July 2002

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

[ 1:25 PM ]

My adult female red-sided garter snake has malignant liver cancer. I anticipate only palliative care at this point. (see previous entry)

Monday, July 29, 2002

[ 9:46 PM ]

Cellphone all fixed now.

[ 4:15 PM ]

Lucky bastards got to play with tuataras. More pictures here.

[ 12:12 PM ]

My cellphone is still flashed to the old Clearnet network, which in itself is not a problem in Ontario, but while that network was still operating last summer when I was here in Calgary, it has since been shut down. Need to get it reflashed to get it to work properly. Thanks for telling me, guys.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

[ 11:35 AM ]

Sore from yesterday's hike of the Burstall Pass trail. The tally: three foot blisters (that'll teach me to break my boots in first) and muscle aches all over. In spite of high numbers of deer flies and mosquitos, I can't seem to find any insect bites. My field guides reported a trail length of 7.2 km and an elevation gain of 475 m or so, which was more or less confirmed by Geoff's new GPS, except that it reported the elevation gain to be a few dozens of metres less. The weather was magnificent and the views spectacular, and I hope to have a new photo gallery in the trails section up shortly.

The trail to Burstall Pass starts relatively level, over an old logging road, then gets interesting as it crosses a few braided streams coming off the Robertson Glacier. We brought shoes (and in my case, river sandals) to ford them; on the way there, we hopped streams as much as we could before we encountered one too wide, then switched footwear. After that, we switched back to our boots and Geoff and Shannon left their shoes to dry on branches. Then we walked a little further and found the trail flooded just before it entered a forest and began to climb. We worked around the puddle but on the return, I had to don my sandals and bring their shoes back. On the return, we kept our water footwear on for the entire crossing of the flats. The water was ice-cold but refreshing for tired feet — for short periods, before the feet went completely numb.

After the flats, a sharp climb up to a very nice hanging meadow, then another sharp climb to the pass. Twice I misjudged where the trail was heading; the pass turned out to be above us, on a bluff that provided a very good view when looking back down. It didn't look like a pass from below. Still, when we got up there, on that windy bluff that still had banks of pinkish snow at the sign announcing the boundary of Banff National Park, we could see down into the park, and got treated to a relatively close sight of the horn of Mount Assiniboine. But the view in all directions was spectacular. The trail lived up to its advance billing; it's rated very highly in my trail guides.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

[ 9:24 AM ]

About to leave with my brother to hike the Burstall Pass trail. Bought new gear at MEC: new hiking boots with proper ankle support, river sandals, and a shirt that won't soak up the sweat quite so much. It may be foolish to try to hike on these boots without properly breaking them in first, but we'll see. More when I get back.

[ 9:22 AM ]

Florence, who is snake-sitting, reports one baby garter fatality and one gopher snake egg pipping — the gopher snake eggs are hatching much earlier than I had expected.

[ 9:20 AM ]

Geoff's birthday party last night; got to see relatives that I haven't seen in ages or not at all. It turns out that my cousin Lisa, who lives in Lethbridge, has a pet corn snake; I will have to get in touch, clearly.

Friday, July 26, 2002

[ 11:51 AM ]

No calamities so far, but the trip has already yielded a few slightly maddening incidents. Let the whinging begin!

Blue Line Taxi isn't worth giving your business to. I spent 25 minutes waiting for a cab that was due "any minute now", in spite of the fact that I told them that I was trying to get to the airport. Instead, I flagged down a passing cab from another company. Blue Line, incidentally, is the same company that kept me waiting over 45 minutes when I bought my iBook, and most of the cabs I see idling along Queen Street belong to them (see previous entry). Clearly, a few hundred more taxi licences need to be issued; I hate the goddamn Ottawa taxi industry.

On a lark, while waiting to board the flight, I checked and discovered a wireless network called "skylink" operating in the airport. (AirPort in the airport. Ha ha. Shut up.) Not that I could do anything with it; no network applications could operate, and I actually had to force-quit them.

On the plane I discover that my seatmate is a kid, probably around eight, travelling alone and desperately in need of some Ritalin. Can't keep still. He's got a bunch of toy soldiers. When given a glass of orange juice, he dunked the soldiers in the juice. Later on in the flight, he starts bouncing — literally bouncing — around his seat, slamming his hands against the armrests, drumming against the seats in front of him. Talking, always talking to himself. This kid is wired. If he were an adult I would have thought he was on drugs. Instead I blame a typical fructose-sucrose spike.

Woke up sore as hell this morning, which is typical for a trip. Probably unaccustomed to the bed (a firm box-spring), though I can't rule out lower humidity (which is very nice, let me tell you) or higher altitude as contributing factors. In the end, I just don't know.

No trouble getting back on line; just plugged in Tom and my mother's cable modem and everything Just Worked. Except my ISP's SMTP server, which may not want outgoing mail from a computer on another network (there are very good security reasons for this).

I can't get digital PCS on my cellphone right now, though I had no trouble with it last year. Analog only. May have to have words with the phone company.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

[ 2:54 PM ]

Every time I travel, I turn into a nervous wreck just before departure. Packing and getting my home into some semblance of order before I leave (ha!) become major ordeals. And my back always seems to appreciate the additional stress. I'm a little calmer now than I was last night, when I was downright agitated, so here's hoping that things will go more smoothly this time. Off to Calgary, for hiking and my mother's wedding. Will be interesting to see what airport security does with all the gadgets (laptop, digital camera, iPod, cellphone, Palm, plus power supplies and cords, data cables, etc.) in my carry-on baggage. Should get to the airport early, methinks.

