February 2008

Photo delays

I’m behind on posting photos. This is nothing new. In fact, the following photos have been waiting for me to get my act together and post them to my Flickr account:

  • Photos from CPR #2816’s visit to Smiths Falls, Ontario in June 2004
  • Photos from the Shawville Fair last September
  • Photos from the wedding of Jennifer’s brother last December

I leave it to you to figure out which one will get me killed if I don’t hurry up.

Amazon.ca vs. Chapters.Indigo.ca

Once Amazon.ca launched, I abandoned Chapters.indigo.ca — I went five years between orders. Lately I’ve been noticing that Amazon.ca doesn’t always have better selection (i.e., items actually in stock) or lower prices: sometimes Chapters.indigo.ca discounts a book more, sometimes Amazon.ca does. It varies book by book (or, more to the point, publisher by publisher).

Last week I decided to run an experiment. I ordered about $100 worth of books from each store, assigning each book to the store that either had it in stock or had it for less, to see how they would handle the order. The orders were made 10 minutes apart on the evening of Monday, February 18. Everything was listed as in stock; I chose free shipping in both cases.

I received shipping confirmation from Amazon.ca on Tuesday afternoon, and received the package on Thursday. Shipping confirmation for the Chapters.indigo.ca order came at 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning; the package didn’t turn up until the following Monday. Two working days or four days, depending on how you count things. Or, three days vs. a week. Interesting that there would be that much of a difference: enough to be significant, but not enough to be important, if you follow me.

Observing report

Out observing for the first time in two months last night: we finally had a combination of (reasonably) clear skies and (relatively) warm temperatures (i.e., warmer than -10°C); besides, Saturn was at opposition. So Saturn was our primary target.

To avoid getting run over by snowmobiles, we set up our telescope by the back step; planetary observing doesn’t require dark skies. A rough two-star alignment (Regulus and Rigel) proved adequate. Saturn was visible in the 25mm Plössl (50×) as well as the 10mm Radian (125×), as were at least two of its moons — Tethys and Dione. Titan was probably visible as well, but I didn’t identify it. Atmospheric turbulence was not good, so the viewing wasn’t exactly sharp, but Saturn was recognizable as Saturn.

Also tested out the lunar filter on the gibbous Moon, which would normally be excessively bright in the eyepiece; the filter made it quite viewable. We also tried out the narrowband nebula filter on the Orion Nebula, which is bright enough to view from a less-than-dark site. It was visible enough in the non-filtered eyepieces, but adding the filter brought out more expanse and more detail. The Trapezium could be seen in either case; the filter made the stars greenish.

At around -6°C, not so cold that the electronics or battery were impaired; I’m sure I didn’t leave the optics enough time to cool down. In any event, we were going after targets that weren’t very challenging, optically speaking. Though Saturn and the Orion Nebula are impressive enough never to be taken for granted.

More entries below »

Study on deliberate reptile roadkill

Depressing news from the Green Bay Press-Gazette on a Canadian study regarding intentional reptile roadkill: “According to researchers E. Paul Ashley of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Amanda Kosloski at the University of Western Ontario and Scott A. Petrie at the Long Point Waterfowl and Wetlands Fund in Ontario, nearly 3 percent of drivers intentionally crush snakes and turtles on roadways.” I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion that people are resistant to public education campaigns; I rather suspect that the turtle crossing road signs in eastern Ontario have had at least some impact. Or at least I need to believe that they have.

My response to the Pontiac MRC animal control by-law

As I mentioned earlier, the Pontiac MRC is planning a new animal control by-law. It has come up with a draft for each of the 18 municipalities to approve. I have laid hands on a copy of that draft, in all its typo-ridden glory, and made a PDF of it; you can download it here.

It’s the kind of law that makes dedicated animal lovers nervous because it makes illegal activities that have been going on for a long time, and that may be perfectly legal elsewhere. Reptile keepers are used to these sudden changes in fortune — though not, as you will see from this entry, in Quebec. But in addition to restricting animals that are legal elsewhere in Quebec, the by-law would also ban dangerous dog breeds — something that is only starting to happen in larger city centres — and fix a maximum limit of five animals per household. Not five dogs or cats. Five animals. You can see where this is going.

When I first heard about the by-law, I freaked. But once I got my hands on the draft, I was able to see how I might be able to address my concerns without going ballistic, mobilizing public opinion or waging a media campaign. So I drafted the following letter, and sent it to my mayor:

Continue reading this entry »

Cut his balls off, quick!

For Caturday, a couple of items about the new kitten, which — in case you haven’t heard — we’ve named “Doofus.” (“Spazz” was already taken by the female blue-striped garter snake.)

  • He’s more than doubled his weight since his arrival.
  • He attacks shadows on the wall. I’m tempted to take a picture of him in mid-air and LOLcat it thusly: “Ranger cat fights da shadowz.”
  • We wake up with strange and unexplained scratches. Devious cat is not to be trusted.
  • He set off a minor panic earlier this week when he peed on the guest bed. We’re crossing our fingers that it was a case of overexcited loss of bladder control.
  • He goes in to get fixed on March 19. Given the foregoing, that cannot happen soon enough. Snip snip, settle down.

A bleary-eyed update

Working part-time hasn’t helped much in terms of feeling tired, but that’s given the circumstances lately. Work is, of course, busy, and sometimes I think I’m doing a five-day job in a three-day span. The commutes are still long, especially when it snows, which is happening on a weekly basis nowadays. But my downtime is pretty busy, too. Normally I’m blogging, but not this past week.

First came the Chinese New Year dinner party last Friday, for which I was underprepared: I spent most of the party chopping raw shrimp and other ingredients, but it turned out well enough, and the guests were well and happily fed.

At the same time, it was reported that the Pontiac MRC — the county government — had proposed a uniform animal-control by-law for all 18 municipalities, including Shawville. I had to lay hands on a draft of the by-law, read it, freak out about it, figure out what to do about it, and draft a reply. I spent last Monday writing a letter to the mayor of Shawville, which Jennifer dropped off at the town hall on Tuesday. It’s four pages long. It has footnotes. I’ll post it at some point.

So even though I’m working part-time and I haven’t posted an entry to The Map Room for a week and a half, I’m pretty pooped. Never a chance to catch up on my rest, always something else that needs doing.

Environmentalism and puritanism

Charlie Stross links to this piece about environmentalism, which says some interesting things (e.g., “Go after pollution sources with the highest benefit/cost ratio, not those which are most noticeable” — such as underground coal fires rather than aviation emissions), and then goes on to say some interesting things himself:

Expecting everyone to dump their standard of living in the shitter in order to save the environment is not a realistic strategy because humans don’t work that way. … If you really want to know how humans work, in the mass, you need to look to economics; and if you want to effect positive environmental change, you need to figure out how to make people want it.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the modern environmentalist movement is a puritan religious movement in secular drag. But that doesn’t mean that fixing our environmental problems isn’t a good idea. Nor are we going to get there by wearing sackcloth and ashes, mortifying the flesh, and trying to live like mediaeval subsistence-farming peasants.

The Puritans weren’t the archetype of self-abnegating killjoys; they were simply the English 16th-century manifestation of a human tendency that persists to this day.