Friday, February 28, 2003
E-mail questionnaires are not interviews
I get a lot of requests for email "interviews" that consist of five or ten essay questions (generally questions that I've already answered in various FAQs). I hate doing these things, and avoid them wherever possible. For starters, if I wanted to write ten short essays, I'd just pitch that to your editor -- I'm a freelance writer, after all, so writing a bunch of essays that appear under your byline and that you get paid for doesn't make a lot of sense.
I did one with Phil Blais about the San Francisco Garter Snake a few years ago for The OHS News, but it was clearly him doing the talking -- er, writing -- which he did at length, and I don't consider that in any way as a publication credit on my part. But it is closer to the interviewee writing an article -- essentially, that's what s/he's doing, to an outline provided by the interviewer -- than anything else.
Mister Rogers' Operas
I've wanted, for a while, to put together a MetaFilter post on the lengthy operas on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Unfortunately, there is no suitable material online to link to; enter "purple twirling kitty" into Google (no, I'm not kidding) and see what I mean: all you get is program listings. This is, of course, all the more poignant given Rogers's death yesterday morning; I would have thought that the subject matter would have found a home in one of the more obsessive corners of the web. Pity.
Parrish's apology for American 'bastards' comment
If an apology isn't good enough, then what incentive does anyone have to apologize? Step one: Demand apology. Step two: Receive apology. Step three: Announce that apology is insufficient. Step four: Escalate the situation until the apology really is insufficient.
Thursday, February 27, 2003
Ericsson T39/Sony Ericsson T68 software for Mac OS X
In the course of my research, I've found some Mac OS X software for the Ericsson T39m phone that I'm on the cusp of buying (see previous entry).
First, there's Ericsson Client 1.0.0, which enables file transfers between an Ericsson or Sony Ericsson phone and a Mac; its contact-info and calendar import/export features have been supplanted by iSync, which it predates.
Update: Check this out; you can set your computer to lock itself when you bring your phone out of Bluetooth range!
Sony Clié PEG-NX70V
At Staples yesterday, looking for poster boards for upcoming OARA shows (no luck), I was playing with a Sony Clié PEG-NX70V, and found myself more impressed with the gadget, especially with its launcher application, than I had expected. It presents well. It's also one fricking thousand dollars, so I will continue to be impressed rather than sold. Update: Still, I wouldn't mind 802.11b compatibility on my next handheld, whenever that happens (see previous entry).
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Ericsson T39m still available
Oh shit. A local Rogers AT&T Wireless shop actually has three Ericsson T39m phones left: this means that a reasonably reliable, iSync-compatible Bluetooth phone that, owing to its flip design, isn't too small for my face is, in point of fact, available, at $100 less than the T68i. (Epinions reviews of the T39m.) Jen and I will probably end up on a family plan in fairly short order. (see previous entry)
An interesting Globe and Mail article about the TTC's efforts to get more reliable buses. No, that's not an oxymoron; it's a behind-the-scenes look at cities' requirements for buses and bus manufacturers' recent inability to meet those requirements.
Destroy all robots!
Webmasters should not miss Mark Pilgrim's detailed instructions on how to prevent spambots, spybots and their ilk from crawling your site in violation of your
robots.txt file. You have to have, or be able to add, an Apache mod file and be able to edit your
.htaccess file. (via Daring Fireball)
'I don't just want a quieter computer; I want vindication!'
Rogers AT&T Wireless (any tips?) and the Nokia 6310i
I'm thinking of switching over to Rogers AT&T Wireless. Can anyone tell me anything about their quality of service or the quality of their GSM network, particularly in the western Quebec/eastern Ontario area? I'm especially interested in the quality of their rural GSM network.
Second, I'm in a conundrum since I want a Bluetooth phone that is compatible with iSync. Unfortunately, that means only the Sony Ericsson T68i (see previous entry), which, apart from the concerns about its signal quality, is just too damn small for big-headed moi, as I've discovered by fiddling around with dummy models at stores -- and besides, I don't need a colour screen. Now, Rogers has another Bluetooth phone, the Nokia 6310i (review), which isn't iSync compatible but might allow for other Bluetooth features, such as SMS, call display, and using the phone as a GPRS modem. And it does seem to do just that, according to reports on the Apple discussion boards (see under Bluetooth and iSync). Problem is, its Bluetooth support is reportedly flaky. Sigh. They're not going to make it easy, are they? Where the hell are the Ericsson T39s?
When I get the garter snake web site up and running (this is something I've been meaning to do for two years, but haven't had the time until now), I think I want to run a Wiki to handle some of the more encyclopedic information, like species/subspecies data and other interesting bits of fun. For future reference, a discussion of different Wiki engines.
