May 2003

Saturday, May 31, 2003

David Orchard ran for Parliament [ 12:41 PM ]

In the 2000 general election, David Orchard ran for the Tories in Prince Albert, and finished fourth with 12.1 per cent of the vote. Just in case you were wondering what he did between leadership contests.

It runs in the family [ 12:22 PM ]

Peter MacKay, who may be elected PC leader today, is on an ever-lengthening list of Canadian politicians whose parents were also politicians:

  • Bill Bennett (father was also premier of B.C.)
  • Sharon Carstairs (father was a senator)
  • Sheila Copps (father was mayor of Hamilton)
  • Daniel Johnson (father and brother were also premier of Quebec)
  • Pierre-Marc Johnson (brother of Daniel)
  • Jim Jordan (father was also an MP)
  • Jack Layton (father was a cabinet minister)
  • Dominic LeBlanc (father was a cabinet minister and a G-G)
  • Hugh John MacDonald (premier of Manitoba in 1891; father was Sir John A.)
  • Peter MacKay (father was a cabinet minister)
  • Preston Manning (father was premier of Alberta)
  • Paul Martin (duh)
  • Geoff Regan (father was premier of Nova Scotia)
  • Jane Stewart (father was a leader of the Ontario Liberal party and provincial cabinet minister)
  • Susan Whelan (father was a cabinet minister)

And you thought it was just the Kennedys and the Bushes.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Movable Type tutorial [ 11:04 PM ]

A beginner's guide to creating a blog with Movable Type. (via Instapundit)

Matrix vs. Star Trek [ 11:43 AM ]

The Matrix Reloaded, which I saw on its opening weekend, and Star Trek: Nemesis, which I saw last week, are flawed in similar but opposite ways.

The Matrix Reloaded is a movie that left too much in. While its predecessor provided a lean narrative where every scene told, this one has scenes whose purpose is elusive: scenes in Zion that seem extraneous; extended kung-fu battles that serve neither plot nor character.

Star Trek: Nemesis is a movie that left too much out. Scenes to give meaning to Data's sacrifice. Scenes to round out Troi's experiences. Something to make Picard's reactions meaningful. Almost all the deleted scenes would have added to the movie -- and, as an aside, would it have killed them to have finished the compositing of those scenes for the DVD, instead of leaving the windows green-screened?

Both movies could have used more polish, another rewrite, more gravitas, more thought. Star Trek: Nemesis looks like a great long movie that was hacked down to size, and suffers for it. The Matrix Reloaded looks like a great long movie that was split in half and padded to fit, and suffers for it.

Sir Edmund Hillary [updated] [ 9:57 AM ]

Sir Edmund Hillary on Mt. Everest expeditions:

"For a while, I wondered whether I had done a bad thing, made it too easy for foreigners to come up." (CBC)

"Everest has become littered with empty oxygen bottles. The mountain environment has sadly changed . . . it is vital that all expeditions have a sense of responsibility if the mountain environment is to be protected." (Daily Telegraph)

"Hillary, one of 1,000 people gathered at the base camp to celebrate the anniversary, lashed out at climbers partaking in a bit of drinking. 'Just sitting around . . . knocking back cans of beer, I don't particularly regard as mountaineering,' Hillary told a news conference on Wednesday." (CBC)

"'It's all bullshit on Everest these days,' he grumped in one interview. Asked to comment when 40 people reached the summit on one day in 1993 -- more than during the first 20 years after his first ascent -- he was equally acerbic: 'They might as well have provided a bus.'" (The Globe and Mail)

Update 3:52 PM: More from Slate.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Herpetofauna of Iowa and Minnesota [ 4:50 PM ]

Iowa Herpetology and its sister site, Reptiles and Amphibians of Minnesota, are excellent -- the Iowa site even has locality data for each photo! -- and are along the lines of what else I'd like to have at, for Ontario.

Ontario Herpers [ 3:01 PM ]

Enough of it is up and running that it's now safe, I think, to officially announce the Ontario Herpers web site.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Templates back; Herp Journal [ 5:00 PM ]

Blogger's template server is back online; it went down during the hardware failure over the long weekend. Which means that the new design of Herp Journal is finally available!

Current reading [ 8:20 AM ]

Current reading: The Sky So Big and Black by John Barnes.

RSS on your iPod [ 7:26 AM ]

Take NetNewsWire, iTunes, a little AppleScript and an iPod, and this little program will gather RSS feeds from NetNewswire, convert the text to speech, and send them to iTunes, which will sync them with your iPod so that you can listen to them on the go. Cool concept, but really only makes sense with RSS feeds with full descriptions, rather than partial descriptions (like mine) or RSS 0.9 feeds with no descriptions at all. (via MacMinute)

Monday, May 26, 2003

A history of Vanier [ 10:20 AM ]

Capturing Vanier's history before it disappears: historians and activists work to recreate the history of a distinctly francophone working-class city on the east side of Ottawa.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Thiaminase table [ 5:42 PM ]

Denise points to a table from a book (Nutrient Requirements of Mink and Foxes, 2nd rev. ed., 1982) that lists which fish contain the thiaminase enzyme that destroys Vitamin B1 (and causes so much distress for the garter snakes that feed on them) and which do not: first page, second page.

Blogger templates offline [ 2:56 PM ]

Anyone want to lay bets on how long it takes Blogger to get its template server back online? It's been down since at least nine this morning: publishing is possible (obviously); editing or changing the template is not.

