February 2002

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

[ 6:37 AM ]

Coping will be difficult in the immediate future. Suddenly I have no one to rely on but myself to handle the most basic things, things that, because of my condition, I had found difficult or overwhelming. Waking up this morning in profound pain; my sacroiliac joint has decided to be uncooperative. I would call in sick except that I have over a hundred pages of urgent and sensitive work; that work also complicates my ability to take time off to find an apartment and eventually move things. Had this happened a week ago I would have found it easier to move for the end of the month. Had this happened a month ago, when things were looking similarly bleak, I would have been better prepared, at least emotionally.

I feel overwhelmed. I may have to work overtime today, through searing pain, and somehow find the time to do laundry and find an apartment. Happy fun.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

[ 6:43 PM ]

It looks like Florence and I will be breaking up. Damn her.

Monday, February 18, 2002

[ 5:08 PM ]

Matt, Matt, Matt . . . (original here).

[ 2:51 PM ]

A list of foreign words for which there is no English equivalent that has been circulating among bloggers, in the guise of a review of a book on the same subject. (Fair use?)

[ 2:19 PM ]

I turned 30 yesterday. Florence arranged food from a caterer, which turned out to be excellent, for our small party of eleven people. As usual I blushed beet-red when the birthday song was sung. Enjoyed myself, which has been unusual of late, but welcome.

Greg and Natalka brought their son Kosta, who is two. Very two. I had a mild conniption when he swatted at the baby eastern box turtle I held in my hand (I was showing it to Natalka) and knocked her to the ground. Yow! Fortunately she is a turtle and appears none the worse for wear. Note to self: child-proof place before any offspring I have turn two. (I had a cat once so have some idea what may be involved.) In general I enjoyed having the little rugrat around, but it gave me quite a bit of insight into how much care and attention a two-year-old needs. This may be important later, assuming I reproduce. (Inevitable e-mail from Florence in about twenty minutes: "What do you mean, assuming?")

Nice loot: Florence provided dinner, Notorious on DVD and a subscription to Natural History magazine. Andrew and Deborah brought a hilarious bar of soap that I will have to take a picture of and post here. Greg and Natalka are sending me a book. Christine and Steven brought dishes; we could feed everyone on actual dishes as a result. Michèle provided a cake and sundries. Saloni provided wine. Amazon gift certificates arrived from various family members that will be put to good use. A cheque arrived from my grandparents over a week ago. Thank you all.

[ 10:44 AM ]

Eatons is dead again. Sears is dropping the name from the seven Eatons stores it currently operates, citing market conditions.

[ 10:40 AM ]

What about handhelds? Palm's critique of the Revised Proposed Final Judgment in United States v. Microsoft Corporation is available online, and points to Microsoft's anti-competitive behaviour insofar as the handheld computing market is concerned: "Palm's ability to offer innovative handheld solutions to consumers is, in significant part, reliant on full and timely interoperability with Microsoft's software products. Absent compatibility, consumers will be unable to obtain a fully functional handheld running anything other than Microsoft software." And Microsoft is doing its bit use its monopoly to forestall compatibility, making sure that Microsoft-based handhelds work better with Windows than their competitors. "Its anticompetitive conduct will enable it to monopolize the emerging handheld industry and, at the same time, eliminate the threat handhelds pose to its PC OS monopoly."

Friday, February 15, 2002

[ 3:00 PM ]

The Medicine and Madison Avenue Project contains about 600 health-related newspaper and magazine advertisements from the early to mid-twentieth century. It's a fantastic web resource with lots to explore. When I was studying history, I spent a lot of time ruining my eyes in front of microfilm readers, going through a lot of early twentieth-century newspapers. I remember being struck at the number of ads that offered products to help you gain weight — clearly thinner is better was not an absolute dictum at the time, which says a great deal about how the ideal body type has changed over time. But all the diet-related ads on the site deal with weight loss: not one talks about weight gain. Which strikes me as historical presentism: looking at the past to serve the needs or attitudes of the present.

[ 2:37 PM ]

Giving Salé and Pelletier a second gold medal is window-dressing, a sop to public opinion, unless the ISU does something about judges fixing the results. (But, according to this CNN report, ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta says the investigation will continue.) I would have preferred that this result came as a result of a proper hearing rather than a deal between the IOC and ISU.

