Thursday, January 31, 2002
Further evidence that Whose Line Is It Anyway? is going deeper down the shithole: Hugh Hefner, accompanied by a couple o' past-the-due-date Playmates, guested as duet victims/prop objects on tonight's episode. My impression of recent episodes is that they are disturbingly similar to Rat Pack movies: everyone involved is having a lot more fun than those of us who have to watch them. Bring back Clive, please.
If your sense of humour is as sick and as warped as mine, you will undoubtedly enjoy this collection of twisted photoshopped children's book covers at Something Awful. But don't say I didn't warn you.
Animal attacks on people are on the rise in North America. The annual rate of bear, shark, alligator and cougar attacks has never been higher. "But wildlife experts say the predators aren't getting more vicious. The rise in attacks can be blamed on the fact people are more likely than ever to come across one of the animals whether they're hiking in the wild or living on the divide between the urban and wild worlds.
E-mail from Apple overnight that my AirPort base station and card have shipped, so at some point in the near future I will have to figure out how to set it up. The PC will be plugged in through the second Ethernet port, but the iBook will do the configuring. With any luck, I will (a) be able to surf from anywhere in the apartment (and probably from restaurants across the street, given the range of 802.11b), and (b) not have to have the PC on to surf from the laptop.
Talked over my recent posts on Mac enthusiasts with Florence on the way home from work yesterday, which led to the revelation that, whenever I immerse myself in a hobby, I'm at least as interested (if not more so) in the social dynamics of the enthusiasts as in the subject of the hobby. This is not just reflected in my posts critical of loopy Mac heads. Head over to the writing section and have a look my editorials for The OHS News: they're all about the behaviour of herpers. Not that I haven't written articles about herps, far from it, but the preoccupation with how my subculture conducts itself persists. And, as I keep thinking about it, I realize that this, mutatis mutandis, was the case with science fiction (interested in authors' biographies, essays on writing, reading Locus) and with professional history (historiography, Festschriften, conference gossip). No wonder I ended up a social historian; there's a sociologist in me, trying to get out.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
I imported over 400 photos into iPhoto yesterday. So far the software is looking very nice. One small glitch involving cropping to a 4x6 portrait on the camera shots (as opposed to the scanned images), but surmountable. Integration with Graphic Converter is flawless, and this latter program looks very useful thus far. I've already begun work on revamping the trails section, which should be ready with everything else when the site undergoes its total redesign (expect that sometime in February).
Matt Johnson opines that Mac fanatics don't do Apple any good: "What I believe Apple does not seek is evangelists who are unpaid and unwanted zealots.
Bread flour does the trick. A magnificent loaf came out of the breadmaker this morning. The gadget's instructions say that Canadian all-purpose or bread flour may be used, whereas in the U.S. only bread flour is appropriate. But even in Canada bread flour works so much better (and organic unbleached bread flour makes one feel virtuous).
Back at work today; I was in much better shape this morning, and the chest-and-upper-back stiffness that struck Monday afternoon and persisted through yesterday does not appear to have returned today. There is some discomfort, and a flare may still be developing.
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
Stiffness and pain; home again.
The most obnoxious defence of Classic Mac OS that I have yet encountered, courtesy of Charles W. Moore at Low End Mac:
While I would like to see Apple with a market share of, say, 10-15 percent, I'm not at all sure I would want to see them penetrate much farther than that, because in order to do so they would have to dumb down and compromise the Mac experience to appeal to the bland taste of the broad consumer market.
There is some concern that they are already doing this to a degree with the OS�X GUI. One of the arguments I frequently hear from Aqua apologists is that the X desktop experience is more accessible (read Windows-like) for newcomers to the Mac platform than the old Mac OS GUI was.
Like the "most popular OS that 'everybody' uses" argument, this rationale has no leverage with me.
The classic Mac OS, when you invest a very modest amount of time and effort in learning how it works, offers the best, slickest, and most efficient computer desktop environment I've yet encountered. Making things transparently easier for the lazy and inept (the AOL/Microsoft motif) just waters down and homogenizes functionality.
Ugh. It's amazing how repugnant Mac evangelists can be, and how insistent on their own superiority; just because they've owned Macs since 1984, they see themselves as one of the subjects in the "Think Different" poster campaign! So much for "the computer for the rest of us". What Moore has to realize is that "making things transparently easier for the lazy and inept" is exactly the charge that Windows/Unix/Linux users could level against the classic Mac OS. (No command line? It's for people who don't know how to use computers!) I didn't move to Mac OS X because I was lazy and inept; I moved because I (1) wasn't looking forward to Windows eXPloit and (2) liked the idea of a user-friendly Unix-based operating system that could run various web server goodies and yet was functional as a personal computer. My hope is that Apple does gain more market share, so that the rabid Mac fanatics, the ones who whine about Apple incessantly, the ones with no grip on reality, will be drowned out by new users who won't whine at all that OS X isn't exactly the way they want it.