Columbia did not break up all at once; data was collected for a few seconds after Mission Control lost contact, which meant that for a brief time the shuttle was "mortally wounded, but still working". More to the point, the crew cabin was still pressurized and the crew was likely aware of what was happening. This was also the case when Challenger exploded: the crew cabin survived the explosion and the crew only died on impact with the ocean (though the G-forces almost certainly rendered them unconscious long before that). (via Ceej)
Caring for your introvert
Caring for Your Introvert hits astonishingly close to home, and is spookily applicable to yours truly:
In contrast [to extroverts], after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.
And here I thought I was just a grouch. (via Kottke)
Monday, February 24, 2003
Memo from Apple: Here. Now STFU.
First there was the announcement last week that the power supplies on the "wind tunnel" Power Mac G4s sold between August 2002 and January 2003, which were criticized for excessive fan noise (see previous entry), were now eligible for replacement for a nominal fee. Now comes the report that tabbed browsing, the number-one feature request from tab-addicted Mozilla advocates (see previous entry), has been added in an internal build of Safari.
It's as if Apple was going out of its way to say, "Here you go, now shut up," to its critics; it's more likely, however, that the critics were complaining about something obvious, that Apple damn well knew about, but wasn't going to say anything until they had a solution in place. (Which I suppose says something about how Apple handles such things.)
Pierre Igot, blogger
Pierre Igot, whose Applelust columns I often disagree with but which cannot be faulted for not being thorough, now has a weblog. His column on the subject surprisingly leaves Blogger off his list of blogging tools (probably the only press to do so in recent memory), though he includes iBlog (see previous entry), now a for-pay service (which, since it can only be used if you've already shelled out for .Mac, seems a risky business plan). Interesting to note that it's not a topical blog, but covers many subjects. And it's bilingual. Definitely a personal project, and more power to him for it.
Using Keynote; Keynote links
I bought Keynote last week and have been farting around with it since. I'm enjoying it but hope to have something more substantial to say about it later on. Suffice it to say that it works reasonably well on my 600-MHz iBook with 8 megabytes of video RAM. In the meantime, here are Brian's first impressions, and, via MacSlash, two rather-embryonic sites dedicated to the use of the app: Keynote HQ and The Keynote Page. There is also a mailing list.
Saturday, February 22, 2003
Worst. Breakfast. Ever.
It's the Swansons Hungry Man Breakfast! With only 104 per cent of the daily requirement for saturated fat, and 231 per cent of the daily requirement for cholestorol! And, according to our investigator, it's pretty disgusting:
|This||looks like this|
|Home fries||Semen-dripped maggots|
Friday, February 21, 2003
Microsoft takes over Virtual PC
Despite the reflexive flinching that no doubt swept the Mac world when it was announced that Microsoft had purchased Connectix, makers of the Virtual PC Windows emulator for the Mac (see previous entry), Kevin Spencer argues that the Microsoft takeover is probably a good thing.
The military view on the Iraq situation
As a rule, I don't post on the Iraq situation; there are plenty of bloggers on both sides of the fence who cover that subject more than thoroughly (read: beat it to death). But here is my position in a nutshell: while I have no objection to removing the Baath regime by military force, I do not understand why doing so is a priority of the U.S. government right now there are, it seems to me, other, higher priorities. In that vein, I read this account of inside-the-military attitudes towards the Iraq campaign with great interest.
New Apple hardware: early adopters beware?
Early adopters run the risk of dealing with version-one bugs in their hardware, and it appears that all that cool Apple hardware released last month is no exception. In fact, it seems to me that it's always safer to wait for the first revision to a new product, when some of the bugs (excessive heat in the first TiBooks, fan noise in the DDR Power Macs) and shortcomings (slower system buses in the first white iBooks and flat-panel iMacs) can be addressed. See, for example, Damien Barrett's report on emerging 12" PowerBook issues and John Gruber and John Manzione on their frustrating experiences with AirPort Extreme base stations.
Work in Progress
Away from the blog this week on account of moving, post-birthday shopping, and trying to get my stuff and animals set up over here. Let me start clearing the backlog with a marvellous little animated film from ILM called Work in Progress. In QuickTime. (via MetaFilter)
Monday, February 17, 2003
Even more on Low End Mac, Steinberg and the PPC 970
A reader submitted a thoughtful response to the Low End Mac point-counterpoint on the IBM Power PC 970 and the Gene Steinberg contretemps (see previous entry), but it seems not to have made any impression on LEM's Dan Knight, who, in his response, simply restates his earlier position on the subject. It seems to me that if a site's proprietor comes across as having trouble both with criticism and with admitting error, there's not much point in writing in, is there?
Yesterday we got a huge amount of stuff moved from my place to Jen's, including my bed, bookshelves and chairs, the rest of my books, much of my kitchen stuff, and well over half of my snakes. Bob thinks we've only got one more vanload left, and then I'm outright done, which boggles the mind. I didn't even have to rent a van, for which I am grateful. Now comes the task of finding space for everything over here, which will be a challenge.
Friends and family who want my updated address and phone number should contact me; my e-mail is unchanged.