[ 12:18 PM ]

Hydro Ottawa says on its invoice, "write your account number on the front of your cheque." My account number is 20 digits long. Do I have any room left to sign it? (Note to Hydro Ottawa: given the size of the local population, why are more than even six or seven digits necessary?)

[ 12:16 PM ]

Monstrous lump in the snake update. It's a tumour on the liver; I'll find out whether or not it's a carcinoma within a few days or so, when the tests come back. (see previous entry)

[ 5:59 AM ]

Price cuts coming today for Palm handhelds; the prices cited in this article are in US dollars. The drop in price of the m500 is particularly precipitous (and not surprising; it was overpriced compared with its competition).

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

[ 10:30 PM ]

Flo ("the ex") reports that her neighbours left something on the stove this morning while they weren't there; a fire started in their kitchen and she had to call 911. The fire department arrived in due course and made a hella mess, apparently. Chinatown's enough of a firetrap as it is without friendly neighbourhood fuckwits doing dumb things; then again, it may be because of this kind of dumbheadedness that Chinatown is the firetrap that it is. Glad not to be living there any more.

[ 10:26 PM ]

Even though the baby wandering garters have yet to eat a meal, one has shed, another is blue and a couple of others have shat all over their cages. What gives? They must have had enough yolk reserve to push them to their first "real" shed without eating (as opposed to the post-natal shed that garters undergo immediately after birth); I had already speculated that a higher yolk reserve was the reason why they weren't interested in eating (see previous entry). Will have to investigate this further: smaller litter means more yolk spread across fewer snakes?

[ 7:34 PM ]

A manufacturing defect in the new colour Treo 90 and 270 from Handspring could cause the backlight (a necessity in a TFT colour screen) to fail. They're holding off shipping new units until they can screen their current inventory for the problem (via MacMinute; see coverage at Palm Infocenter). Meanwhile, I've finally seen a Treo 90: very small, and the keyboard is quite useable.

[ 7:28 PM ]

My back has flared up again something fierce, and I've lost time at work as a result. Could not come at a worse time. While I appreciate the irony of going into flare just as I'm about to go on vacation, I've got all this goddamn stuff to get finished first, and this is not helping!

[ 5:39 PM ]

Had the red-sided garter snakes into the vet this afternoon, to have a look at that monstrous lump in Big Momma (see previous entry) which seems to be getting larger, and if nothing else looks all the bigger now that she's given birth and is less enormous. Daren had a look at her and agreed with my suspicion that it was likely a tumour, cyst or some such growth, rather than an inflammation of the lung or an internal parasite. A quick X-ray ruled out respiratory or cardiac problems. She's staying overnight for an ultrasound and a needling, to see what exactly this is. To be quite honest, this is going to cost me a bit, but I really want to know what's going on here, and besides, after two litters, I owe her.

[ 8:48 AM ]

Photos of my new Aesculapian snake.

[ 8:47 AM ]

Rumpole and the Angel of Death. Leo McKern dies at 82. "Author John Mortimer created Horace Rumpole with only one actor in mind, and as the blustering, grumbling barrister, McKern did not disappoint." (posted to Metafilter)

Monday, July 22, 2002

[ 9:14 PM ]

My Aesculapian snake has arrived, and she's a beauty: olive on top, yellow on the belly, with white flecks throughout. I'll have to get some pictures taken. She's fairly active, as might be expected after the shipping process � built like a rat snake but as active as a garter. I think I'm going to like her. (see previous entry)

Meanwhile, Florence reports that (1) her first corn snake clutch is starting to hatch (52 days after laying) and (2) the mother of said clutch, an anerythristic motley corn, is in the process of laying her second clutch. Busy times over there. (see previous entry)

[ 9:11 PM ]

I have a new favourite movie. Wow.

[ 9:09 PM ]

Yet another damn handheld from Sony. The PEG-SL10 has a high-resolution (320 x 320) monochrome screen and is dirt-cheap at US$150. Unlike its predecessor, the PEG-S360, it has only 8 MB of RAM (the S360 had 16) and runs on AAA batteries (rather than an internal rechargeable battery). Still, that price — US$50 lower than the Palm m125 — is astonishing, and typically aggressive of Sony, which has released new, competitively priced handhelds at a frightening pace (this is the third entry-level handheld in a year).

[ 9:05 PM ]

Steve's an interesting writer, but whenever he writes about Apple (which is surprisingly often), he reliably focuses on one issue: CPU performance. To wit, that the G4 processor is getting its lunch eaten by Pentiums and Athlons. Which is true — but irrelevant, because processor performance is not the only way to evaluate a computer. The operating system, interface design, available software — all of these have some bearing on a person's purchasing decision. If it was processors alone, then yes, Macs are overpriced in relation to higher-performing but cheaper computers built with (for example) a 2.53-GHz Pentium 4. But that's like saying that Linux is a better OS than Windows just because it's free — there are other factors at play. Steve makes no mention of the machines' respective operating systems (except insofar as OS X is dog-slow on the hardware) or whether the included applications are better on Macs, not because he's deliberately overlooking the Mac platform's obvious strengths, but because (I think) Steve's a hardware geek at heart; the other stuff just doesn't matter.