This problem is systemic, and I think it quite unjust that the judge who confessed to it is being scapegoated. I suspect, or at least worry, that there is an attempt being made to preserve the status quo by blaming the whistleblower and limiting the extent of the problem. Had French figure-skating judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne not reported what had happened, this scandal would not have had the legs it has, and we would have been arguing over the relative merits of each program, blissfully unaware of the rot within this, um, sport.

I am anticipating the ice dance competition — ground zero of judging scandals in figure skating for years — with considerable trepidation, because it's in ice dancing that the other shoe is supposed to drop, since, according to The Globe and Mail, the deal involved tying the pairs gold with the results of the ice dance, which apparently have already been decided, in the following order: Italy, Russia, France, Lithuania, Canada. I wonder what will happen if that, too, comes to pass — assuming the judges are brazen enough, that is. Will it be the last straw that kicks figure skating out of the Olympics, or will Canadians be seen as crying "wolf" one too many times if they harp about biased judging a second time, in a sport — er, discipline — that is much harder for the casual observer to evaluate than pairs is?

If you ask me (and I know you do), if the ISU cannot get its act together — and for real, not just when public opinion is outraged and everybody is watching — then (1) the national skating associations whose athletes (or, if you prefer, "athletes") have been regularly fucked over by the system as it stands should pull out of the ISU and form their own, parallel, international skating organization with professional judging, and (2) the IOC should boot the ISU and recognize that parallel association. Cynical commentators have noted that figure skating is too much of a money maker to be booted out of the Olympics. Fine; don't boot them out, but replace the corrupt infrastructure that is currently in place.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

[ 5:08 PM ]

NovoClub has gone bankrupt. Damn. Where will I get my books and cables now?

[ 4:44 PM ]

Florence is deeply annoyed about the rank commercialism of Valentine's Day, so she should like this page. Prior to today, we were discussing the best way to boycott this rancid little event. We figured that two ways to do it would be rampant infidelity and total celibacy. Even if we wanted to do the former (heh heh) I somehow think that it would not be a viable option, so it seemed that we settled on the latter strategy. But it was only after we crawled out of bed this morning that we realized that, oops, it was the 14th — we'd already broken the no-celibacy rule before we had clued in on what day it was. Heh heh. Oops.

[ 4:14 PM ]

A spiffy new computer at work: a Pentium III 933 MHz with 128 MB RAM replaces a Pentium 150 MHz with 32 MB RAM that was jacked into an old 486 tower — the case had no CD-ROM, but had a 5.25-inch floppy! So very nice to upgrade. I discover that I became too used to a French-Canadian keyboard: my fingers still expect the slash to be above the tab key, and quotation marks just above the space bar. Reverting to a standard U.S. keyboard is surprisingly difficult.

[ 4:12 PM ]

"Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I know that I am going to be interrupted, I can't concentrate, and if I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can't do anything at all. Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless." Neal Stephenson on finding the time to write — a problem I'm all too familiar with as I ostensibly try to get my Clarion application (and shit) together.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

[ 8:40 AM ]

Current reading: The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime, by Miles Harvey.

[ 8:10 AM ]

What is this, ice dancing? Last night's judging in pairs figure skating is generating all sorts of controversy, with the Russians winning the gold (as they have always done since 1964) and the heavily favoured Canadians, with an ostensibly superior skate, taking silver. But this extraordinarily insightful MetaFilter post by Wendi Dunlap suggests that the fix may actually not have been in; that the judges may simply have been evaluating different criteria than the audience. Very interesting. And it was a split decision (5-4); it was close, so it's a difficult charge to level. Even if it was a fix, they are at least not being blatant about it.

Sunday, February 10, 2002

[ 8:22 AM ]

I'm not the only one losing ribbon snakes. Everyone who has received the offspring from the wild female delivered to us last summer has reported at least one fatality. There are four of us (couples counting as one) and nine baby ribbon snakes, and at least five of those babies have since died. That strikes us all as a little high. We're trying to puzzle it out, compare notes, see if they're dying from the same thing, or if they're each being killed by something different. We're all perplexed, and more than a bit bothered, especially since these are such cute, personable snakes. Tame ribbon snakes are a joy to behold.