The logic behind frenetic updating
In two recent posts, I've done little except to post updates with additional links or information. One was the shuttle breakup story; the other was yesterday's story about Google buying Pyra Labs. I suspect that I'll probably do this whenever there's a story that gets lots of coverage on the web, or that gets lots of updates, but to which I myself can contribute little of import. It's hardly news if I think that the shuttle's destruction was terrible or that Google's buyout was interesting; I don't have any particular expertise or insider information to go much beyond that. With stories like these, it's dead easy to find better commentary, so I'll link to it and stay out of the way. Which is not to say that I won't be opining any more on this blog heaven forfend! only when the story is huge and outside my specialty. Unless I feel like it.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
Wet cat photo gallery
Maya, Jennifer's cat, doesn't groom herself properly; we've been meaning to give her a bath for some time. This morning, she knocked over a flower vase, so, to extract penance from the cat, it was bath time. A wet cat is a happy cat.
Chimera needs a new name before version 0.7 can be released
Chimera 0.7 won't be released until they come up with a name for it other than "Chimera", which the developers can no longer use for legal reasons (via Ben Hammersley). Chimera is a pretty good browser so far: it renders better than Safari, though it's bigger and its UI and features are less developed (and it's not scriptable); though I use Safari myself, it's my second-favourite browser at the moment.
Google buys Blogger
Google has bought Blogger. See coverage, reaction and commentary at Anil Dash, Blogroots, Boing Boing, MetaFilter and Slashdot. (The news broke late last night; expect more commentary as East Coasters wake up to the news.) Everything Google touches seems to have its ass in noodles lately (it's a French expression), so this is probably a good thing for Blogger users in the long run.
(Of course, it's hard to break the news when Blogger Pro can't upload new entries. Later: Fixed, obviously.)
Update 9:53 AM: Meg's reaction; she co-founded Blogger back in the day.
Friday, February 14, 2003
HerpFilter? It's not like there wouldn't be source code . . .
A PHP- or Perl-based clone of the MetaFilter codebase would be useful if I ever decide to make a herp-specific analogue of MetaFilter that would gather links to interesting herpetology/herpetoculture web sites and news items. HerpFilter, anyone?
Restoring PHP to Mac OS X 10.2.4
Mac OS X 10.2.4, which was released yesterday, adds Rendezvous to Apache (which allows Safari to build automatic bookmarks of sites on the local network very neat) but disables PHP. Which is a bummer for me, because I use PHP all the time when coding web pages; without it, I wouldn't be able to run web pages locally. But PHP is still there; it's just a matter of hacking the httpd.conf file a little bit to reenable it. Here's how you do it; you'll need to
sudo into your text editor. I've tried it and it works.
Thursday, February 13, 2003
PerversionTracker: shitty Mac software
PerversionTracker is a blog that points out the very worst Mac software; RealBasic shareware that does absolutely nothing useful, but the author of which would like to be paid for, figures prominently. Hilariously written, this is a blog I'm going to watch. (via Crazy Apple Rumors)
No native species in captivity in Quebec
On the way home from (my last day of) work yesterday, I was contacted by a representative of the Soci�t� de la Faune et des Parcs du Qu�bec, who informed me that, unfortunately, there is no provision under the regulations for an individual to keep live protected animals at home under a licence. While such provisions exist in Ontario, and I have been operating under them since 2000, they do not exist in Quebec. So I will have to make alternative arrangements for two or three of my animals before I formally move to Quebec.
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
So why is the Outaouais i.e., Gatineau and environs: the portion of Quebec across the river from Ottawa, to which I'm moving so unhealthy? According to this article (and see this CBC report), the Outaouais region has the second-lowest life expectancy in Quebec (the Far North is worst), and its residents smoke, drink, weigh and die at rates above the provincial average. Income and education, the usual suspects, are not a culprit, because they are comparatively high. So what gives? The article suggests diet, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, but why here more than elsewhere? Is it because the Outaouais is full of stressed-out, overworked and unhappy civil servants? Why isn't Ottawa as high, then? Is it because housing prices are comparatively higher on the Ontario side, so that less-satisfied, lower-echelon civil servants, who can only afford Hull-Gatineau houses, are overrepresented? It can't be a language thing, because these rates are higher than the rest of Quebec. Something is up here, but we don't know yet what it is. It's a puzzle.
Browsing for children in Alberta
Yesterday, the Province of Alberta launched an adoption web site for its foster care children. Detailed and often heartbreaking profiles of each child are available, including their background and behavioural problems (many, for example, suffer from fetal alcohol effect). But critics complain that too much information about the children is being made available, and that the site is reducing the children to the level of commodities. Not the first adoption web site, but it's a first for a Canadian province, I think. See also Boing Boing and additional CBC coverage. (posted to MetaFilter)
(Update 2/12: The adoption site is not only controversial, it's getting into trouble. Three of the children listed didn't even know they were up for adoption until their classmates saw their pictures on the site, which strikes me as disastrous, and the province's privacy commissioner has asked that the site be shut down. This is just on the verge of blowing up in the government's face. CBC News, Globe and Mail.)