Alex Himelfarb [ 11:05 AM ]

Privy Council Clerk Alex Himelfarb talks a good talk, but will anything result from it? (see previous entry)

Solution to iCal publishing bug [ 10:59 AM ]

The iCal-.Mac publishing bug (see previous entry) seems to be a result of the new "Date & Time" panel in System Preferences. A recent OS X update changed the panel: it added more cities to the map-based interface and to the pull-down menus. Naturally, at the time, I changed my nearest city from Montreal to Ottawa. And therein lay the problem. My guess is that the .Mac servers were not updated, or not updated correctly, at the same time to reflect the extra cities, so that an error occured when iCal users who had selected one of the new cities tried publishing a calendar, and the times were completely off -- and not by the same amount. My calendar entries were two hours off -- a noon event was listed at 2 PM, for example -- while other .Mac subscribers could be an hour early or five hours late. Which suggests that each city may have had the wrong time zone entered in the database, or that the server did something unpredictably screwy in the absence of such data.

The workaround is to restore the nearest city to what it was before you changed it under the new Date & Time preference panel. I changed "Ottawa" back to "Montreal", deleted old, erroneous entries from the OARA calendar, added some new ones and -- hey presto! -- it worked.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Fact checkers [ 4:26 PM ]

Fact checkers are not used by daily newspapers -- they wouldn't have time -- but are more often used by magazines. The New Yorker's legendary (and possibly apocryphal) fact checkers come very easily to mind.

Salamander feeding movies [ 3:59 PM ]

Salamander feeding movies in high-speed video (QuickTime required). Via MetaFilter, where Miguel, of all people, posted this -- which confuses me because cocktails aren't involved.

Pride in work [ 3:39 PM ]

Spider Robinson argues that we no longer care about or take pride in our work, and that we do not reward those who do care. "They say, not much is needed to destroy a man; merely persuade him that his labours are useless. How many of us do anything actually useful any more? And what of those who do?" I've seen it from both ends: customer service that is an insult to the term; work that demoralizes because it simply doesn't matter.

DOAJ [ 3:19 PM ]

The Directory of Open Access Journals links to peer-reviewed online scholarly journals whose entire content is freely available. As you might expect, there aren't that many of them. (posted to MetaFilter)

Friday, May 23, 2003

Building a freeway across Wrightville -- or not [ 6:22 PM ]

There's a big empty space along Rue Laram�e in the Wrightville neighbourhood of Hull; it's been there for 30 years, awaiting the construction of an extension of the McConnell-Laram�e Highway to Autoroute 50. Funding constraints may delay its construction again. Normally I'm not a fan of freeway construction -- building more road capacity simply encourages more cars -- but it seems to me that if you've got pieces of it to the west and east already built, you may as well finish the job. You've already got the extra traffic, and the gap simply pushes it onto St-Raymond, Gamelin or Taché, none of which can handle it.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Death to suburbs! [ 9:36 AM ]

Rising natural gas and oil prices will make suburbs uninhabitable because cars will be too expensive to drive and large single-detached homes will be too expensive to heat. James Howard Kunstler made a similar argument about cars and suburbs in his anti-suburban books, The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere: suburbs are explicitly designed with cars in mind; take cars away and they're unsustainable.

Update 11:30 AM: Richard and Karen have some thoughts about a perverse side-effect of suburbanization -- the reverse commute, of which I was well aware when l was living in downtown Ottawa.

Shepd: kicked out of #mefi [ 8:43 AM ]

Bitter about getting the boot from #mefi, are we? (via the big Q)

GPS SDIO [ 8:27 AM ]

A GPS receiver that fits into an SD slot sounds neat, and might help resolve the Garmin vs. Tungsten debate in my mind -- though the one mentioned in this article seems destined for Pocket PCs rather than Palms -- but it remains to be seen what the cost of such a gadget would be. Past practice would suggest that a plug-in GPS might well cost more than the standalone unit (small components, you know), in which case, what's the point?

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Brent Simmons interview [updated] [ 4:45 PM ]

An interview with Brent Simmons, the higher being responsible for one of my favourite programs, NetNewsWire. (via Anil's Daily Links)

Update 5/23 6:15 PM: He's certainly making the rounds. Here's another interview with Simmons at O'Reilly.

Snake barf [ 10:55 AM ]

Speaking of the gopher snakes, the female ("Tosh"?!?) just barfed up one of the two mice we fed her a couple of days ago. I guess that constituted overfeeding! (Note to self: one mouse per meal, but if I want her to put on weight, just increase the frequency.)

My, but that mouse is pungent. Best get the hemostats . . .

Update 11:04 AM: Oh my. Nothing like a partially digested mouse to make the eyes water and the gorge rise. Am I icking you out yet? Are we squeamish? (Just be glad I didn't take a picture.)

Graphic domestic abuse PSAs from Calgary [ 9:58 AM ]

"How do you talk about domestic violence without portraying violence or having some statement about violence?" PSAs about domestic abuse developed by the Calgary-based HomeFront Society have been judged too graphic to show on television. Violent acts taken from actual domestic-abuse investigations are depicted in public settings: a boardroom, a restaurant. They will not be broadcast, but are available for download online (MPEG format). Warning: These ads are extremely difficult to watch. They hit you like a ton of bricks. But isn't that the point? (posted to MetaFilter)

Naming snakes [ 8:48 AM ]

As you may know, I have a hard time coming up with names for my snakes; I've had some snakes in my collection for nearly three years but haven't managed to figure out what to call them, other than "the Baird's Rat Snake" or somesuch. Many herpers simply don't bother, dismissing naming as sentimental anthropomorphism. (But then zookeepers regularly name their animals; it's not sentimentalism, it's convenience in reference.)