Monday, January 28, 2002
I think another flare may be coming on; my back and chest are worsening, and I don't think it's the usual inactivity-related problem this time. Owie.
A serious look at using iPhoto by Derrick Story of O'Reilly; don't miss the comments at the end, which are full of useful tips and advice including this one, in which Story refers to GraphicConverter as a good, OS X-native image editor. I'll download that presently. Meanwhile, I got to get me a new digital camera soon.
It's only available in the United States, more's the pity, but today Palm has officially announced the long-expected i705 wireless handheld. Always-on e-mail in a Palm is very interesting I don't need it, but I can appreciate it. From a distance, it would seem.
Pesky Joe Returns: Joe Peschisolido, the MP for Richmond, crosses the floor from the Alliance to sit with the Liberals. He used to be a Liberal organizer in his misspent youth (which is how I knew him in my misspent youth; and yes, we did call him Pesky Joe). He cites as a reason for leaving Alliance MP's Roy Bailey's assertion that Rey Pagtakhan is unfit to serve as Veterans Affairs minister because he's Asian-born, and the rather tepid response to that boneheaded statement by the party. One-third of Pesky Joe's constituents are ethnically Chinese. But some think Peschisolido, who moved from Toronto, where he lost two elections for Reform, to B.C. to run for the Alliance in Richmond, is being opportunistic (again).
Apple has announced faster Power Macs: the three new Power Mac models are slightly faster (800 MHz/933 MHz/dual-1 GHz vs. 733/867/dual-800 MHz) and cheaper than their predecessors; this is a minor speed bump which, the rumor sites believe, is in advance of G5 towers expected/wished for later this year. (Note the amusing spectacle of Mac heads demanding gigahertz-plus G5s now, or else they won't upgrade from their
Sunday, January 27, 2002
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has died aged 71 (from Le Monde; anglophones/francophobes can check out the New York Times obituary; free registration required). Bourdieu would have been a central theoretical influence on my doctoral dissertation, if I had had the chance to complete it.
Friday, January 25, 2002
Big, insanely expensive books arrived this week from Zoo Book Sales: the 1997 reprint of the massive two-volume edition of Laurence M. Klauber's classic, Rattlesnakes: Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind, which was heavily discounted (yay!); and Klaus-Dieter Schulz's Monograph of the Colubrid Snakes of the Genus Elaphe Fitzinger, which was not discounted (ouch!).
"As Canadian as possible under the circumstances." CBC Radio's This Morning, which replaced Peter Gzowski's Morningside in 1997 after he retired, had a four-hour retrospective on Gzowski today, beginning an hour earlier than usual, at 8:00 a.m. They began by playing the theme for Morningside, which I had not heard in years, and badly missed This Morning was never as good a program, especially in terms of its theme music and, whether I was still emotionally raw from the arguments I had had with Florence the previous evening and this morning, or whether it was Gzowski's passing alone that drove me to it, I found myself welling up with tears. That doesn't happen very often. But this morning, I cried for Peter Gzowski, and I'm quite certain I was not alone; he managed to connect so personally with so many of us. Losing him is like losing family.
Thursday, January 24, 2002
Or maybe they knew something was coming: Peter Gzowski has died at the age of 67. As this CBC obit says, "The truth is, Peter Gzowski died of smoking." A loss beyond our reckoning.
Margaret Wente's column in today's Globe and Mail on Canada's lengthy drug approvals process drew my attention to a new arthritis drug called Remicade (infliximab). New arthritis drugs always get my attention because they may be applicable to my condition. This one isn't an NSAID it seems to involve mouse antibodies and at $20,000 a year it's obscenely expensive. But it apparently has been tested on ankylosing spondylitis, with promising results. Of course, the same thing was said about Celebrex (celecoxib), which didn't do a thing for me. Centocor is targeting it (at least marketing-wise) at rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, so we're definitely in the same ballpark: rheumatoid arthritis is the mirror image of ankylosing spondylitis (more women get RA than men; more men get AS than women), and Crohn's is genetically related to it. Interesting.
The high-school drop-out rate plunged during the 1990s; the Canadian average is now something like 12 per cent. Teenagers have figured out that not having a high-school diploma is a virtual guarantee of unemployment.
Peter Gzowski is gravely ill, says his family, but why does the Globe and Mail article about it read like an obituary? Granted, he has COPD, but he's not dead yet, people.
