November 2006

The Wilhelm Scream

Do you recognize this scream?

alt : wilhelm.wav

Of course you do. It’s the famous Wilhelm Scream (Wikipedia), an audio loop that originated in the 1950s and has since appeared in more than 100 movies (Wikipedia), including the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings series, which is probably where you heard it. (Blame Ben Burtt on its revival. Peter Jackson’s a big fan.) And now that you know what to listen for, you’ll always hear it. It’s everywhere.

More on the Wilhelm Scream from Eric David, WNYC’s On the Media, and MetaFilter.

Cobra on the loose

Holy shit. In Toronto, an Egyptian cobra has been on the loose for two months, forcing tenants out of two houses and their landlords to go without an income during that time. The cobra was one of three venomous snakes kept illegally by one tenant; the other two — another Egyptian cobra and a gaboon viper — have been seized, and the owner is due in court on Friday.

Every so often one of my young snake keeping friends has their pet snake escape. Usually it turns up again within a couple of weeks; it’s usually no big deal, because they live in single detached houses and the snakes are harmless: it’s mainly a question of the snake’s safety, not anyone else’s (and escaped snakes can survive for months).

But there’s a big difference between a corn snake on the loose and a venomous snake on the loose, especially when the keeper is living in an apartment.

My position is as follows:

  1. You should never let snakes escape. If your snake escapes, it’s your fault. QED.
  2. You should never let snakes escape if you live in an apartment or undetached dwelling. If your snake escapes and turns up in someone else’s apartment, you’re in a lot of trouble.
  3. The legality or morality of keeping venomous snakes notwithstanding, if you live in an apartment or undetached dwelling, you should never keep venomous snakes. Ever. If you do, and your venomous snake escapes, you’re fucked.

I never have and never will keep venomous snakes. Even so, I haven’t had an escape in more than four years, and I’ve never completely lost a snake — I’ve almost always found the snake out of its cage rather than an empty cage. I’m proud of that fact.

My computer has a new kind of broken

The good news is, my Intel iMac is back from the shop and operational again — and in about half the time I expected it to take.

The bad news is, there’s a new problem: the fans are going full-blast, and the normally silent iMac now sounds like a jet engine. Resetting the PRAM and the SMC has no effect, so it has to go back to the shop. (Sigh.) At least it runs, and I can access my data, even if it is just a little bit deafening.

My working theory is that a heat sensor has been disconnected, and the computer is compensating by running the fans at maximum. We shall see.

An hour on the phone with AppleCare. It costs money, but they do look after you.

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An update on my high school’s closing

I knew my old high school was closing, I knew it was merging with the nearby technical-vocational school; I just lacked the details. As it turns out, they’re renovating and expanding Sturgeon Creek to accomodate the influx of Silver Heights students, and there’s some debate over what to call the merged school: Silver Heights, Sturgeon Creek or something new. An interesting point — and what was clearly the impetus behind the merger — was the respective schools’ current enrollments: 800 at Silver Heights, 400 at Sturgeon Creek. When I was in high school, Sturgeon Creek was much larger; times have changed if the International Baccalaureat/French Immersion school is now twice the size of the technical-vocational school — and with smaller and older facilities, to boot.

Computers vs. cars

Why isn’t computer repair like car repair?

When something goes wrong with a car, you take it into a garage; in most cases, the work can be done the same day. If parts need replacing, they usually have some on hand.

But when I took the iMac into the shop yesterday, I was told it would take three to five days before someone could even look at it. Ordering parts would add some time beyond that.

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Que les Québécoises et les Québécois forment une nation

A question for Canadian politicians who insist that Quebec’s status as a nation is an incontrovertible fact:

Do I belong to this Quebec nation?

I was not born in Quebec, but have lived here for nearly four years. I live in the most anglophone, most federalist corner of the province. I understand French but speak it imperfectly.

If the answer is yes, I belong to this nation, then the definition of this Quebec nation is so amorphous that anyone can belong to it, and is therefore meaningless. I am, after all, much the same person I was four years ago when I lived in Ontario, and if I have changed since then, I would submit that it has not been as a result of my newfound québécoisitude.

