be announced once they’ve arrived.

Snake Tracks, spammers

Eight messages (so far) doesn’t exactly constitute a bombardment, but new reptile site Snake Tracks has been sending me automated e-mail at virtually every address they can find on the Internet (addressed in some cases to “Librarything” or “Feedburner,” so you know they did their homework) — asking, as usual, for a link exchange. You know what that means: if someone asks you for an “exchange,” it’s all in their favour — they need it more than you do.

And, as it turns out, Snake Tracks is yet another generic set of reptile forums, with hardly any members (only 28 so far) or other original content. (A ball python care sheet and a species list? That’s it? Are you kidding me?) There are about four zillion other reptile sites just like it out there. And they call themselves the “World’s Largest Snake Enthusiast Website” — which is not only laughable, it’s demonstrably false.

(Hint: Spamming me isn’t a good way to get a positive review.)

Snakes in autumn

An update on our collection.

After four passes with Vapona (see previous entries), we’re tentatively declaring our collection mite-free.

I mentioned that we’ve been thinking of taking Pretzel off the breeding treadmill. Those plans are now more concrete: she’ll be put in a separate cage before mating season starts up again.

If we’re going to breed snakes, we need to increase the pool of breeders; if we’re not going to breed snakes, we should really scale back from what we have. We’ve decided, therefore, to get a few more corn snakes, with the eventual goal of having several pairs breeding at any one time. That should take care of pet store demand, provide enough variety, and provide insurance if not every pair is fertile. Jennifer has started this process; last weekend she picked up a hatchling female Okeetee corn snake, to pair up — eventually — with our two-year-old male. But it’ll be at least three years before any offspring comes of that pairing. We’ll probably get three or four more corns; we haven’t figured out which varieties, yet.

Falling autumn temperaturers caught us off-guard a bit, and several snakes have entered hibernation mode: the glossy snake, the gopher snakes and the hognose snakes have all gone a month without eating. I expect they’ll restart at some point, and am not yet overly worried: these gophers and hognoses are notorious for going off their feed from time to time.

Site design changes

I’ve been working on an updated site design, and have been implementing it on a few sections of this site. Some pages might be a little strange in some browsers from time to time in the meantime. Concomitantly I’ve been working on updates to the About and Reptiles sections, and will eventually spruce up the Hire section. The front page has also been overhauled, though I have no idea — yet — what it looks like in Internet Explorer. I’ll test that later today.