For most people, a 2.53-GHz Pentium 4 is massive overkill. It's not that they're not going to buy them if that's what's available, it's just that their 800-MHz Pentium IIIs (or less) are more than adequate, and they don't yet have a compelling reason to upgrade. (Thus the slowdown in the computer industry.) This isn't, in other words, just a problem for Apple's computers, which don't give a compelling reason to upgrade because they're not getting any faster — the whole damn industry is in a slump because people don't need faster computers. Trust me as the owner of an iBook with a paltry 600-MHz G3 processor on a 100-MHz front-side bus: unless you're a hardcore gamer or work with multimedia (animation, video, Photoshop), you don't need a computer much faster than this. Most people don't, which is something that hardware geeks have trouble understanding.

On the other hand, the very people who do need blazingly fast hardware are ironically in Apple's core market: digital video, photography, animation, audio. They're the people that Apple needs to appease with insanely fast hardware, and the ones most likely to complain about the performance gap between G4s and x86 processors; consumers, on the other hand, are probably more than happy enough with what's currently available, so long as the software that runs on it works well and fulfills a real need. To paraphrase James Carville, "It's the software, stupid!"

Saturday, July 20, 2002

[ 8:23 AM ]

The turtle was waiting in her feeding dish this morning, expecting her breakfast. So of course I've obliged her! It's quite fascinating to have an animal signal when she wants to be fed; I know you bird and mammal keepers take this for granted, but for a reptile this is quite something. Neat! More turtles, more turtles.

Friday, July 19, 2002

[ 8:20 AM ]

Palm Reader is now available for desktop platforms (Mac, Windows), making the format the most platform-agnostic I'm aware of (Microsoft Reader only works on Windows and Pocket PC, naturally). I loaded one of my e-book files into it, one I coded myself, and it worked surprisingly well. Much of the formatting — fonts, backgrounds, justification — is set by the user.

[ 8:10 AM ]

Zettabyte has been prevented from selling SuperDrive-equipped eMacs. (see previous entry)

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

[ 7:48 PM ]


[ 8:16 AM ]

The Stevenote (Steve Jobs's Macworld New York keynote address) is now less than an hour away. For nutsoid Mac users, it's like Christmas morning, except with a tinge of Kevin Bloody Wilson:

Hey Santa Claus, you cunt!
Where's me fuckin' bike?
I've gone through all the junk
And there's nothin' that I like!

For example, one rumour that can now be confirmed: iTools is becoming the for-pay .Mac, which will no doubt annoy a great many Apple users: access to mac.com e-mail, Apple-hosted home pages, iDisk and other goodies will now cost US$100 per year (half off for the first year for existing iTools customers like moi).

[ 8:11 AM ]

Florence reports that Spot, one of her female speckled kingsnakes, escaped overnight. Found her in the bathroom this morning, and seems to have roamed around the living room (taking a dump on a rug, for example). She escaped two years ago when the lid was left off overnight, and was recovered when she cruised into the bedroom, waking us up. This time the lid appears to have been secured; she must have forced her way out, F. believes, by pushing against the large humidity box placed in her cage. Steve pointed out that the lids on the 25-gallon Hagen cages weren't 100 per cent secure. Yow.

[ 8:08 AM ]

E-mail from Il Coppardo this morning, who is back slumming it in Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia: a frenetic message describing what he's been up to in the 30 minutes he has on the computer (presumably in an Internet café). I expect I'll get more of them from time to time, and then when he's back, at the end of the year, he'll probably write another colourful article or something. (see previous entry)

[ 7:59 AM ]

Regardless of when I go to bed (unless it's obscenely late, like 4:30 a.m.), I invariably wake up between 7:00 and 7:45 a.m. Whether this is a result of the noise from my upstairs neighbours, the light coming through the window, or some anal-retentive internal clock of mine, I have no idea.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

[ 10:00 PM ]

Heather now has a site dedicated to selling her baby bearded dragons, though she tells me it's still under construction.

[ 7:00 PM ]

Last night I offered live feeder fish to the ten baby red-sided garter snakes that refused to eat either earthworms or fish on Sunday night (see previous entry). I think the ensuing reaction could safely be described as a low-level feeding frenzy. Of more than 30 fish offered, only a few were left by this morning. There were a couple of food-fight incidents, including one where one snake bit another squarely on the head (it released before I could intervene, fortunately) and another where only the tailfins of the fish were protruding from the first snake's mouth, and a second snake was trying to nibble on them. But at least with fish the risk of inadvertent cannibalism is less than it is with earthworms: the snake can swallow the fish quite quickly.

Getting a garter snake to feed is largely a matter of offering it what it wants to eat, and for one-third of the collection that appears to be live feeder fish. Motion seems to be critical to their feeding response. But feeder fish are expensive and parasite-laden; earthworms are better in terms of parasites, but it's harder to find small specimens (bait store nightcrawlers are always very large). Once they can take pieces of bait-store nightcrawler it will be much easier to maintain them, but that is some ways off yet.

In the meantime, keeping these little buggers fed will be a bit of a challenge.

As for the wandering garters, who refused to eat on Sunday, I think it was simply that they still haven't burned through their yolk reserve yet; I noted that they were big and chunky when they were born (see previous entry), but I was mistaken, I guess, in thinking that they would start eating right away.

Monday, July 15, 2002

[ 11:42 PM ]

9622.net is all about a bunch of Metafilter denizens monkeying around.