Anyway, I've been thinking about coming up with some snake names, and it occurred to me that it might be funny to name the Great Basin Gopher Snakes after those two obsequiously polite gophers from the Warner Bros. cartoons -- which, due to rigorous censorship of any scene involving firearms or sticking Sylvester's tail in the light socket -- show up disproportionately in TV broadcasts of Looney Tunes. A little bit of Googling helped me find their actual names, and therein lies the problem. As a pair, they're called the "Goophy Gophers", and their names are apparently "Mac" and "Tosh" -- a fairly transparent rip-off of Chip and Dale, assuming the Disney rodents came first. There is no way in hell I can get away with naming two of my snakes "Mac" and "Tosh" -- no one would believe I was naming them after the cartoons! (If you don't understand, say "Mac and tosh" out loud.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

MacJournals [ 11:17 PM ]

[Fixed; see below.] Their analysis is top-rate, but their billing and customer service is unmitigated shite. Fully ten days after I wrote them asking that my subscription be cancelled (got to trim expenses over here), MacJournals has billed me for another month of MWJ. It's bad enough that I've been getting two issues a month for a supposedly weekly journal, but they don't want to allow people to cancel their subscriptions either? I can't recommend subscribing to their publications if their customer service is this dodgy -- steer clear. As for me, I'm going to dispute the charges.

[A lot of ranting now hidden from view.]

Update 11:48 PM: Should have read the subscription agreement; looks like I sent my original cancellation request to the wrong e-mail. That shouldn't matter, though. My follow-up e-mail to the correct cancellation address is as follows:

Re-reading the subscription agreement -- nicely hidden on your site (who in the hell goes back to the "subscribe" page after having subscribed?) -- I now realize that I should have sent my cancellation request to this address, as per section 8.2.
However, it seems to me that someone in the past ten days should have noticed the cancellation request sent to, and at the very least advised me accordingly. It's a little too convenient to simply ignore cancellation requests if they're sent to the wrong address. The basics of customer service suggest doing more than just ignoring a mis-addressed request -- somebody at your operation knew what I intended.
Furthermore, by failing to provide four issues of MWJ per calendar month in January, March and April 2003 -- and you've only provided one so far this month -- you are in violation of section 2.2 of the subscription agreement, so you're hardly in a position to hide behind the *letter* of that agreement.
I hereby request an immediate cancellation of my subscription and, because of the foregoing, request that today's transaction be refunded.

Update 5/21 12:22 AM: While I'm at it, I'd argue that leaving the address in plain view as a means to contact them about your subscription would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the address could be used to cancel the subscription, since that's subscription-related. Displaying that address prominently while hiding the cancellation address strikes me as dishonest.

Update 12:24 AM: Yes, I know. Just don't get me mad.

Update 8:01 AM: I suspected that the operation was small enough that it shouldn't have mattered which e-mail it was sent to. I was right. Matt Deatherage himself e-mailed me overnight apologizing for the mixup. Consider the matter settled. As usual, when something inconveniences or offends me, I whip myself into a fury and can't settle myself down in the meantime; writing is cathartic but potentially hazardous, as you can well imagine from the above [since hidden from view, now that it's moot].

Alphasmart Dana [ 11:12 PM ]

The Mac Observer, of all places, has a review of the Alphasmart Dana, which is a very unusual Palm OS device with a keyboard, designed for the educational market and probably popular among mobile writers.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Palm price cut and rebate [ 9:29 PM ]

The US$50 price cut on the Palm Tungsten T is encouraging (not that I can afford one at the moment), though I'm sure many of us would like an updated model (with, for example, Palm OS 5.2.1, more RAM and a transreflective screen like the ones on the Zire 71 or Tungsten C). But the US$50/C$80 trade-in offer, also announced today, doesn't make as much sense: you have to ship your old handheld by some secure method, which eats into the trade-in money, and I suspect it'd be easy, in most cases, to get more than $50 for your old handheld on eBay.

Update 5/20 11:12 PM: Brighthand speculates that the price cut may foreshadow an updated T model. Or it may not.

Frog and toad calls online [ 9:23 PM ]

Lang Elliott, who's behind two frog call CDs in my possession, has a web site that includes descriptions and samples of frog calls. He is apparently a specialist in nature sounds generally. (via Corn-Utopia)

Macintouch Bluetooth phone discussion [ 9:20 PM ]

For future reference: Macintouch discussion about iSync-compatible Bluetooth phones. (via Mac Net Journal)

Iraq goes GSM; no pork for Issa [ 8:51 AM ]

It looks like Iraq will get a GSM cellphone network after all (via Gizmodo), despite U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa's attempts to shovel federal pork to CDMA inventor Qualcomm, headquartered in Issa's district (see previous entry).

Saturday, May 17, 2003

LCD alphabet soup [ 11:14 PM ]

Brighthand explains LCD screen technology, and does a more than comprehensive job at it. Lots of acronyms, as you might expect.