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
What's going on with popular historians? Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin face charges of plagiarism, and others are taken to task for minor inaccuracies. Plagiarism is of course a heap big deal, but I'm reminded of the following passage I read in Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession, referring to the David Abraham affair: "The long New York Times story on the Abraham affair
Rumor has it that two new Palm models are imminent: the m515, with 16 MB of RAM and a brighter screen, to replace the m505; and the m130, essentially an m125 with a colour screen.
Tuesday, January 22, 2002
Okay. Deep breath. I knew there was going to be a Crocodile Hunter/Steve Irwin movie. Now, thanks to a news story linked to by FARK about get this frozen crocodiles exploding on set (they were used in lieu of the real thing for safety reasons), we know something about the movie's plot, to wit: "In Collision Course, Irwin, the CIA, and other spies are in hot pursuit of a crocodile which swallows a fallen US-satellite beacon, presumably containing hot and spicy intelligence information." Hoo boy. This sounds like a wank of the first order, even exceeding Steve-o's fraternization with the U.S. Army Rangers and mucking about with fighter jets (what, pray, does this have to do with snake conservation, Steve-o?). Will his best buddy Wes be the first to die in a hail of enemy bullets? Will Terri be forced to seduce enemy spies to gain information? Begin dry heaving.
A review of the Xircom Wireless LAN Module for Palm m500-series handhelds, along with some observations on wireless Internet in general, by SF author and boingboinger Cory Doctorow.
Amazon is now profitable; not only that, but they're profitable according to generally accepted accounting principles, not just on their usual pro forma basis. Their neato expensive sorting machines (NY Times; free registration required) may have something to do with it.
érrorplan is a web site apparently set up by unhappy Aeroplan members documenting Air Canada's poor service and diminished benefits to their best customers. Air Canada, as you might imagine, is none too happy about it especially since thousands of their flyers have been found in their airplanes and airport lounges around the world. Expect a crackdown.
The average smoking rate in Canada drops to 23 per cent. Teenage girls still outsmoke boys, but otherwise men outsmoke women. (I want more age breakdowns than that, though.) The rate is lowest in British Columbia (17 per cent) and highest in PEI and Manitoba (28 per cent). Big drops in Newfoundland and Quebec. Progress! Most of the remaining smokers are the "hard-core addicts", the ones most immune, I suppose, to higher taxes and aggressively gross health warnings.
"Uncivilized brutes": Canadian beavers invade Russia. Introduced to Sweden and Finland in the 1950s, where there is no native European beaver population, the introduced Canadian species has expanded rapidly and is now displacing the older, weaker, less flexible European species in Karelia.
The trouble with "orphan" diseases: "most people with orphan diseases are treated only with horribly blunt instruments. The dearth of drug treatments for them is a reflection of basic economics. The profit-driven pharmaceutical industry has little incentive to pour research money into discoveries that will not return big dividends. Small patient populations hold out little potential reward." An orphan disease is a rare disorder that affects fewer than one in 20,000 people; there are apparently more than 6,000 of them. And I thought my ankylosing spondylitis which, according to the Arthritis Society, affects as many as one in 100 was obscure.
Monday, January 21, 2002
"For Goldhagen, the cross and the swastika are interchangeable. This strikes me as not only offensive, but deeply dangerous. By regarding the Catholic Church as morally indistinguishable from the Nazi Party, Goldhagen disturbingly undermines the uniqueness of the evil Hitler represented." Andrew Sullivan objects to an essay by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen on the complicity of the Catholic Church in the Shoah on the grounds that Goldhagen makes morally equivalent different degrees of evil.
"Force the affluent to experience the same level of consumption as the poor, and the affluent will raise the poor's standard of living to their own.
Sunday, January 20, 2002
Animé, Japanese Cinema's Second Golden Age. Don't miss this New York Times summary of the amazing animated films coming out of Japan lately (free registration required). Surprisingly, though I've barely gotten my feet wet in this genre, I've seen three of the films this article mentions. Absolutely go and see Princess Mononoke, which is one of the finest films to come down the pike in the last decade, animated or not.
Saturday, January 19, 2002
Uploaded the new, PHP-based home page of the Ottawa Amphibian and Reptile Association last night. Still a few holes to plug, but is otherwise functional enough that as is it improves upon that which it replaces. The whole ottawaherps.com site is up for revision.
We'll begin the morning with some silly bits. Liz sent me a link to the Landover Baptist Church, "where the worthwhile worship". This is an extensive site; my attention span is too short at the moment to give it proper attention. It's The Onion for blasphemers. Next, a site dedicated to Japanese English, or rather what the Japanese do to English, or "Engrish". Many interesting and hilarious photos. Start here.