[ 11:39 PM ]

A social history of beer in the United States that looks at the usual questions of class (how beer became a working-class drink), nationalism (local beer vs. English imports during the Revolutionary period) and ethnicity (the touchy German background of most brewers during World War I). Fascinating stuff. (via Metafilter)

[ 11:35 PM ]

Black women are increasingly dating white men, according to this Atlanta Journal-Constitution report. Factors include questions about black cultural identity, demographics (more black men in U.S. prisons), and education (60 per cent of blacks awarded college degrees are women). (via kausfiles)

[ 11:25 PM ]

a spider of some sortMore animals live in this apartment than those I brought in deliberately. This largeish spider jumped out when I was cleaning up the place last week. There are small spiders in the bathroom, which must help against the ants and which don't bother me a bit; this one startled me a little, though. The bug-count is higher here than in my previous abodes, since it's a basement apartment — where my general slovenliness is much more likely to attract them. The solution is free-range chameleons, of course.

[ 3:21 AM ]

Lilith, my female black pine snake, has laid three huge eggs, each about 9-10 cm long. Wow.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

[ 10:46 PM ]

Just tried feeding all the baby garter snakes: 22 out of 32 red-sided garters ate; none of the seven wandering garters took the bait. (F. is raising the other 10 red-sided garters herself, for the fun of it, if you can believe it. I can believe it: they're really cute.) The method involves holding them above a deli cup filled with a couple of dozen small earthworms, thawed whole feeder guppies, and fish fillet. Some garters respond to movement; some respond to the scent of fish more than that of earthworm, and the combination seems to do the trick — all of F.'s snakes are eating. I've been neglecting mine, though.

[ 6:35 PM ]

It's the McWetlog's first anniversary. By a strange coincidence, it's also Metafilter's third anniversary.

[ 5:59 PM ]

The Hudsucker Proxy is, as you might expect from the Coen brothers, a strange film, a throwback stylistically with the most bizarre deus ex machina near the end that you could expect. Crisp plot that telegraphed the plot resolution of the blue letter well in advance. And Tim Robbins makes a great bewildered schlemiel. All in all a silly, off-kilter film.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

[ 10:11 PM ]

I picked up the Summer 2002 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism this evening, and as usual there are too many interesting things contained therein; I can't simply blog each individual article, so here's the table of contents — go nuts. Incidentally, this issue has led to my first-ever SportsFilter post.

[ 8:08 PM ]

My father and my brother have been after me for ages to see The Hudsucker Proxy. Now I've gone and rented it. Will advise after seeing it.

[ 7:00 PM ]

A cup of small worms suitable for feeding to baby garter snakes turned up this morning. I had thought that the worms had mysteriously vanished, or simply died and decomposed, when in fact, as it turns out, I had simply been looking at an empty cup that had been used for large nightcrawlers. So I have no excuse not to feed baby garter snakes this weekend — assuming I'm in shape to do it, that is.

[ 6:45 PM ]

I played around with the Speakable Items feature of Mac OS X last night. It's rather limited unless the software is specifically built to include it. I can switch between open programs and close programs, but I can't open them (with some exceptions); I can minimize windows to the dock, but not maximize them. I have to speak loudly with the built-in microphone and I often have to repeat myself, and it makes occasional errors (for example, it keeps wanting to open the clock when I want it to switch to Mozilla). This is a bit of a problem when playing Chess, which has very good support for Speakable Items: I have to shout a little bit, repeat myself two or three times, and sometimes it moves the wrong piece to the wrong place. In the end it doesn't matter much, since the computer regularly wipes the floor with me; I'm just not a very good chess player.

[ 8:56 AM ]

Mehr Titten, bitte. Wenn ich in München war, meine deutsche Freunde hat mich in Englische Garten genehmt, aber es gab keine näckte Leute, weil es zu kalt war. (via FARK)

[ 8:42 AM ]

"Hey, uh . . . Darth?" An exchange between a TIE fighter pilot and a Sith lord. (via Oliver Willis)

Friday, July 12, 2002

[ 10:58 PM ]

The Truth About Charlie (trailer) is a remake of Charade, which is all plot twists and I already know how it ends, so what's the point?

[ 7:37 PM ]

Handspring does not offer native Mac OS X support for its Treo PDA/phone gadgets. Use it with OS X anyway.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

[ 1:10 PM ]

Water just came back on — I guess everybody's back from lunch now.

[ 1:06 PM ]

An emergency water shutdown in the building between 10:00 and 11:00; nobody, it seems, has bothered to turn it back on, and I've been drawing on whatever was in the tank in the meantime. It's down to little more than a dribble now.

[ 11:39 AM ]

Still not feeling well, so I'm at home today. Bad timing: for some reason, the water pressure has dwindled to a mere trickle. At least it's still there, I suppose, but damn it.

[ 11:38 AM ]

What the hell is Palm thinking? They've finally released the Palm OS 4.1 update for m500/m505 handhelds (which run OS 4.0), but the installer is not compatible with either Windows XP or Mac OS X.

[ 7:31 AM ]

When a waiter was fired from an elite New Orleans restaurant for sexual harrassment, the restaurant's customers leapt to his defence. If nothing else, the New Orleans elite have a funny way of looking at their restaurants, one that reminds me of the defence of the Balzar described in Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon. (via Metafilter)

[ 7:21 AM ]

Who needs psychedelic drugs, when Terry Gilliam will be directing the film version of the Gaiman/Pratchett comedy-about-the-apocalypse novel Good Omens?