PowerBooks etc. [ 11:06 PM ]

Saw, played with and drooled all over 12-inch and 17-inch (yes, 17-inch) PowerBooks at B. Mac this afternoon. Some observations:

  • The 17-inch PowerBook is utterly beautiful, but frankly too impractically big to be a portable.
  • The 17-inch PowerBook's built-in speakers are quite good; we thought that they were better than the JBL Creature speakers it was plugged into. The 12-inch PowerBook's speakers weren't as good, but were surprisingly capable given their tiny size (and the fact that they bounce sound off the bottom of the screen).
  • You can turn the internal Bluetooth on and off. You can't do that with the Bluetooth dongle I have on my iBook. For me, coming out of sleep means that Bluetooth has been switched off and cannot be switched back on; I have to physically unplug the dongle and plug it back in. It's admittedly a minor nuisance, but I was worrying that this would be a problem with computers with Bluetooth built-in -- unless you could switch it off and on from the menu bar. Which you can, I see.
  • They had some iCurve stands. Very interesting; the angle is magnificent but the stand is wobbly. Jen didn't think it was a problem, as you're applying pressure to the computer via the palmrest and that should stabilize it. (The manufacturer encourages you to plug in a keyboard.) Interesting, but $60, and I'm trying not to spend money at the moment. (And succeeding admirably, if I do say so myself.)

They also had a single new iPod on display -- they're heavily backordered. Tiny!

Toad calls [ 10:56 PM ]

We heard toads calling along the Ottawa River this afternoon. Details at Herp Journal (still suffering from the Blogger archive bug), the ottawaherps mailing list (if you're a subscriber), and the EOBM NatureList.

Bicycle-unfriendly [ 10:54 PM ]

Even though it connects two bike paths, the road between the Champlain Bridge and Chemin de la Montagne -- called Chemin d'Aylmer or Boulevard Alexandre-Taché, depending on which side of the no-longer-extant Hull-Aylmer border you're on -- is the most bicycle-hostile stretch of road I have yet encountered. In addition to narrow lanes without shoulders or sidewalks, a 70 km/h speed limit, and drivers who'd just as soon kill you as move two femtometres to the left to avoid you, it's also difficult to avoid these conditions. The crossing buttons at the intersections of Taché and Montagne and of Champlain and Lucerne/Brunet don't work, forcing you onto the dangerous roads or to jaywalk. And you can't make a left turn from Aylmer/Taché into the Royale/la Rivière enclave. Something, anything would make biking through here so much easier; it makes no sense to build a bike path along Montagne and then stop at the foot of it. (But then there's a nice gap along the Voyageurs trail between the Chaudière and Portage bridges, with nice paved bike trails on each side. Nonsensical.)

As it stands, the safest way to avoid 500 metres of fun and travel between western Ottawa and northern Hull is to take the Voyageurs trail, then the Gatineau Parkway trail (or vice versa, naturally, depending on your direction). A bit longer, but a lot more pleasant.

Speech balloons since, oh, 1405 [ 11:52 AM ]

The evolution of the speech balloon (via Iconomy).

Catch Me If You Can [ 11:35 AM ]

Rented Catch Me If You Can last night, which was very clever and lots of fun to watch. Not that I could sit still through it, mind you. Very nice '60s-retro motif in the music and titles, I thought, but that's such a tiny detail.

Hammering update [ 11:29 AM ]

I've checked the server logs and it looks like the 10-page-requests-per-second attack stopped at about 6 AM yesterday morning -- long before I blocked the IP. Which is fortunate. Back to the usual 300-500 page requests per day per domain.

The server log for Friday is 18,648,351 bytes. The server log for Thursday is 115,073,064 bytes. Lucky for me that the page requested is only about the size of two server log entries.

My web site is being hammered [ 1:06 AM ]

Mild heart attack just now. I checked my website stats and discovered that 510,248 requests had come on Thursday from IP Presumably more of the same today. The requests have hammered one defunct page (it only contains a meta refresh); this message board post is the referrer. The IP belongs to Century Telephone Enterprises of Monroe, Louisiana -- presumably an ISP. My uneducated guess is a program run amok [11:30 AM: stats say it's IE 5] or a DDOS [11:30 AM: can't be a distributed denial-of-service attack]; I've blocked the IP with a .htaccess file and have asked for help [11:30 AM: cancelled request; have figured it out]. Good thing it's a small page or I'd be facing a huge bandwidth bill. Anyone have any ideas what has happened here?

Friday, May 16, 2003

Snake update [ 6:05 PM ]

The corn snakes mated again this afternoon; after the fourth time witnessed (see previous entry), it's probably not news any more.

Meanwhile, when we tried to feed the gopher snakes, the female bit and held onto the male as we hauled him out for feeding. This is probably associative behaviour: she associates the open lid with feeding, and bites what moves -- i.e., him. Just have to be careful when feeding, and probably shouldn't feed her in the cage.

Finally -- damn it! If I wasn't broke right now . . .

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Bicycle Repairman! [ 10:37 PM ]

Jen has a new wheel on her bike, which makes everything look mismatched. Fixed at an interesting store, at the foot of the Gatineau Parkway, with bikes from $450 to something like $3,000. Worse yet, it's right next to an Apple dealer that I hadn't heard of before. Oh dear.