[ 8:12 AM ]

Note for future reference: ceramic fondue pots explode when put on heat while empty.

Friday, February 08, 2002

[ 11:31 PM ]

The torch. Hamilton and Fleming. Mahre and Johnson. U.S. winter athletes so far. Back on skates: Blair and Jansen, U.S. speed skaters. Shea and Shea, multiple-generation Olympians. Street and Granato. Still with U.S. winter athletes. Eruzione (1980 U.S. hockey team captain) — and his team. Not an elegant moment, lighting the torch: not a Nagano, not a Lillehammer. The crowd's chanting "USA". Quite a disappointing, uninspiring, torch-lighting ceremony.

[ 11:19 PM ]

Back to the schlock. Pass the insulin.

[ 11:16 PM ]

What's with bringing out the heavy artillery (Walesa, Tutu, Glenn, Spielberg) with the Olympic flag bearers, I wonder. Some impressive names, to be sure; wonder if it signals a trend for future games to follow. Sting playing an old favourite; not sure pairing him with Yo-Yo Ma works: the cello doesn't quite jibe with the piece, I think.

[ 11:06 PM ]

Speech time; tedious again.

[ 10:46 PM ]

No longer tedious. Schlocko. Is Debbie Allen behind this?

[ 10:37 PM ]

Why do Olympic opening ceremonies always have to be so tedious?

[ 8:46 PM ]

%sudo ifconfig en1 mtu 1454

And suddenly everything works: the sites and services that were previously inaccessible on the iBook are now available.

Let me backtrack.

The AirPort base station and card arrived last night and I set them up at once. (The base station is much smaller than I had expected!) Installation and configuration was quick and effortless. Everything worked immediately. I hooked the PC into the spare Ethernet port on the base; when I tested it this morning, Internet access was immediate. But not flawless.

The persistent access problems I've had with the iBook — some sites not loading, some services (notably iTunes and Software Update) not functioning — continued with wireless, but were now affecting the PC. So now I was somewhat more motivated to get this long-standing issue dealt with.

I e-mailed my ISP, Magma, and detailed the problem. This was their response:

This problem sounds like an Maximum Transport Unit (MTU) setting issue. There is a known issue with MacOS X and the built in PPPoE client, where certain websites cannot be viewed because of the MTU setting. We are currently researching where to edit the MTU setting, but we have discovered the answer yet.

The Apple Airport software may have an MTU setting in which you can edit. If the software allows you to edit the MTU setting, then the setting needs to be one of the following: 1400, 1452, or 1454 (whichever works best). We have come across this problem many times before with some of our High Speed clients and routers. The editing the MTU setting has solved this problem almost every time.

So now I had a possible solution. But how to do it? I searched through Apple's discussion forums and found the above command, to be entered in Terminal. What it does is reduce the packet size from the default 1500 bytes to something a bit smaller — in this case, 1454 bytes; en1 is for AirPort, while en0 would be the usual cat5 Ethernet port.

Now I can do everything — iTunes radio stations, Software Update, iTools — that I had been waiting for. I can even access Jennifer's home page.

Ironically, the PC is still exhibiting some MTU problems, though it briefly worked after I set it on the iBook; I may have to edit the MTU setting on the PC as well. I will have to figure out how to do that.

But in the meantime, I'm celebrating.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

[ 12:38 PM ]

When CTV Newsnet ran the story of the three hoodlums who hanged a dog in a playground in front of a 10-year-old boy in Edmonton, I was shouting at the television in outrage. Not at the story itself, but in the blatantly emotionally manipulative way that the CTV affiliate presented the story, all tears and outrage. Now it has turned out that the boy made up the story: the dog died in an accident. I'm not angry at the kid, but I'm furious at the media blowing the story out of all proportion, playing on our emotions, and making it an international cause célèbre. It was not news, and never was, but the media knows a good thing when they see it. Assholes.