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

[ 3:38 PM ]

Rumour mongers care only about hardware; they've got a serious jones going for powerful new computers, but dismiss as boring new software announcements. Which is a pity. The one thing that might come out of Macworld that would have the biggest impact on me as a Mac user, and that is nearly buried in the speculative news coverage, is the possibility of AAC support in iTunes and the iPod. It would mean higher compression rates at higher quality, and would allow me to keep even more music on my iPod; the difference would probably be considerable. That's what I'm looking forward to, anyway.

[ 3:32 PM ]

Now this is getting silly. The Cube Zone reports that dealers can no longer order current Power Macs from Apple any more, setting off a new round of speculation that new Power Macs are imminent, countering yesterday's rumours that they wouldn't be announced until August! (via Macrumors)

If nothing else, my recent Macworld-related posts should tell you that there are an awful lot of Mac web sites out there, some of which have very silly names. Most of whom clearly run by people who opened their Christmas presents before they should have when they were kids.

[ 3:09 PM ]

Still more on the Macworld press credentials story (see previous entry). Dan Knight of Low End Mac says eight sites have had their credentials revoked, and names five of them. The two I wasn't aware of are utterer.com, which is a Mac gaming site, and thinkAAPL.com. Both sites say their credentials were pulled on the grounds that they were not a commercial news outlet, which now seems to be IDG's line (see my article).

Knight also agrees with Chuck La Tournous of RandomMaccess that GraphicPower "isn't much of a news site." La Tournous goes a lot farther; like I did, he had a look at the GraphicPower site, and he was not impressed by what he saw. In fact, he just demolishes the site. La Tournous utterly rejects McCarty's assertion that a press pass is vital for GraphicPower's work. (What work? The parties?) But as Knight points out, La Tournous is mistaken, however, in thinking that this is an isolated case of a single person who hasn't earned his press credentials and is using a press pass to have a good time at a convention; it's just that McCarty does an awfully poor job as a representative on behalf of the credential-less Mac web.

[ 2:51 PM ]

I came home from work at noon because I was feeling quite unwell. Just had a short nap; can't say my headache is much better, but my back (and assorted peripheral ouchies) is even less happy, I think.

[ 11:48 AM ]

Why media convergence is bad, courtesy of Frank, issue no. 381 (July 24, 2002), p. 15:

CTV has been trying to scoop event sponsorships from the Graspers' Global TV outlet in Vancouver and scored with the Vancouver Jazz Festival and Canada Day.

Pissed, Global was soon advising festivals, charities, etc., that if they went with CTV, they could forget about seeing any print coverage of their events in the Sun or the Province.

The notion that a news outlet might swing its Big Stick of News Coverage in order to benefit itself as a corporate entity is certainly not new; the problem is that convergence magnifies the problem: news coverage is now a mightier weapon, and the corporate interest all the more pressing.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

[ 8:13 PM ]

More Macworld rumour-mongering (hell, I'm not trying to get a press pass). There are conflicting reports as to whether new Power Macs will be announced at Macworld New York next week. Railhead Design says that new Power Macs will be announced, with 1 GHz, dual 1.2 GHz and dual 1.4 GHz G4 processors. Think Secret says that they won't be announced until August, so that Apple can burn through its remaining inventory; CNet, citing Think Secret and unnamed sources, concurs. Sales of professional Macs have apparently stalled, but this is also cited as the reason why a 17-inch flat-panel iMac will be announced next week, according to both Think Secret and CNet. It does not make sense that stalled sales is the reason why the Power Mac is not being upgraded and the reason why the iMac is being upgraded. Besides, one reason for stalled Power Mac sales is the anticipation that a newer, faster computer would be announced at Macworld; buyers holding off until a new model is released will certainly wait another month. And surely Power Macs with the rumoured configurations (DDR SDRAM, double the L2 cache, 800 Mbps Firewire, etc.) would drive sales.

Rumour-mongering a week before the keynote is such bullshit. How about taking some real risks, guys? Quad-processor Xserves and OS X support for the POWER4 processor!

[ 5:04 PM ]

Amazon's automated messages continue to insist that my order has been delayed, but an Amazon customer-service representative writes to say that it actually shipped yesterday. Technical difficulties that they're still investigating.

[ 5:03 PM ]

Demand for the flat-panel iMac tapered off in May, forcing Apple's Taiwanese suppliers, who had ramped up production and capacity to meet the initial demand for the iMac, to all but shut down production in June so that Apple could work through its accumulated inventory. (via MacMinute)

[ 12:18 PM ]

David Coursey (ZDNet AnchorDesk) weighs in on the Macworld press credentials story:

It's certainly possible that the Macworld conference people . . . aren't very smart and are alienating the e-zines all by themselves, without any prompting from Apple. That's certainly what Apple insiders suggest (off-the-record). It's also in accord with my own experience. I didn't attend Macworld for more than a decade because the show's organizers acted like it was such a big favor to give someone a press credential.

Even so, he argues, Apple's reputation with the press makes it all too easy to blame the company, and makes this incident Apple's problem, regardless of whether Apple was behind it or not.

[ 12:17 PM ]

Magma has revised its high-speed Internet plans and prices, imposing a 10-GB download cap on most plans and offering a new, higher-speed 3-Mbps plan (current plans are 1 Mbps) for $75/month. My own plan is unchanged, and I can't imagine ever coming close to 10 gigs a month. For some reason my AirPort Base Station maxes out at 2 Mbps, so unless tinkering with it improves things I wouldn't benefit from the three-megabit modem, which I'd probably have to buy — but I can still be intrigued, can't I? (Correction: Magma imposed the 10-GB bandwidth cap last November — and I never noticed it.)