MSCE certification is the alpha and the omega
Overheard while waiting for the elevator this morning:
TECH GUY NO. 1: Have you ever heard of something called FreeBSD?
TECH GUY NO. 2: No.
TECH GUY NO. 1: It's an operating system. It's terrible. I boot from CD
and . . .
At which point they entered a supply room. I'm not sure what bothers me more, that a techie has never heard of FreeBSD (which speaks volumes about their education probably MCSE-only and awareness of the field), or that I've heard of it and he hasn't. (Remember, I'm not in the tech field; I just fart around.)
(Update 2/12: Talked to a friend with an engineering degree at the meeting last night: he hadn't heard of BSD either; most of his experience was Windows or big-iron Unix. Suggests that technical education may be deep but not wide, and is not something for which to fault people.)
Low End Mac enters the Twilight Zone
I just wonder where they come up with such information, since it's obviously not true, and how they can call themselves journalists when they lack a fundamental understanding of the basics of Mac technology and the ability to do a little research. Not that I'm demanding perfection, mind you. Just a little better understanding of the way things are, or maybe I'm asking too much.
Knight, who has never dealt well with criticism of his site, responds at considerable length and with considerable vituperance:
Get a clue, Gene. "So-called Mac Web sites"? That's really beneath you.
If Steinberg had read Why Apple Can't Use IBM's PowerPC 970 in its entirety, he would have seen it followed by a counterpoint, Why Apple Can Use IBM's PowerPC 970. I know, because I edited and published the first half, and I wrote the second half. It was precisely to address common misconceptions about the PowerPC 970 that we presented this in a point-counterpoint fashion.
(I've already addressed the question of whether a point-counterpoint format is appropriate when the counterpoint simply corrects the factual mistakes of the point.)
By the way, My Turn is a reader column: "Your Opinion, Your Turn." We never pretended that Mr. Pietrasz was any sort of journalist or expert. We published his article, as we do every My Turn column, as the viewpoint of a Mac user in the field.
(If the viewpoint of a Mac user in the field is that two and two are eight, that cows lay eggs, or that the Macintosh LC is a computer still to be admired, does Low End Mac publish that as well?)
And we counterpointed it with the kind of detailed explanation and understanding of the realities of the PowerPC 970 that Steinberg complains are missing. Not that I'm demanding perfection, mind you. Just a little better understanding of the articles you criticize, or maybe I'm asking too much.
(How about asking for a little professionalism from a site that wants to be taken seriously and an editor who wants to make a living at it? Is that asking too much?)
We don't like having our reputation smeared in passing, even if the article doesn't name Low End Mac by name or link to the article in question. (We could ask why Steinberg doesn't do that, since it's common practice on the Web to link to articles you discuss as we do here but then it's his website, and he can do what he wants to. For the benefit of our readers, we try to provide links to any article we discuss on Low End Mac.)
(I think Knight is trying to have it both ways: he's making excuses for the article but worries about his site's reputation, as though the quality of one has no bearing on the other.)
Anyway, Steinberg updates his column to add the following:
The Mac Web site that published the silly claim about the IBM processor has struck back rather emotionally, complaining that I should have provided a link to the original article and the editor's rebuttal. I was just being nice, because I didn't want to embarrass the writer by name.
Indeed, I don't think Knight did his writer any favours by publishing the article; he may well find himself heartily embarrassed by the mistakes he made later on. While Knight bristles at the perceived slight to his site's reputation, immediately correcting an article, right beneath it, embarrasses the author a point about which Knight is apparently oblivious. As I've already argued, it's better not to publish it at all: the editor does have a responsibility to avoid embarrassing his authors and his publication: a publication's reputation is wholly dependent on the content its authors provide. Knight must be desperate for material not written by himself or the Rev. Moore to have published it. In the end, Knight is his site's own worst enemy.
Mac Net Journal enters the Low End Mac zone
When publishing a topical site, stay on topic, particularly if you identify yourself as a commercial or subsidized venture: if you sell subscriptions or ask for donations, you are answerable to your audience. This is the lesson of the Low End Mac controversy last fall (see previous entries: 1, 2). Now it appears that Mac Net Journal is straying into the same minefield, so to speak, with the usual self justification that misses the point. For all the whining about Apple's purported bait and switch with .Mac, has no one noticed that drawing in an audience with Mac content (to be sure, it's the Mac posts here that generate the most attention in other blogs) and then subjecting that audience to posts that fit your political agenda is something of a bait and switch itself? (Want Mac content? Have some politics!)
Lucky for me, I don't purport this blog to be anything other than personal, covering any topic at all. (Also, Amazon affiliate links notwithstanding, I don't ask for money.) Regular readers may be disappointed that there isn't more of the material that drew them here (More Mac stuff! More snake stuff!), but at least they can't say they're surprised.