Friday, January 18, 2002
Current reading: Robertson Davies, The Merry Heart: Selections, 1980-1995.
Thursday, January 17, 2002
Someone has built a Compact Flash interface for the Apple II. Even the smallest Compact Flash cards represent massive data storage for the 8-bit Apple II series, where most programs had to fit on 140 KB disks, and were usually a lot smaller than that. After my father's 40 MB (MB!) hard drive broke down, we made do with a 5 MB Profile hard drive on the IIgs. Now stick a Microdrive on there and see what happens! Man. Nostalgia. I've been harbouring crazed notions of buying an old Apple IIc on eBay and setting it up as a Unix terminal. Emulators are nice but I miss the hardware.
The secret diary of Aragorn son of Arathorn: "Day Four: Stuck on mountain with Hobbits. Boromir really annoying. Not King yet."
Tuesday, January 15, 2002
My friend Il Coppardo has written a simply amazing article about his recent trip to Ufa, a Russian city in the Urals:
Ufa, as you undoubtedly don't know, is a city of 1.1 million near the Ural mountains, and the capital of Bashkortostan, a republic within the Russian federation. Ivan the Terrible founded Ufa in the 16th century as a fort from which to fight off woolly-headed nomads. Stalin gave it a big boost when he moved most of Russia's industry eastward from 1941 to 1942. Today, Ufa is a peaceful industrial city that rises undramatically from windswept steppes. Think of it as Edmonton without the Ukranians.
Not only does this man know how to travel properly, he also knows how to write about it.
David also asks in his e-mail drawing my attention to the above article, "Hope your literary projects are moving in a forward direction. As for me, I'm almost finished my 1000 page opus on your daily routine. You've got to give me more material, though. What did you see on your way to work? Did you eat a muffin yesterday? Are there paperclips under your desk, and if so, are they twisted?" (The answers are, snow and sullen bureaucrats, no, and hey, I just vacuumed under there.)
I'm contemplating moving to Movable Type for my blogging software, but it occurs to me that, if I enable comments on my blog entries, this page could get very strange
Monday, January 14, 2002
Current reading: Being Gardner Dozois: An Interview by Michael Swanwick.
"Coming from a business and entrepreneurial background, I couldn't understand why things just didn't happen as directed. I discovered that, in order for the government's plans to be executed, we needed people with the same political persuasion to create enough thrust in the system to get the work done. It became obvious that political patronage is necessary in Canadian governance.
Sunday, January 13, 2002
Steve Marks was over last night to talk to the OARA about the animal by-law fight in Toronto. I figured that he would be able to offer some insights into what we should expect, now that Ottawa has been merged and will have to harmonize its various exotic animal by-laws. The meeting went very well, though turnout could have been higher. For reference's sake, here is the final version of City of Toronto By-law No. 28-1999 and here is what was initially proposed. We like the Toronto by-law.
The snake in The Lady Eve is a western longnose snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei lecontei). Steve Marks identified it in about two seconds flat from the DVD freeze frame. It makes sense that the filmmakers would use a tame critter local to southern California.
Saturday, January 12, 2002
I finished Zeitgeist some time ago but am still puzzling it over. It has the same strange unsavoury and interesting characters from Sterling's short works, "Hollywood Kremlin", "Are You For 86?" (Globalhead) and "The Littlest Jackal", which I adored (A Good Old-fashioned Future). The narrative gets very strange, mostly because in many spots the narrative is about narrative. (Sterling got his cultural theory more or less right.) It probably didn't help me that for some inexplicable reason I kept picturing Leggy Starlitz as French TV personality Michel Drucker.
Friday, January 11, 2002
Too many snakes, so Dave gets my banded water snakes. As water snakes go they are wonderful: they're tame and eat mice. But I can't find room for them any more, and Dave will appreciate them a great deal. So would a few other people, I'm discovering while the demand for water snakes is extremely low, the supply is damn near close to zero. As a result I get some interesting e-mail from interesting places whenever I post photos. Sorry guys, no breeding: they're brothers.
In response to Hilary's question about who was planning to apply to Clarion this year, I delurked myself on the Clarion Workshops message board. Only to discover that two other people in Ottawa are thinking about it. All of us with the same first initial kabbalists and numerologists take note.
What Dr. Phil Blais doesn't know about herpetoculture. Note especially number seven. Damn straight, Phil.
Wednesday, January 09, 2002
The glossy snake now takes pinky mice from your hand. What a great snake.