[ 12:15 PM ]

The Handspring Treo 300 is identical to the Treo 270, except that it runs on CDMA networks rather than GSM/GPRS networks. (see previous entry)

Monday, July 08, 2002

[ 6:31 PM ]

Earlier today I sat down and tried to figure out when the various clutches of snake eggs would be hatching. Here's what I came up with:

Estimated hatching dates
Name of SnakeDate LaidNo. EggsEst. Hatch
Little Guy (corn snake)June 110July 26
Ruby (corn snake)June 87August 3
Gopher snakeJune 123August 7
Pretzel (corn snake)June 2513August 20

This assumes an incubation time of 56 days; in my experience, it varies depending on the ambient temperature.

[ 6:28 PM ]

It looks like I'll be getting an Aesculapian snake (Elaphe longissima), a species I've lusted after since I saw one in a private collection two years ago. This is the snake on the caduceus, incidentally, and was kept in Roman temples. It's an arboreal rat snake, the European equivalent, I guess, of the black rat snake.

[ 5:16 PM ]

MacMinute says that it has received reports that Apple is discontinuing the 15" Apple Studio Display. What does this mean? Time for some baseless speculation! (God. Now I'm doing it.) It's possible that the flat-panel iMac, which also uses a 15-inch LCD with a 1024 x 768 resolution, may be putting pressure on the supplies of 15-inch LCDs; terminating the studio display may free up more components for the iMac. It's also possible that Apple's flat-panel display lineup is in for a shakeup next week, with new products or new price points or both. I would be very surprised if Apple abandoned the US$600 price point; is a price reduction for the 17" Apple Studio Display in the works? Is another size of flat-panel display imminent?

[ 11:58 AM ]

Amazon is disappointing me for the first time: I ordered two books on June 29, both of which "usually ship in 24 hours", but, nine days later, neither has shipped yet. I've complained.

[ 11:56 AM ]

Minor revisions to the article on the Apple press credentials story. Using the <ins> tag with stylesheets makes marking the revisions easy — and making the revision marks disappear later even easier.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

[ 8:11 PM ]

My plan to feed my baby red-sided garters (finally!) went awry — as it turns out, I have far fewer small worms than I thought I did. Off to Mike's place tomorrow to raid his worm pile, then. In the meantime, I'm about to find out if the eastern black-necked garter will take dead whole fish.

[ 2:32 PM ]

Jennifer says her brother and his fianc�e have just bought a digital video camera and need some advice buying a computer. They've never owned a computer before. This is too easy. Digital video and first-time computer buyers? Hmm. Let me think . . .

[ 2:25 PM ]

Putting a SuperDrive (DVD-R) into an eMac. Mmm. (via MacNN and Slashdot)

[ 2:10 PM ]

Are low-fat diets making us fatter? Further to yesterday's post, here is a long article from the New York Times Magazine (free registration required) on the perils of low-fat diets. The rise in American obesity has been concentrated in the last 20 years, when low-fat foods came into vogue. The problem is that that removed fat has to be replaced with something — usually refined carbohydrates like starches and corn syrup, that can be consumed in huge quantities, add weight, and increase the risk of type-2 diabetes. Considerable attention paid to the Atkins diet, which advocates removing carbohydrates from the diet. I thought that such a high-fat, high-protein diet would put undue pressure on the liver and kidneys, but it turns out that the point is to avoid especially high-glycogen-level stuff like breads, pasta and rice, which are digested easily and spike your blood sugar; fat and protein take longer to digest and are therefore better, but other foods that take longer to digest — fruits, vegetables, lentils, unrefined carbs like oats and whole grain products — would have the same effect. The problem is a diet heavy in potatoes and bread, basically, with no fat or fibre to settle out the blood sugar. (via Metafilter)

Saturday, July 06, 2002

[ 10:25 PM ]

Herewith my take on the Apple press credentials story, which launches my new Comment section. In this section, I'll deal with something at greater length than I normally would in a weblog format — think of it as an opinion column. I probably won't write anything for this section unless I'm sufficiently pissed off. I imagine the subjects of these opinion pieces will be pissed as well if they ever stumble across them. If the Mac web finds out about this one, I may have to switch to Linux.

[ 4:28 PM ]

This afternoon I went down to B. Mac and had a look at an eMac. It looks better in person, particularly when you're actually using it, though the three-quarter profile is still pretty homely. As expected, it looks extremely durable, almost bulletproof, and it sounds like there's quite a fan inside there.

The screen is surprisingly good — very sharp for a CRT — and has all the advantages CRTs have over LCD monitors, to wit, higher resolution (and different resolutions without having to resort to antialiasing) and better colour saturation. I cycled through the available resolutions and found the 1152 x 864 and 1280 x 960 resolutions very nice indeed.

It puts the old G3 iMac to shame in just about every way, of course, but it also puts a bit of pressure on the new iMac as well. Granted, the iMac is less than half the weight, and has more powerful options in terms of processor, hard drives and optical drives (including that SuperDrive — DVD burning has caught my interest a little bit), but not everyone prefers LCDs to CRTs, and the iMac, in its SuperDrive configuration, costs nearly twice as much as the eMac. (Also, that damn LCD screen is tilted a bit to the right, I swear.) If I really want to engage in DVD burning, I may simply get a low-end Power Mac down the road and upgrade the optical drive, and thereby get the option to mix and match monitors (CRT or LCD, or both, for that matter), upgrade hard drives and video cards, and so forth. Otherwise, if I just want a cheap desktop without DVD tomfoolery, I think I'd give an eMac serious thought.

