February 2007

Sick cat

Maya has come down with something; she’s been barfing for two days. A trip to the vet may be in order unless her stomach settles down. Over the phone, the vet suggested administering Pepto-Bismol through a syringe, and if you know Maya you can guess how well that went.

Having a cat barf for two days straight isn’t as bad as it sounds, especially when there’s nothing left to bring up. (Hardwood floors help.) Having a cat miss the litter box when she’s trying to pee just once — now that’s something unpleasant.

Earworm Elmer

Elmer Bernstein is responsible for several earworms that have been plaguing my consciousness of late, viz., the themes for The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape and the National Geographic fanfare. He did many others — see his Wikipedia entry — but those are the ones that are stuck in my head. And now that I’ve mentioned them, just try and get them out of your head. You’re welcome.

Four gigabytes

One of the things about getting a digital SLR is that the number of photos you take goes up — waaaay up. I could fill my 512-MB memory card in an afternoon’s shooting (a bit more than 200 photos, shooting at JPEG fine).

So last Saturday I picked up a four-gigabyte SD card at WePC, the computer store in town. It cost a hundred dollars, about as much as the 512 did two years ago — or as much as a 128-MB card did a couple of years before that. I love falling flash memory prices.

Now I can shoot up to 1,100 photos at a time — which should hold up well on weekends and vacations — or, conversely, shoot in RAW format without constraints.

I must now look nervously at my remaining hard-drive capacity.

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Black pine snakes, giving us something to talk about

Without question, the snakes in our collection that generate the most questions about potential offspring are the black pine snakes. I’m sure that if I kept better track I’d have quite the waiting list by now. If they produced lots of babies, I’d sell every last one, and at a healthy price, too. Unfortunately, they only produced a single viable clutch, and that was back in 2002; the clutch produced last year turned out not to be viable. I’ve always wondered why we haven’t been able to replicate our success.

Black pine snake mating activity Now yesterday we caught the two pine snakes in the throes of mating activity. I didn’t actually catch — or photograph — the actual act of intromission, but Lucifer certainly seemed to be trying, and was performing several stereotyped courtship behaviours as well. Fine and good — but it’s late February, which seems a little early. In past years, they were hibernating at this time, in separate containers. I wonder if our mistake — the reason why we’ve had such poor reproductive success — is because we’ve been hibernating them through their mating season?


I turned 35 on Saturday, and celebrated it at three successive little parties, at different locations, that Jennifer threw for me. It worked well — each person attending each party could not have attended the other two — but man was I beat after that.

(Jennifer treated me to one of these, so my photography jones got stroked a bit.)

Overall, I’m feeling better than I did last week. Most of the phlegm is gone, and I feel less listless. If I get enough rest and maintain my equilibrium, I may yet get some work done.

Sixty Days and Counting

Gary K. Wolfe, referencing Crichton, has the following to say about Kim Stanley Robinson in his review, in this month’s Locus, of Sixty Days and Counting, third in Robinson’s series of near-future political thrillers dealing with global warming:

[O]ne of his main flaws as a writer of political thrillers is that he’s not nuts.

Put that on the cover of the paperback edition!

(There was a time when I would grab, and read, a new Robinson novel the moment it came out, but I’m about four books behind at the moment. Not faulting Robinson; I’m just so far behind on my reading.)

So much to do

I have vague hopes of increasing both the quantity and the substantiveness of my writing on this blog. I have many new projects I want to launch that you have not so much as heard of. Web pages. Entire web sites. Short stories. Podcasts and other audio projects. In other words, I have ambitions.

But energy, not so much. Such is my problem.

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Bottled water

Last week, David Suzuki denounced bottled water:

“It’s nuts to be shipping water all the way across the planet, and us — because we’re so bloody wealthy — we’re willing to pay for that water because it comes from France,” he said in an interview.
“I don’t believe for a minute that French water is better than Canadian water. I think that we’ve got to drink the water that comes out of our taps, and if we don’t trust it, we ought to be raising hell about that.”

So, how much does it cost to ship water all the way across the planet? Not in terms of money (obviously it’s cheap enough to be profitable), the environmental cost? Pablo does some back-of-the-envelope calculations: to produce and deliver one bottle of Fiji water to the U.S. takes 26.88 L of water, 849 g of fossil fuels and 562 g of greenhouse gases. This, so you can drink water that is not as stringently tested as municipal tap water. Via Treehugger.

The egregious incompetence of Palm

In The Egregious Incompetence of Palm, Daniel Eran makes a point about Palm that I had long felt, albeit incoherently: that Palm made a series of missteps and do-overs that essentially shot itself in the foot; and that what it did was essentially what the pundits said Apple should have done — viz., license and spin off the OS:

Remember when pundits all insisted they knew exactly how to fix Apple? Apple mostly ignored their advice, which ended up being fortunate for today’s Mac users.
Palm’s history of following all that advice — and paying the severe consequences — provides an interesting view into an alternate universe of possibility: what might have happened to Apple had it been run by John Dvorak, Paul Thurrott, Rob Enderle, and a gaggle of other columnists with conflicting opinions on how to save it.
They incessantly insisted that Apple desperately needed to:
  • License its OS to other hardware makers
  • Copy Microsoft’s Windows strategies
  • Compete directly against Microsoft in IT markets
  • Split into hardware and software companies
  • Buy Be, Inc. for its BeOS
  • Adopt the Linux kernel
  • License Windows from Microsoft
While Apple ignored all their free advice, Palm jumped in and followed it to the letter. The result: Palm is on extended life support and peddling a device that will be completely obsolete in six months.

Now, of course, there aren’t any more licencees, and Palm doesn’t even own its own OS any more — they spun it off and failed when they tried to buy it back. And they haven’t released a new, non-Treo PDA since October 2005. Via Palm Infocenter.

Snake massage, anyone?

An Israeli spa offers snake massages, where, for 300 shekels, clients get to have six snakes crawl across their bodies. Of note, the spa is Israeli but the snakes are the usual North American pet species:

Barak uses California and Florida kingsnakes, corn snakes and milk snakes in her treatments, which she said were inspired by her belief that once people get over any initial misgivings, they find physical contact with the creatures to be soothing.

This is something that can be arranged, you know. Photos here; via Boing Boing.


I’m bad at e-mail at the best of times, but lately it’s been getting preposterous. I’ve been owing some of you a reply for months.

Don’t take it personally if you haven’t heard from me. Appearances to the contrary, I’m actually a shy bugger for whom even picking up the phone can be a considerable effort sometimes.

Local miscellany, with photos

A few items of local interest:

Anne McGowan, the principal of ELC, is retiring. Since Jennifer is one of their teachers and I am her spousal equivalent, I attended the retirement party on the 26th, where I put my swanky new camera to use.

Eric Campbell, a local character (and yes, you better believe he was one) who was active in heritage projects, died last week; my friend Robert Wills is assembling anecdotes on a memorial page.

The Pontiac Community Bonspiel wrapped up today; Jennifer played on the Pontiac High School staff team. It was her first time curling, though she’s no stranger to the sport as a spectator. Her team finished second in its division, but before you get too impressed, note that there are twelve divisions and 72 teams in all. Anyway, I was along with my camera today, and here is the photographic evidence.