Animal hoarding [ 10:35 PM ]

Plep has found much better links about animal collectors than I did (see previous entry), probably because he used "animal hoarding" rather than "animal collecting" as his search term. Many of these provide more information about hoarding as a disorder (related to OCD), but never fail to provide tearjerking examples of troubled people with hundreds of animals who don't figure that they're doing anything wrong.

My only concern is the extent to which this stuff -- and it all seems to be based on the same research -- is showing up on animal-protection sites, which raises some preliminary (and at this point unconfirmed) concerns on my part about the research's partiality. I suppose it's just the fact that it's early stages; someone else needs to come along and add to, challenge, confirm or disprove this stuff. So far it has the ring of truth to it -- if nothing else, there has to be an explanation for all the cat ladies, and a psychological one makes the most sense.

Tuna is not the chicken of the sea; that's albacore [ 10:02 PM ]

Don't confuse bluefin tuna, which is in serious decline, with what you get in the can.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Exploding bike wheels [ 7:48 AM ]

Jen just called from her cell phone to say that her rear bike wheel -- she frequently commutes to work by bike -- basically came apart. Something about the spokes braking. She's already sorting out a backup means of getting to work -- she's so damn competent -- but the accident sounds pretty spectacular.

Uh-oh: Downloading iTunes 4 streams [ 7:46 AM ]

iTunes 4 allows for streaming over the Internet, not just over local networks via Rendezvous, if you know the IP. (For example; see discussion from Brian, Damien -- one, two -- and Matt.) The number of streams is apparently limited, and it's streaming, not downloading, so no one would raise much of a fuss, it was thought. But what will be the impact of an application that downloads that streamed music? I give "iLeech" about fourteen femtoseconds to live; others fear that the result will be to "patch" iTunes 4 to prevent sharing via IP.

Update 12:46 PM: More from the Kottke.

Bluetooth GPS [ 6:45 AM ]

A Bluetooth-equipped GPS receiver sounds wonderful, but these announced products do not. Six hours' battery life sounds pathetic in real-world use. In practical terms, since most GPS receivers still use 9-pin serial connectors (not even USB!) for data linking, Bluetooth is more than enough bandwidth. Let's see if one of the big GPS manufacturers (Garmin, Magellan) come up with such a gadget.

Naming the PPC 970-based desktop [ 6:42 AM ]

I don't know, Brian -- based on Apple's recent product names, how about Power Mac Extreme? (ducks)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Scampering, scampering across the plain [ 10:28 PM ]

PerversionTracker thinks John Moltz is in fact Rowan Atkinson (or vice versa), and discounts the runner-up theory that Moltz is a pocket gopher:

While Moltz meets the description of a pocket gopher perfectly, and certainly inspires a certain maniacal urge for Whack-A-Mole-style pest control, we have no evidence that gophers are able to type or double-click, both skills which seem to be essential in constructing the Moltzian web of shoddy regurgitations known as CARS. [link added]

I disagree. I think John Moltz is in fact a pocket gopher -- or, at least, more likely to be a pocket gopher than Rowan Atkinson -- for the following reasons:

  1. He is, to say the least, ambivalent about my snake collection.
  2. My snake collection includes two pine snakes, two gopher snakes, and a bullsnake, all of which, in the wild, feed preferentially on . . . pocket gophers!

From this we can conclude, by using geometric logic, that he is, simply put, afraid of being eaten.

Fiddleheads [ 10:15 PM ]

Jen nearly crushed my hand when she spotted fiddleheads at the grocery store this evening. She's got this thing about this vegetable, apparently. So of course she got some, but I doubt she'll share.

The horniest motherfucking snake in the universe [ 10:13 PM ]

Trouser. Again. Tonight. Third time we've witnessed actual intromission in the corn snakes (see previous entries: 1, 2). Probably more times when we weren't watching. Poor Pretz. He needs a harem.

I had way too much fun with this post . . . [ 2:45 PM ]

"John R. O'Toole was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1995 as the Member for Durham East. . . . Born in Peterborough, Mr. O'Toole graduated from the University of Toronto. . . . Prior to being elected MPP, he worked for over thirty years in a variety of positions at General Motors in Ontario and Quebec. Before arriving at Queen's Park, Mr. O'Toole was twice elected as a school board trustee. . . . Mr. O'Toole and his wife, Peggy . . . have lived in Durham Region for the last 25 years and have raised five children." In his spare time, Mr. O'Toole enjoys furniture remodelling, skeet shooting, and flipping the bird in front of TV cameras.

Top 10 things I hate about Star Trek [ 12:47 PM ]

Top 10 things I hate about Star Trek. It's funny because it's true. (via MetaFilter)

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Bugs bugs bugs [ 9:30 PM ]

You can safely expect to find all kinds of bugs as I go through another bout of redesigning the web pages. Be sure, however, to reload the stylesheets before filing a bug report with me, as many of the changes I make are stylesheet-only or stylesheet-dependent, and sometimes browsers don't reload cached stylesheets.

Mex mexes sold [ 9:28 PM ]

I've sold the San Luis Potosí Kingsnakes to Kate and Lisa, who I'm quite sure will provide them with a good home. While Florence and I between us have had them for years, we'd each of us found, when either of us was looking after them, that they simply weren't getting enough attention -- essentially, they weren't as high a priority as we had originally thought for either of us. They've been on the market for a year as a result, with no takers until now.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Salling Clicker [ 6:39 PM ]

Sony Ericsson Clicker, which you've seen me write about ad infinitum, has been renamed Salling Clicker, in anticipation of supporting Bluetooth devices not made by Sony Ericsson.