[ 9:06 AM ]

Crazy Asian Drinks! The premise: these guys, they drink unusual canned beverages imported from various bits of Asia. They tell us what the drinks are like. It's not pretty. It's funny as hell. Aren't you glad to know that there are drinks out there that can be compared to drinking tadpoles or various male fluids? (via iconomy, that sick girl)

[ 8:36 AM ]

It's not how much you eat, it's what you eat. An enlightening article from Globe health reporter André Picard on the problems with the vegetable-light, potato-heavy Canadian diet. The simplest way to avoid obesity seems to be to avoid fast food and the like. Read it.

[ 8:31 AM ]

Earlier this week I picked up the seven-DVD boxed set of the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. A question for those of you with DVD players, in particular those of you who watch DVDs on high-resolution computer screens. Are DVDs of television shows much lower resolution than those of movies? I've got serious pixellation whenever I watch a TNG episode at full-screen, and I'm trying to figure out why. Too much video compression, or not enough video hardware? Four episodes per disk, but I just watched The Great Escape last night, which is three hours long, and no such problems occur with that or any other movie in my collection. So I can only conclude that it's the limited resolution of the TV format. Watching it in a window is no problem, and I imagine that on (comparatively low-resolution) televisions this issue simply does not show up. I was, however, kind of hoping that the quality would be better — didn't they shoot on film?

[ 12:19 AM ]

Blogger blew up big time on Friday, which made publishing impossible for most of the day — not just for me, but for a lot of the blogs I read regularly. Drat. But everything's back up, and new entries are flourishing all over. (Yes, I know about it; I'm just procrastinating, is all.)

Friday, July 05, 2002

[ 11:57 PM ]

I've booked my flight. The credit voucher I received from WestJet as a result of their fuckup last August certainly came in handy, knocking a $737 fare down to $284 — not bad for a peak season trip from Ottawa to Calgary to Moncton. I leave here the evening of Thursday, July 25 and show up in Moncton on the morning of Wednesday, August 7. Don't bother breaking into my apartment while I'm gone; everything worth stealing is coming with me, and besides, I have attack colubrids.

[ 11:55 PM ]

I'm planning to write a longer piece on the Apple press credentials story (see previous entries: first, second), but in the meantime, here are some more links. Coverage and opinion from Applelinks, Low End Mac, MacNN, Mac OS Rumors (scroll down to the Thursday, July 4 entry) and Wired. The two sites we know have had their credentials pulled are Applelust and GraphicPower. More on which anon.

[ 5:11 PM ]

John Robson of the Ottawa Citizen has in past written columns that were a titch on the inflammatory side; even so, I have to wonder at his latest column: "So it's God or Hitler, Ten Commandments or none. That shouldn't be too hard a choice." His argument is that if you believe in rights, you have to believe in God, because rights are meaningless unless God-given. Conversely, I extract from this the conclusion that if I'm an atheist, I'm a Nazi. Nice. I'm not sure what point this arrogant fuckwit is trying to make here, but publicly insulting nonbelievers doesn't seem the way to go about it. Where do I register my complaint?

[ 5:06 PM ]

Gophers are being imported as exotic pets; they're apparently friendly and sociable (which is more than can be said about hamsters), but a little too expensive to be a tasty treat for your favourite gopher snake, damn it.

[ 8:26 AM ]

A total of seven baby wandering garter snakes were born yesterday. Since this doesn't happen every day � as far as I am aware, no other private keeper in Canada is breeding this species � here are some observations:

  • They're individually a lot larger than my red-sided garter snake babies, as if they got a head start of a couple of months. They shed immediately after birth, in line with the births of red-sided garters and northern ribbon snakes that I've witnessed. They also look pretty chunky, as though they've still got a bit of yolk reserve left. I expect they'll be a lot easier to get started feeding.
  • Litter size may be smaller in general for this species than for common garters � I'll have to check my references � but this female is only three years old, so a small litter is expected for a first litter (whereas my red-sided garter female is at least seven and probably a lot older than that).
  • This species has a reputation for snake-eating � it's basically the most cannibalistic of the garters, so it's generally recommended to house them separately. Still, there was no evidence of that � the mother had ample opportunity to chomp on her young but did not; nor did the young go after one another. Similarly, the parents behaved themselves and were quite compatible during mating season (wish I could say the same for certain kingsnakes).
  • Interesting variation: some babies are quite light, others rather dark.
  • Neither mother nor babies were the least bit snappy.

Those of you who know me well � or at least who know my collection well � know that I'm pretty keen on this species. Have a look at a short article I wrote last year, based on my experiences with their parents and my research, such as it is.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

[ 9:56 PM ]


[ 8:54 PM ]

Baby wandering garter snakes! At least five of them that I can see so far . . .

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

[ 5:12 PM ]

Jennifer heads back to New Brunswick today; she'll be there until August 12. I'm babysitting her snake for her. The current plan is that I will join her a few days before that — I'd fly from Calgary to Moncton — and accompany her back to Ottawa by train. Which means I ought to hurry up and look after the tickets, really.