[ 10:28 AM ]

An interesting discussion at Slashdot over Rogers Cable's plan to charge differential fees to their high-speed Internet customers based on their usage: light users would pay less per month, heavy users would pay more. Some decry the move, arguing that there's no point to broadband if you can't use it; others give a much-needed reality check, pointing out that, whether you pay for it or not, broadband costs money, so either the company goes out of business, or light users subsidize the heavy movie-and-MP3 P2P downloaders, or you get differential fees. Some Slashdotter observations: something like 20% of the users are responsible for 80% of the usage, and Canadian broadband prices are considerably lower than American prices. Canadians decry a possible C$80/month charge, but some Americans are paying more than that now.

[ 10:14 AM ]

So far, about one-third of the helpful votes for my Amazon reviews come from just one product. It's interesting to see where the shoppers are at Amazon; I'm surprised to see so much response to my consumer electronics reviews. Not that I expected a tremendous response to reviews of obscure reptile books. I guess Palm gadgetry sells well over there — or at least browses well.

[ 10:11 AM ]

The AirPort base station and card are currently on a FedEx truck somewhere in Ottawa as they try in vain to deliver to me at home while I am at work. It looks like I'll have to schlep out to the airport (pun not intended) to pick it up tomorrow, since delivery at work is probably a bit too complicated. We'll see. Surfing on the couch any day now.

Monday, February 04, 2002

[ 7:05 AM ]

"When you have a traditional surrogacy that goes bad, it goes very bad." A surrogate mother with a Grade 10 education gives birth to twins, one of which has a serious heart defect. The paying couple is refusing to pay in full. What would they have done if their own child had been born with a heart defect? It's a pity wolves are scarcer than they used to be.

Sunday, February 03, 2002

[ 5:44 PM ]

There's a discussion about wild-caught ball pythons (and wild-caught animals in general), and what to do about them, on Kingsnake's Canadian snake forum. "Vandellia" (whose identity I know) argues that if herpers really want to stop wild-caught animals from entering the pet trade, they should sell captive-bred animals at wild-caught prices. He's referring to ball pythons, which are much more expensive captive-bred than wild-caught. Things got interesting from there. Here's my response.

[ 5:36 PM ]

My friend Jennifer writes the best travel diaries. Read about her trip to Rome last December.

[ 9:55 AM ]

We lost another snake to a suspected respiratory infection yesterday: one of our two baby northern ribbon snakes. This is uncomfortably too many. And yet other natricines show no signs of problems. Either some individual snakes are just weaker than others, more susceptible, or I'm just still baffled.

[ 9:53 AM ]

Lucius Shepard regularly excoriates genre films in his columns at Electric Story and in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Now he has actually found a film he likes. Guess which one.

Friday, February 01, 2002

[ 6:12 PM ]

Lately I have noticed that the shareware I download is increasingly crippleware, i.e., relying on time-delayed self-destruction or hobbled in features to ensure registration. Now I know why: crippling software makes users five times more likely to register. A no-brainer from the point of view of the struggling shareware software company. I guess I should start sending some cheques.

[ 6:05 PM ]

Newspapers lose the web war. While newspapers recognized the risk the web posed to their core business, they often erred by forcing their new online ventures into the mold set by their pre-existing business model. A look at what made newspapers succeed or fail online from a Harvard Business School professor. (Warning: business-speak; via CNet.) I know that the current proprietors of the Southam newspaper chain are much more concerned with the bottom line than Conrad Black was; it's probably no coincidence that the papers' web sites are now much more homogeneous and much less interesting to read (laying off all those reporters, i.e. the content, probably had something to do with it too).

[ 5:57 PM ]

What I witnessed at the corner of Slater and Lyon at 9:57 a.m.: A taxicab turning left from Lyon onto Slater, licence number 898 YAS, taxi licence number 351, nearly ran over a pedestrian. By nearly, I mean that the cab, which was moving slowly, would have run him over if it had been moving any faster. By nearly, I mean that the driver did not see the pedestrian almost occupy the same space as the cab. By nearly, I mean that the cab did not stop. The pedestrian pounded on the cab and started swearing. The cabbie shouted back. The driver of a semi-trailer leapt from his cab to support the pedestrian and berate the cabbie. It was ugly; I wondered whether it was going to get violent. I kept a discreet distance, pulled out my Palm, and wrote down the licence plate and taxi licence number. What I'm about to do is more effective than direct, hostile confrontation.