While I'm on the subject, I don't think I ever mentioned the mailing list.

Current reading [ 6:31 PM ]

Current reading: Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900; and Vaughn L. Glasgow, A Social History of the American Alligator. I seem to be on an environmental history/social history of wildlife kick at the moment.

Teenage brains: an oxymoron? [ 7:52 AM ]

Teenagers sometimes seem nuts because their brains are still developing. More evidence that teenagers are like that for a reason, not just to honk off their parents.

Friday, May 09, 2003

More site bugfixes [ 6:37 PM ]

Nyx wrote in to point out that my pricelist detail pages (view via this page) didn't render properly in IE 5.1 for Mac. That was quickly fixed -- apparently you need to nursemaid IE through positioned elements. Then I discovered that the main page, which I was tinkering with anyway, didn't resolve properly in IE either. So, more fixes -- including the now-heterodox use of tables as style elements (it was the easiest way to resolve some problems, and allows me to add banners above the blog feeds at will). These pages should be okay in IE 5.x for Mac now.

Internet Explorer is a terrible browser on the Mac. And, after months of using Safari, it feels so slow!

It's always someone else's fault [ 5:26 PM ]

Jeffrey Simpson nails it:

The nature of the industry -- people scrambling over a scarce resource, managed by faraway Ottawa -- has also contributed to a culture of finger-pointing. It is always someone else's fault when things go wrong: foreigners, seals, federal bureaucrats, scientists, other fishermen, natives. Never the local fishermen.

Listening to the rhetoric on Newsworld today, it's telling how often the parties involved blame Someone Else: it's never their own fault that the fish disappeared. It's an argument that undermines their credibility -- and their maturity.

McWetlog bugfixes [ 9:52 AM ]

Some minor bugfixes. Fixed a problem with displaying the correct month in the archive pages (and learned the right PHP in the process), republished the archives so that the older pages use the right template, and revised the sidebar.

Crazy Elsie at it again [ 9:10 AM ]

I could do a blog solely about Saint John MP Elsie Wayne's crazy, uninformed and intolerant rants. Her latest is homophobic. Coverage: CTV, Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Cat ladies [ 11:14 PM ]

Oliver's blogging about the cat lady next door (May 5, May 7, May 8) should sound familiar to everyone; it seems that there's always a cat lady in the local news. (And remember the animal seizure in Kanata at the end of May last year?) It occurred to me that this showed up in the news often enough that it should be a known, identifiable phenomenon, and, as it turns out, it does have a name -- animal collector syndrome -- and it's apparently considered a form of mental illness. This isn't to be confused with people who happen to have large animal collections -- ahem -- because the issue is not really the number of the animals per se, but the person's inability to take proper care of them; she's oblivious to the real needs of the animals, who are dying around her as she literally loves them to death.

It's a cheese shop. sir [ 10:47 PM ]

In 1997, Megan began a quest to sample all the cheeses named in the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch. Her reactions aren't exactly those of a gourmand, but they're interesting nonetheless. I'm surprised that I can name a whole whack of cheeses that I've tried and that Cleese and Palin didn't mention. (via MetaFilter)

Snake humpage [ 10:05 PM ]

The corn snakes mated again last night -- apparently Trouser wanted to make use of his other hemipene -- and today the gopher snakes were getting frisky. No question about it being mating season over here!

St. Marys Independent: corrupt newspaper [ 10:04 PM ]

This is trading political coverage for advertising dollars, and it's corrupt, plain and simple. Update 5/09 10:03 AM: It's made the CBC main page. Good.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Everyone agrees: Grimes = big tool [ 7:44 AM ]

More on Grimes and the cod fishery, with condemnations from Chrétien and even Crosbie, from the Globe and Mail. (see previous entry) and Safari [ 7:37 AM ]

The Globe and Mail web site finally works properly in Safari, which means that the G&M team finally fixed it. And here I was wondering whether that would ever happen.

Robert L. Forward [ 7:23 AM ]

When SF author and scientist Robert L. Forward was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he spent the last few months of his life getting his affairs in order. While he wanted very badly to write his autobiography, the cancer treatments made that next to impossible; when he could no longer write, he dictated it into a tape recorder. What little he was able to complete before his death in September 2002, his widow and son have now made available, raw and unedited, on his web site. (via Ansible)

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

New herp endangered species designations [ 11:54 AM ]

Speaking of COSEWIC, when they listed the Atlantic Cod populations, they also made some changes to the status of a few western herp species: the Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) is listed as Special Concern; the Canadian Toad (Bufo hemiophrys), Plains Spadefoot (Spea bombifrons) and Northwestern Garter Snake (Thamnophis ordinoides) are listed as Not at Risk. No surprises anywhere. Species assessments, brief version.

Roger Grimes is a big tool [ 11:51 AM ]

He's pandering, and he's taking a page out of the playbook of segregationist governors looking after their good ol' boys, but if Roger Grimes thinks he can accomplish anything by refusing to prosecute Newfies who illegally catch cod, he's also an idiot. It's not like the feds wouldn't react; here are three things, off the top of my head, that they could do, none of which are quick:

And Newfoundland and Labrador is hardly in a position to offer anything more than token resistance -- what are they going to do, separate with their no fish? It's a brave front, but only that -- and one that will do nothing except encourage people to go out and catch the three or four cod that are left.