Exchange for Entourage
Monday, February 10, 2003
Grover: Behind the fur
Grover Is Bitter � a hilarious look at the sordid past of everyone's favourite cute loveable blue furry monster. This is Grover: Behind the Fur.
And indeed, it seemed as if the good times would never end for Grover and company in the seventies. Grover's recurring characters such as The Waiter and the Singing Telegram Monster and skits such as "Near and Far" were instant classics. The record and book deals were flying fast and furious by 1974.
[ . . . ]And to his friends and co-workers on the set of "Sesame Street", it seemed that Grover was dying a slow death, by his own hand. "He'd come in looking like hell," said Ernie in a recent interview. "Sometimes with a drink still in hand or a hooker draped around his neck, snapping at everybody. It would take make-up 2 hours to get him looking halfway decent, during which time he invariably fell asleep." But despite this, Grover's work didn't suffer instead he worked harder than ever and came up with some of the most brilliant material of his career. This was the time during which "Super Grover" was born. [ . . . ] But even as Grover's star was rising higher than ever before, he was too drunk to notice it.
(via Boing Boing)
Neat Mail.app trick
Click and drag an image from an open browser window (I've tried this both with IE and Safari) into a new message in OS X's Mail application. The URL of the image will appear. Am I na�ve to think that's neat?
Worth reading: Gruber, Hyatt, Tiemann and Von Rospach on Opera's use-our-engine-in-Safari-or-we'll-quit-the-Mac-market hissy fit. The verdict? Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, Opera.
Last Thursday my Palm m505 started acting strangely: when I turned it on, it would do so without the backlight (despite the backlight utility) and simply freeze up; a soft reset would restart it and enable me to use it, but it had to be reset each time I turned it on. In the end, a warm reset seems to have taken care of it, and it now works more or less properly, except that the backlight seems to switch itself off after synchronization. Not sure yet whether this is a hardware problem (the power button?) or a software problem.
Hopefully it won't recur, but for a while I was deathly worried that I would have to replace the handheld: I certainly need one, but don't want to have to lay out money for a new one especially not now! or replace a formerly high-end model with an entry-level cheapie. Nor was I certain which handheld currently on the market I wanted: the Tungsten T is impressive but expensive, even at C$599 (after last week's price cut), and neither the Treos nor the Cliés are quite what I need or compatible with my accessories. So I'd be in a real bind if my m505 snuffed it.
Though I doubt I'd be able to justify the expense, there is something coming later on that just might fit the bill: the Garmin iQue 3600 (see previous entry). It runs Palm OS 5, has a 320x480 screen (with virtual Graffiti) and 32 MB of RAM and, being Garmin, a built-in GPS (and lots of maps, thus the extra memory). It will apparently use the same connector as Palm's recent devices, which means my keyboard will be compatible, and may or may not have integrated Bluetooth; if not, I'm hoping that the Bluetooth SDIO card will work, because it does have an SD card slot. It's listing for around C$760, which is better than I had expected.
The trick is that using a GPS for field research would require different software than the usual commercial uses; I hope an OS 5 successor to Stick-e suite comes along, because I'd hate to have to learn to do it myself. (At least there is supposed to be an SDK.)
Life of Pi recap, film rights
Since last fall, when Yann Martel's Life of Pi won the Booker and generated headlines about purportedly plagiarizing the ideas of an obscure Brazilian novelist (about which see my MetaFilter post from last November, which I did not reprint here at the time), I've seen the book everywhere. Both my mother and Jennifer have read (and liked) it, and I've seen it being read on the bus on more than one occasion. Now the film rights have been sold; the Globe and Mail has the story on the screenwriter. I suppose I'll have to read it.
The Globe and Mail on library porn
The Globe and Mail's piece about the controversy about Internet pornography in Ottawa libraries provides some useful backstory and context. (see previous entries: 1, 2)
Ottawa herping links updates
A couple of new links that people in the Ottawa herping community will find interesting: Darren Boyd has produced a new Reptile Rainforest web site at a new URL; and Chris Maidens has published web pages promoting the Ottawa Alternative Pet Expo.
Sunday, February 09, 2003
School bullying's latest target
The latest victim of school bullying: a 13-year-old Denver-area amputee and cancer survivor who has been subjected to harassment and threats. This is the modern face of bullying: any difference, any sign of weakness, is considered a valid target. (via MetaFilter)
Quebec government links, because I'm moving
Links to various Quebec government agencies, some of which even have pages in English:
- R�gie de l'assurance maladie du Qu�bec, for health insurance;
- Soci�t� de l'assurance automobile du Qu�bec, for getting a driver's licence; and
- Soci�t� de la faune et des parcs du Qu�bec, for getting an educational licence for those snakes of mine that are indigenous to Quebec.
On account of my moving across the river to Quebec before this month is out.