If the answer is no, I do not belong, then you will have to explain why a taxpaying, voting, healthcare-using citizen of Quebec is excluded from this nation. What, then, are the criteria? Because if residency and citizenship are insufficient, then the nation is not civic, and this is not civic nationalism.

Which is what I’ve always believed to be the case.

Computer troubles

This is not turning out to be a good week. Computers hate me.

Yesterday I had a combined five hours’ worth of outages, between my ISP changing the IP addresses of its DNS servers without telling anyone (not least its clueless support staff, who insisted that the old IP addresses were fine despite what my router was saying; fortunately I fixed it on my own); the fourth crash of the MySQL server that powers FRN; and three hours of cursing at my wireless network. (I’m suffering the same problems connecting to wireless networks that other Mac users are confronting after the 10.4.8 update, only intermittently. I can go days without incident, then hours with nothing but.) So, yesterday was a frustrating day.

Then this morning my iMac wouldn’t start. It’s a brick. It has to go into the shop. Great.

Fortunately, I have a backup: I’m writing this from the G4 iMac — Jen’s computer. (I just wish I’d backed up my data on the main computer more recently.)

You know, I’m not really good at handling these setbacks at the best of times, but after two and a half months of abject pain (yes, it’s still going on), my emotional reserves are already exhausted. Suffice it to say, I could be doing better right now.

Eat, snakes!

Good news on the snake feeding front tonight:

  • Recalcitrant garter snakes were offered fish fillet; all but one ate.
  • Newly acquired baby corn snake ate without having to be confined.
  • Longtime anorexic leucistic Texas rat snake ate a frozen/thawed mouse.

Virtually every snake that went off its feed earlier this fall is eating again. The garters are not back on mice, but that shouldn’t take long. Stinky poo in the meantime.

Nikon D40: I think I’m in trouble

Nikon D40 So Nikon announced the D40, its new entry-level digital SLR, this morning (Engadget, Gizmodo). The camera sites already have detailed reviews up, which of course are overwhelmingly positive (they did get pre-release review units, after all): Digital Photography Review; Let’s Go Digital.

Compared to the D80, my current camera lust object, the D40 is smaller and less feature rich, but apparently not by that much. Major differences: it’s six megapixels instead of ten, and its autofocus is more limited. From the reviews, it seems to be aimed at people looking to move up from compact cameras who want more control and a faster camera, but who don’t have SLR experience and might be overwhelmed by professional kit — i.e., me.

And it’s half the price of the D80. Oh dear. After years of digital SLR lust, I may finally have to break down and get this one.


I have this tendency to sign up for social-networking web sites, even though I despise real-world networking, am a profound introvert and — except for the notable exception of Flickr — there really isn’t much to do at these sites once you’ve signed up, unless you bring 60 of your closest friends with you. Still, I sign up.

So of course when Google announced (on the sly: last sentence of that post) that you could join their social-networking site, Orkut, without an invitation — you can just use your Google account — I did.

And, well. It’s sparse (it’s Google). It’s sort of blue. And the groups are covered in spam, much of it in Portuguese. There needs to be better spam reporting on the groups if they are going to be at all useful.

I knew about the Brazilians going in. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the site’s membership is from Brazil. The net effect of it: even explicitly Canadian groups are full of Brazilians looking for advice on travelling to Canada. English-language groups also have strong representation from India and Pakistan: India comprises 11 per cent of Orkut, low for its percentage of the world population but high for its Web presence. The high Indo-Brazilian mix makes for a different place, with different rules of etiquette. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this — it’s just a bit of culture shock for net denizens who have gotten too used to an Internet that reflected their values. This says as much about the Angloamerican centricity of the other sites as much as it does about Orkut. This is what the U.S.-centric Net looks like to the rest of the world.

So … anyone want an Orkut invite?

A garter snake update

Most of the recent news about our reptile collection revolves around garter snakes.

For the most part, the recalcitrant feeders are eating again, but most of the male garter snakes continue to be stubborn. I did not note differences in feeding enthusiasm in my article on the differences between male and female garter snakes, but I’m beginning to think that males might be more prone to go off their feed. Certainly there are Darwinian reasons for females to eat, eat, eat, eat; males can get by at a level much closer to subsistence. Piss-Boy, my male red-sided garter, went two months without eating in the fall of 2000 — he was too busy humping the female I’d just introduced him to. Priorities.

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