If nothing else, this is an argument against politicians having a say in the listing of endangered species.

Indyyyyyyy! [ 11:49 AM ]

Indiana Jones DVDs in November (via Slashdot).

Update 3:30 PM: There's even a cornball trailer. (Shoot that voiceover guy now.)

New eMacs [ 9:54 AM ]

New eMacs announced today, with a new low-end CD-ROM model at the old CRT iMac's US$799 price point. The rising Canadian dollar makes these things an obscene bargain by Mac standards: the 800 MHz CD-ROM model is C$1,199, the 1-GHz combo-drive model is $1,499, and the 1-GHz DVD-burner model is $1,899 -- up to $300 less than comparable models last year without the U.S. price points changing. Budget-conscious friends of mine who should get Macs (hi there, Florence and Stewart) should take note!

With a 133-MHz system bus, PC133 SDRAM (but no DDR), and 802.11g support (but no built-in Bluetooth), these things are ahead of the iBook and 15" flat-panel iMac, technology-wise, so I expect that they won't be updated again for some time, whereas I would expect the low-end iMac and the iBooks -- which just got speed bumps two weeks ago! -- to be replaced much, much sooner.

Corn snake porn [ 8:34 AM ]

The corn snakes mated last night, right in front of us (a first for Jen). Here's a picture:

Corn snakes in intromission, May 5, 2003

Trouser has done his deed, as it were.

iPod as PDA? [ 8:14 AM ]

Using an iPod as a PDA wouldn't work for me, since I'm constantly using the Palm to jot down notes, but it's interesting to see how many PDA features have been added, especially to the new models.

California herping [ 7:57 AM ]

California Reptiles and Amphibians is a collection of photographs of California herps and their habitat. Neat. And this looks exactly like my glossy snake -- does this mean we've finally keyed out her subspecies?

Garter snake web pages [ 7:54 AM ]

The European Garter Snake Association has a new web page. Meanwhile, the Garter Guys appear to have gone offline.

Chorus frogs [ 7:39 AM ]

Jen and I heard chorus frogs on Sunday night; read my report on Herp Journal. One more to add to the life list.

Palm stuff [ 7:36 AM ]

After the movie on Saturday, we stopped in at the Bureau en Gros (Staples/Business Depot to you benighted Anglos) to check on a few things. Of course we stopped at the handheld counter, where they had a Zire 71 and a Tungsten W. (The staff didn't know what they were getting into; they told me a few of the features and I fired back even more of them; I'm such a handheld slut.)

The Zire looked amazingly well put together, though I didn't care for the joystick-style navigation thingy; the back of it is polished metal, like an iPod. The camera was pretty good, and I even liked the themes -- different colours for the menus, text and backgrounds -- new in Palm OS 5.2.

As for the W, I wasn't seriously considering a GPRS data device, but I wanted to see how Palm's thumbboard implementation worked (seeing as they've put that thumbboard in the Tungsten C, and probably more down the road). To my surprise, I liked it a lot -- it's far, far better than the Sony NR/NX/NZ/TR thumbboard (see previous entry) and is even better, simply because a larger thumbboard is easier for someone with big hands, than the Treo thumbboard. It's actually possible that I could be faster on this kind of keyboard than with using Graffiti, which is a shock to me. And the unit was pretty damn sleek, too. I was impressed.

Which isn't to say that I can do anything but run my poor m505 into the ground at the moment, but I can still drool.

(Note to fellow handheld thralls: price cut on the NX70V.)

Monday, May 05, 2003

X-Men [ 8:30 PM ]

X2 was a pretty good movie; it completed a story arc that the original X-Men movie only started, and makes that first movie look like no more than a prologue. The two movies are best considered as a single unit.

Expat blog [ 9:28 AM ]

Lost in Transit is a collective blog written by expatriates and emigrés about the expat experience.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Baseball blogs [ 1:16 PM ]

Baseball doesn't do anything special for me, but for certain male relatives of mine, it's their life's blood. They should check out this site, which aggregates baseball blogs from all over. (via Rael)

Revised contact pages [ 12:40 PM ]

I've revised the contact pages, partly to make use of the new, table-free template, but also to try to deal with mail being sent via the wrong form. I had separated out the reptile contact form so that I could make several notes in the form itself, reminding people of some of the things they should be aware of before bugging me, and otherwise make the forms more customizable. They also go to different addresses, which my e-mail program filters into the appropriate folders. The problem is that some people are using the general form to send reptile-related inquiries. I was annoyed at their apparent stupidity until I realized that (1) I might be adding complication at their end for my own convenience, and (2) I may not have been clear enough. So I strengthened the wording on the general form, added more reminders, including a big one in bold on the sidebar -- and, in the reptiles section, clicking on "contact" on the menu bar now takes you to the reptiles form. Let's see if that works. In the meantime, I've also updated the autoresponder messages -- it turns out that I haven't had one on the reptile sales address for some time.