Fun with the Gatineau buses
Getting a bus pass in this town is not straightforward. That, I think, is the result of having two separate transit systems funded by two separate provincial governments: OC Transpo on the Ottawa side; and the STO on the Gatineau side. I've never had to provide proof of residency before, whether in Winnipeg, Edmonton or even Paris if I was in a city long enough to need a bus pass, the transit authority was happy enough to take my money. But here, it seems to be a matter of making sure that the right transit authority gets my money.
Proof of residency is required for both transit authorities: Ontario residents get OC Transpo passes and Quebec residents get STO passes. For the most part, passholders can ride the buses of the other transit system without charge. With one exception: OC Transpo pass-holders cannot ride STO buses before 9:00 AM unless they board them downtown. Presumably another means of preventing Quebec residents from buying Ontario passes, but this puts me in a bind: I'm in the process of moving to Quebec, but while I'm staying at Jennifer's apartment more often than not, I'm not yet a Quebec resident and, more to the point, don't have any of the proofs of residency. This makes going into work each morning a challenge while I'm still employed, that is.
Fortunately, the STO offers an out: an Ontario residency card, available at their issuing centres. Except that the issuing centre nearest to Jennifer's abode never heard of the beast when I stopped by a week ago Saturday. So, last Sunday, I had to truck all the way out to the Promenades de l'Outaouais to get one and thereby discovered the secret of the Gatineau bus system:
In order to get from Ottawa to almost anywhere in the former municipality of Gatineau (to the east; Hull is in the centre and Aylmer is to the west, and all three are the major components of the new, amalgamated Gatineau), you have to take a minimum of two buses: one to get you to the Promenades de l'Outaouais (a major mall), where you transfer to your next bus. On Sundays this bus (either the 67 or 77) comes once every half-hour, and is, as a result, packed solid. There are few buses between each of Gatineau's distinct sectors (Aylmer, Hull, Gatineau), and almost every bus goes through downtown Hull to its terminus in Ottawa. The end result of this is that it can quite literally take hours to get from one end of Gatineau to the other an inconvenience not shared on the Ottawa side. The STO is principally designed to take government workers to their jobs downtown; as I discovered on Friday, the 11 express is very good for that sort of thing. Everyone else, it seems, ought to take the car.
My mother, being fearless
My mother is a trooper.
That, for the record, is Jennifer's four-foot Everglades Rat Snake, and the first snake my mother has ever held. Of course, since she was the one who bought me a Red-sided Garter Snake when I was eight, she is quantifiably cooler than your mother. So there.
Perks to make you work harder
"The programs and perks that employers are offering workers to help cope with the colliding demands of work and home will simply make them work longer and harder.
Thursday, February 06, 2003
Landry's proposed four-day work week
Quebec Premier Bernard Landry's proposed four-day work week for parents is in keeping with the PQ's pro-natalist tendencies: encourage families by providing healthy benefits for them, such as day care for $5/day. A reduced work week would be a good idea for more people than just parents; I, for one, would take it in a heartbeat, kids or no kids. As the article points out, limiting it to parents only benefits two-income, two-parent households of at least moderate means (single-income or single-parent households could scarcely afford it, nor could a couple who both have minimum-wage jobs). Suffice to say that this is an election promise aimed squarely at the middle class.
Downtown Ottawa: not broke, but needs fixing up
Downtown Ottawa isn't bad but could do better, say urban consultants hired by the City. Key points: more parks closer to where people work, more trees, wider sidewalks, and fewer one-way streets. I particularly want to second the point about wider sidewalks: "'You can go on Elgin Street and if there are places there where there's a sandwich board out advertising something, two people can't walk side by side down the street. It's not wide enough,' says George Dark, the lead consultant at Urban Strategies." The problems I have with the way people walk around here can largely be attributed to insufficient space for the pedestrian traffic.
Public service reform
Whatever changes to the Public Service are announced today, when Treasury Board President Lucienne Robillard introduces new legislation, they will likely take years to implement; in fact, it may take as much as a decade for the PS's secretive, rules-bound culture to change, according to Robillard. Well, that sounds promising. But it's probably correct: current managers aren't likely to change their spots overnight; change is only likely to occur once workers who have not been wholly converted to the current way of doing things occupy positions of authority. That's going to take lots of time.
Terry Tate, Office Linebacker
Fact-checking the Mac web
I shouldn't be able to fact-check articles on the Mac web; I simply don't know enough.
DVI isn't proprietary, and 500-MHz iBooks have two speakers. Did you actually look at one before writing about it? There they are, two of them, right there. (And, while I'm at it, the point-counterpoint format works when two commentators hold opposing opinions; counterpoints aren't there to correct a submission that makes factual errors and proceeds from a faulty premise. Just don't publish it if it's that wrong!)