Marcus, our melanistic eastern garter snake, has died. He died within the last two days (so that was where that smell was coming from). Easily the sickest snake in our collection, he was chronically infected with internal parasites (roundworms) in spite of our best efforts to deworm him. My guess is that he died from a respiratory infection. We did our best, but it wasn't enough. Sometimes doing your best isn't.
Bryan Chaffin writing at The Mac Observer: "The only people complaining about the new iMacs are Macheads. This is the same thing that happened with the iPod. Apple hyped, we believed. Apple announced, we revolted. We then all bought iPods, too, but that's just nit-picking, isn't it? The mainstream press didn't get pissed that Apple had hyped the iPod, nor did they proclaim it a let-down. In fact, they went gaga over it, and poured out the complimentary exposure, which would explain why it is that Apple has sold roughly a gagillion iPods since they were introduced." (More precisely, Apple sold 125,000 iPods in November and December.)
Tuesday, January 08, 2002
Apple fanatics were collectively wetting themselves in advance of MacWorld San Francisco and the expected release of new and miraculous goodies from Steve. The unprecedented hype on Apple's home page satirized with brilliant effect here didn't help. A new iPod-like gadget, gigahertz-plus G4 or even G5 chips on Power Macs, and certainly the long-expected flat-panel iMac.
The iMac they got, and a couple of other neat things besides, but as usual many fans felt crestfallen. The problem with expecting anything is that often you're let down when you don't get everything. And not everyone liked the new iMac's stylings. Risky industrial design is like that: when you present something unexpected, not everyone will cotton to it, at least not right away.
Still, the whining over the lack of upgraded Power Macs began within minutes of the keynote's end to be fair, I was surprised that Apple left the Power Mac hardware untouched when the new iMac was now competitive with it technically, and came with an LCD monitor (which must be purchased separately with Power Macs). This will have to be fixed right soon if they want to keep selling towers, and I expect they will.
And the slower G4 chips are posing a problem. Steven den Beste argues that it's a very serious problem for Apple, and blames Motorola (mostly). Personally I think chip speed is overrated for the vast majority of computer users, who don't need 2.2-GHz Pentium 4s to get their work done. Even the 600-MHz G3 in my iBook is enough for my purposes (which do not include high frame rate gaming, or video rendering), though I wouldn't mind faster MP3 encoding. In short, it's a bit of a red herring.
But I digress. Three highlights from Steve Jobs's keynote:
- Flat-panel iMacs in a very funky design with a 700- or 800-MHz G4 CPU and a DVD burner in the top-end model. Very unique design; I will definitely have to examine one in person. Kudos as usual to Ive. What impressed me was a small detail: it's got a built-in amplifier so you can use the neato Apple Pro Speakers with it (and in fact they're included in the top two models).
- A larger iBook with a 14-inch screen and a stronger battery. I can live with the 12-inch screen because I really like how small my iBook is. The 14-inch model adds an inch in width and length and a pound in weight: those who value screen size more than height now have that option. Oh yeah, and they cut the price of my model (with the combo drive), by $300. (Oh well at least it's still current.)
- iPhoto, which looks really promising, though I haven't used it much. I expect I'll find its editing functions rather limited; from the review on the Digital Camera Resource Page there doesn't appear to be a resize function, which will make web work difficult. Cory Doctorow reports that iPhoto gets very sluggish with 4,000 photos in the library, so it looks like it will need some work. But the UI is as good as you'd expect from an Apple application. Unfortunately I can't do much with it: my digital camera connects by serial cable (it's old) and SanDisk plans no OS X support for my SmartMedia card reader. Looks like I'll have to buy a new digital camera.
Friday, January 04, 2002
Leonard Nimoy should eat more salsa, apparently.
Thursday, January 03, 2002
There we go, now it's been done: Toronto psychiatrist Allan Peterkin has written a book titled One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair. Mine is coming along reasonably well, by the way.
The furnace heating apartments 3 through 6 in our building was off or broken on January 1, which doesn't surprise me one bit, since irony is the prime motive force in the universe. The landlord could not find someone to fix or replace the furnace that day. I think it actually went off on the 31st, since the landlord and various people were down in the furnace room that day. But by the 1st it had gotten quite cold: 12°C in the bedroom. We coped by trying to heat the living room as much as possible: the space heater, eight or nine emergency candles, and everything electric that generated even a modicum of heat was switched on. We made do. But it was fixed yesterday and the difference is dramatic; temperatures in the apartment are now almost normal. The new furnace functions so well that it is now clear that the previous furnace did not work properly in the three years we have been living here. No surprise that our previous landlord never bothered to fix it properly, or replace it.