Feeding schedule [ 8:02 AM ]

We've come up with a less haphazard method of feeding the snakes. When I was with Florence, we assigned each snake a different schedule, to be fed on different days at different frequencies, which meant that on any given day a few snakes -- always a few snakes, but only a few snakes -- had to be fed. This became impossibly complicated when the number of snakes climbed above 20, then 30, then 40. For the last year, I've been feeding my half rather haphazardly, which means that they sometimes could have been fed more often. Now, reptiles are such that they will not suffer in the slightest if we miss their feeding by a few days; but it's useful to have a clearer answer when we ask ourselves, "okay, who do we feed next?" Also, it would be nice if we didn't spend more time organizing the schedule than feeding the critters.

So, Friday night, we devised a system in which snakes were divided into groups based on their frequency: every 5, 7, 10, or 14 days, for example. There were twice as many being fed every 10 days so we split that group in two, and the gecko and turtle got their own group. And we put it in iCal to automate it; the results of this anal-retentiveness may be found here. It's not really meant for public dissemination, but it allows us to consult it from anywhere should the need arise.

(And in case you're wondering, Trouser shed the rest of his skin last night during feeding.)

Siemens-destroying SMS spam [ 7:46 AM ]

And if SMS spam wasn't bad enough (see previous entry), how about SMS spam that deliberately hoses your phone? Some Siemens S46 owners are apparently encountering just that. (via Gizmodo)

Saturday, May 03, 2003

New front page [ 11:24 AM ]

In the event that people go there instead of directly to this weblog, I've (finally) given the front page a redesign that incorporates the RSS feeds from both this blog and The Map Room. I had wanted to do only the most recent post from each, but the canned scripts couldn't accomodate that, and my mad PHP sk1llz are insufficiently l33t for me to whip something up on my own.

A corn snake named Trouser [ 11:21 AM ]

Trouser shed his skin overnight, but only from the vent to the tail -- presumably the better to facilitate his frottage with his cage-mate, Pretzel. It's mating season in corn snake land, and Trouser's the horniest of 'em all.

iBook display glitches [ 6:57 AM ]

My workaround for the problem described here -- sometimes it thinks a television is attached; sometimes it ignores a television or external projector that is attached -- is to run a program that detects an external display, such as iMovie. That usually resets the screen. Selecting "Detect Displays" from the Displays Preference panel doesn't seem to work on mine. I always thought the wonky A/V connector -- a combined audio out/TV out jack used on white iBooks prior to May 2002 -- was the culprit.

Friday, May 02, 2003

The Iraqi Information Minister, Part 4 [ 3:53 PM ]

The former Iraqi Information Minister goes techno (via Boing Boing). Has this meme played out yet? (I hope not. Giggle.)

iTunes etc., Part 2 [ 3:50 PM ]

More on the Apple music thing. This informative Wired article points out that

  • Apple sold 275,000 tracks in the first 18 hours of the store's operation (this has been widely reported);
  • the absence of much music is due to technical, not licencing reasons (cf. earlier note of Alanis Morissette's absence in spite of her singing praises of the store); and
  • it's U.S.-only because of the music industry's Byzantine licencing, but other countries -- Canada is specifically mentioned -- are clamouring to get on board.

At this rate, the iTunes Music Store's critics are going to run out of excuses, except for price (not free) and DRM (they don't want any). Worth noting that DVDs have DRM: it annoys some people, but most others tolerate the restrictions or aren't affected by them.

My AAC re-ripping continues; I'm saving 30 MB per classical album by replacing 192-kbps MP3s with 128-kbps AACs. Doubt I'll be able to tell the difference with my listening equipment (computer speakers, iPod, low-end stereo), but I appreciate the additional room and purported sound quality improvement.

Ads?!? How venal . . . [ 3:43 PM ]

I've added Amazon associate ads to The Map Room. Please don't hate me; I need to eat.

Herp blogs? [ 3:36 PM ]

Why don't more reptile keepers keep weblogs? The format seems ideal for recording observations of a collection, breeding announcements, and even occasional photos. And Stewart has shown that it works well for field herping, too.

The standard way for herpers to express themselves online is through forums and bulletin boards, but the personality clashes inherent when this notoriously antisocial bunch gets together mean that many visitors leave the boards after a short period of time, fed up with it all.

If most herpers are (1) observant, (2) opinionated and (3) more comfortable with short announcements rather than long articles, what are they waiting for?

Control model trains with a Palm [ 8:50 AM ]

LocoPalm allows you to use a Palm OS handheld as a DCC control for a model railroad layout; they'd probably be onto something if they used Bluetooth instead of cables. (via Slashdot)

Update 3:36 PM: My father says, "The actual loco throttles are available as wireless. Using Palms just means you don't have to buy one, thus saving some $300. Real gearheads of course, will have both for the extra utility. And more throttles." Not many Palms under $300 nowadays, though, what with the m100/105 discontinued, and the US$99 Zire having no connector port. (And I didn't see any Sonys listed.) Though if you already have the Palm . . .

Paleontological fun [ 8:44 AM ]

Scans of old, madly out-of-date dinosaur books (via Iconomy). Trilobite and brachiopod virtual exhibits (via plep).'s delivery service [ 8:02 AM ]

I have good reason to be impressed with I placed an order late Monday night and it arrived here early yesterday afternoon -- and this with the supposedly slower free shipping. Is this what you Americans have been on about for so long?

Thursday, May 01, 2003

SMS spam on the horizon [ 9:22 AM ]

Get ready for SMS spam, if the cellphone companies don't succeed at keeping the marketers in line. (see previous entry)