We've already established that Salkever doesn't know what he's talking about (see previous entry). Now for this week's misfiring missive about Rendezvous (via MyAppleMenu): "At first [Rendezvous] only did so with iTunes" (no it didn't, and it still doesn't: that was a demo); iChat came first for Rendezvous, not later; and what's this about configuring printers via Rendezvous through Safari? Was he not paying attention at the time, or is he only getting his info from garbled briefing notes?
Magma ADSL update: it's the telco's fault
It must be tough to be an ISP that depends on other companies to provide service to your customers. Mine, Magma, relies on the phone company to provide ADSL to its customers. When something goes wrong, it's not necessarily Magma's fault, but they have to deal with it.
Which brings me to my own little problem, viz., getting only 138 kbps downloads when I should be getting 1 Mbps (see previous entry). As it turns out, it's the telco's fault. Bell Sympatico was trying to convert Jennifer to DSL service in fact, they gave her no choice, and sent her a high-speed modem. She turned around and cancelled her dialup, on account of the fact that my arrival was imminent and I already owned a high-speed modem. Unfortunately, they left a ticket open, which, for some obscure reason, limited the bandwidth on my connection when I brought my high-speed service over to her place last week (see previous entry). This should be fixed within a couple of days, certainly by the weekend. I'm simply happy that the problem was identified, and that I won't have to switch to cable; now, I can be patient.
And then, yesterday morning, my high-speed service went out altogether. Once again, it was the telco's fault: Magma reported that Bell Nexxia suffered a hardware failure which left several high-speed clients in Ottawa customers of multiple ISPs without service. It was back by early afternoon. I'll bet Magma got lots of calls. Can't have been fun for them.
The seal hunt and the NDP's dilemma
The resignation of Jack Layton's chief of staff does not reveal nearly as much about the NDP, and the challenges it faces, as his hiring did in the first place. The primary challenge being their attempt to unite, under their banner, diverse groups with divergent and often conflicting interests: urban vs. rural, labour vs. environment, radical activists vs. socially conservative unions.
Here's another one: anti-sealing activists play well in urban Canada -- and they likely have the facts on their side: sealing is a subsidized industry for which there really isn't a market (see previous entry), and seals don't really eat commercial fish -- but are anathema in Newfoundland.
In the end, Rick Smith took a bullet for his party, but in the long term the NDP really is going to have to fish or cut bait (sorry). They're going to have to pick sides on some issues and alienate current or potential supporters. On at least one they already have: their strident pacifism certainly turns me off -- I'm not overeager for a war in Iraq, and wonder about the motives of the Bush administration, but I'm hardly upset at the notion of the Iraqi regime being deposed, and I certainly think people making pilgrimages to Baghdad are jackasses -- and prevents me from becoming a wholehearted supporter. If they're willing to alienate centre-leftists (whose votes in Manitoba determine whether the NDP stays in power) who are not pacifists, why not be prepared to alienate people who, as a make-work project, slaughter marine mammals?
Monday, February 03, 2003
Rat snake taxonomy
The genus Elaphe (rat snakes) has been long suspected of being polyphyletic (i.e., more than one evolutionary lineage). A paper in a Russian herpetology journal tries to reassign snakes in this genus into new genera. Old World Elaphe are polyphyletic and are broken into several genera: Zamensis for leopard and Aesculapian snakes; Euprepiophis for Mandarin rat snakes, for example. New World Elaphe, on the other hand, are monophyletic: the Central American rat snake is slotted into Pseudelaphe and the others (the ones that we generally keep as pets) become Pantherophis, while the earlier assignations of Bogertophis and Senticolis stand. Still with me? Now, one article does not a fundamental taxonomic revision make for one thing, the abstract doesn't mention quite a few Eurasian species, and it's explicitly an inference, so don't start calling your corn snakes Pantherophis guttatus quite yet!
While I'm at it, I may as well take this opportunity to express my reservations about the whole taxonomic process. While I'm not a biologist by any stretch, I'm no dummy and I'm more than familiar with the history of science and epistemological questions about science. Some systematists focus on mtDNA to the exclusion of all else; I suspect that mtDNA is only one critera to take into consideration. Additionally, I don't think that systemists who follow the evolutionary species concept (species are determined by their evolutionary lineages: isolated populations are species by definition, because they cannot affect the evolutionary destiny of other populations, even if, for all intents and purposes, it's the same animal) should waste their time shoehorning that concept into the Linnaean binomial taxonomic system (biological species concept separate species don't interbreed), which doesn't do a very good job at highlighting relationships between sister taxa. But that's just my hunch, for what it's worth.
I've noticed a tendency among some American right-wingers to have an almost visceral need to lash out at anyone, no matter how innocent or insignificant, who says something objectionable or contrary to their views, no matter how innocuous or tangential. We're seeing it among warbloggers who, with all the stories about the Columbia disaster to comment on, spend time reacting to a second-tier CBC newsanchor's bad choice of words when asking whether it was arrogant of the U.S. to fly shuttles in a time of apprehended war, about which see Spider Robinson in today's Globe and Mail, as well as Instapundit Glenn's being quite level-headed about it. For example, the Capitalist Lion response to this is "fuck Canada" as though all thirty million of us are responsible for the bungled words of a single journalist.
But this isn't an isolated incident. The National Gang Crime Research Centre is rejecting entries from Canadian students for a poster contest because they felt that certain statements by Canadian politicians were not supportive of American interests. Where, exactly, is the connection here?
Apparently it doesn't matter who you lash out against, so long as you lash out. I guess it makes them feel better to take their frustrations and their feelings of impotence out on overwhelmed newsreaders and middle-school children.
Chiarelli's library-porn flip-flop
Coun. Rick Chiarelli has changed his position against censoring the Ottawa Public Library's Internet terminals, and is advocating a temporary imposition of filters until a swipe-card system can be put into place to keep the little darlings away from dirty pictures. (see previous entry)
1980 Columbia critique
A 1980 Washington Monthly article by Gregg Easterbrook criticizing the design of the space shuttle published a year before the Columbia's first flight is making the rounds for its prescience: "The tiles are the most important system NASA has ever designed as 'safe life.' That means there is no back-up for them. If they fail, the shuttle burns on reentry. If enough fall off, the shuttle may become unstable during landing, and thus un-pilotable" [my emphasis] (via MetaFilter).
And Easterbrook has not changed his mind since then about the shuttle's high cost and low inefficiency, which was the other point of his 1980 article: he points out that the shuttle never lived up to its promise of frequent and cheap flights, and its hybrid design passengers and payload means that astronauts are needlessly put at risk for hauling freight. He advocates a smaller, cheaper, safer and more modern spaceplane for people, leaving the freight to big dumb rockets; but contractors love the shuttle precisely because it's so expensive (via Kausfiles).
Two Towers Engrish captions
Hilarious "Engrish" captions purportedly from a bootleg DVD of The Two Towers. I should have posted this as soon as I saw it on MetaFilter; now it's all over the web Boing Boing; Peeve Farm; Slashdot and I'm the last to the table.
Gaming computers vs. graphics workstations
The differences between gaming computers and graphics workstations: not all high-performance machines with high-performance graphics cards are the same! (via Slashdot)
Saturday, February 01, 2003
There is something wrong with the ADSL connection: I'm only getting 138.9 kbps where it should be 1 Mbps. No wonder downloads have seemed so slow!
iPhoto and iMovie
While I watch the shuttle disaster coverage on television, some other news. Apple released iPhoto 2 and iMovie 3 yesterday. I downloaded them last night, though, because downloads are slow for some reason, it took hours. I don't know if it's net latency because of the SQL worm or if there's a problem with the ADSL connection at Jen's place (see previous entry); I've e-mailed my ISP to see what's what. So far, all I can say is that they work; see O'Reilly commentators Derrick Story and James Duncan Davidson for instant impressions of iPhoto 2.
Space shuttle destroyed
The space shuttle Columbia has broken apart over Texas as it was coming in for a landing. Please tune in to your usual news sources.
Update 10:20 AM: Columbia was flying at a speed of approx. 20,000 km/h at an altitude of 61.17 km when contact was lost at 9:00 AM (CBC). CNN live news coverage discounts the possibility of a terrorist attack on that basis, since it was too high (edit: and too fast!) to shoot down; there had been some concern that the presence of an Israeli astronaut would make the shuttle a target. The suspected culprit is apparently under-wing heat tile damage during takeoff (CNN, MSNBC).
Update 10:26 AM: MetaFilter discussion.
(Couldn't he have spelled "Houston" properly, though? Nothing like a thread of great import starting with a typo.) (Fixed.)
Update 10:37 AM: Instapundit is tracking this story, with regular updates to the entry. Most of the blogs whose RSS feeds I'm tracking have yet to mention this story; West Coasters may not yet be awake.
Update 11:15 AM: Debris on the ground reported in Nacogdoches County, Texas.
Update 11:43 AM: SDB's blog entry; the CBC's news anchor (whoever it is handling the Saturday morning shift on Newsworld; don't know who she is but she's not on the CBC's A-list) is getting pilloried around the blogosphere (edit 11:58 AM: original link here; see also here) for allegedly asking whether "American arrogance" is to blame. Frankly, I was watching CNN when it purportedly happened, so I can't comment. Though I bet they're taking those two words out of context. Typical of warbloggers to blow something like this out of proportion live interviewing during a news event like this is hard, and flubs are bound to occur, particularly when more junior staff are pressed into the fray. Be big about it, people; stop going ballistic about every perceived anti-American slight.
Update 3:31 PM: CNN had Cronkite on the line earlier. Cronkite. The debris field is going to be huge, possibly from Arizona to Louisiana. Boing Boing has some interesting links on this subject, scattered through their other posts today.
Update 3:52 PM: Instapundit on the "zipper effect".