[ 5:04 PM ]

A belated report on my Canada Day festivities. For five years now I have been assiduously avoiding any official Ottawa Canada Day frolic, partly because I sniff at state-sponsored revelry, partly because I really, really hate large crowds, partly because I Despise Tourists. But the Arrogant Worms — which Jennifer has gotten me completely hooked on — were scheduled to perform on Parliament Hill in the evening, so we couldn't stay away. Since we'd never heard of the other three acts, we figured that the Worms would be the last (and marquée) act — and, in fact, they were last on the list, so this was not an unreasonable assumption.

Unfortunately, it was also a wrong assumption. As it turned out, the Worms were there to entertain the crowd between acts: three guys and one guitar as the other bands' roadies rearranged the real audio equipment. Which led to a certain impatience on my part — and the heat makes me tired, stupid and grumpy, and I hadn't eaten either, which made things even worse. And for whatever reason they simply weren't as loud as the other acts, either. But we heard the pieces you'd expect on Canada Day: "Rocks and Trees", "Proud to Be Canadian", "Canada's Really Big". The astonishingly young audience really wanted to hear David Usher, though. Who?

[ 5:02 PM ]

More on Apple's blacklisting of rumour sites (see previous entry). Matthew Rothenberg of eWeek cites some past examples of Apple's behaviour, and says that Apple "has blocked press access to a plethora of independent sites; some of the blacklisted sites . . . don't even report on pre-release Mac info, but all [are] united in their commitment to providing an enthusiastic, independent view of their favorite computing platform" (via this MacRumors forum thread). One commenter in that MacRumors forum thread says that over 30 web sites have been prevented from receiving press credentials that they have had at previous MacWorld expos, one of which is Applelust (with which he himself is affiliated), which doesn't really deal with rumours, but it does frequently comment on Apple in a critical manner (Pierre Igot, come on down). Other than that, no one is providing a list of the sites in question — which for me is the only way to tell whether Apple's being a dick about this or not. If those 30 sites are semi-pro news and commentary sites, then the answer would probably be yes, Apple is throwing its weight around. But we'll have to see whether there is more to this story or not.

[ 5:01 PM ]

And if saving Alfred Bog isn't enough for you, how about doing something about the provincial government's decision to allow mining at the Mellon Lake Conservation Area? A population of five-lined skinks, Ontario's only lizard, is being put at risk. (via the NatureList)

[ 12:50 PM ]

Dave Seburn posted the following message to the NatureList, which I reprint here in full (though I've added some links):

Save the Alfred Bog!

At 4200 hectares — that's 42 km2 — the Alfred Bog is the largest bog in all of southern Ontario. Located east of Ottawa, this large forested peatland is home to carnivorous plants such as Sundews and Pitcher Plants, rare orchids like the White-fringed Orchid and Southern Twayblade, the stunningly beautiful Rhodora (a Canadian rhododendron), and the elusive Spotted Turtle.

The Alfred Bog has been under attack for decades, through land conversion and attempts to drain sections of it. Historically, the wetland is believed to have been approximately 10 000 hectares in size. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) purchased 1800 hectares (4500 acres) in 1988 to help protect the bog. Now the NCC has acted again by taking an option to purchase another 1300 hectares (3200 acres) of land. This will increase the NCC's holdings to over 70% of Alfred Bog. The resulting 30 km2 area will be protected by Ontario Parks. In a landmark deal the federal and provincial governments and the NCC each agreed to contribute one-third of the cost of purchasing the land. This leaves the NCC needing to raise $820,000 by this fall or the deal will fall through.

If we truly care about protecting rare ecosystems for generations to come now is the time to act. While large corporate donations are required to ensure the success of this deal, a strong demonstration of public support will stimulate institutional and foundation contributions. Donations, small or large, can be made to the NCC or to the Ottawa Field-Naturalists, who have pledged to help the NCC in this campaign. An honour role of donors to the Ottawa Field-Naturalists will be published in Trail and Landscape.

Remember, all donations are tax deductible. Send your cheque to

Ottawa Field-Naturalists
PO Box 35069 RPO Westgate
Ottawa, ON  K1Z 1A2

or to

Nature Conservancy of Canada
110 Eglinton Ave West, Suite 400
Toronto, ON  M4R 1A3

Make sure you mark your donation "Alfred Bog Fund".

Need I say that I'm in wholehearted agreement?

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

[ 11:52 PM ]

Think Secret has worked itself into a high dudgeon, accusing Apple of denying press credentials for the upcoming MacWorld New York to web sites that publish rumours on upcoming Apple products. They accuse Apple of bullying and blackmailing small web sites into submission, behaviour that, they argue, Apple would never try with "real" news organizations.

Your reaction to that news depends on which sites they mean; as a result I do wish they'd name names or shut up. It's one thing if Apple threatens to deny passes to rumour sites with, shall we say, dubious journalistic credentials (Mac OS Rumors, Mac Rumors, SpyMac and Think Secret), quite another to deny them to semi-pro Mac news sites (Mac Minute, MacNN or The Mac Observer, for example), and still another to pull them from legitimate news sites that have published rumours from time to time, like CNet. Whether this is a scandal at all depends on who's being targeted, to be quite frank. If it's just the rumour sites, then it's hard to generate much sympathy.

Case in point: there's a rumour circulating that a 1.5-GHz G4 chip may be unveiled at MacWorld New York. Now, if it turns out that the top-end G4 chip only runs at 1.2 GHz, that rumour will have raised expectations only to have them dashed: that 1.2-GHz chip, no matter how good in and of itself, no matter what else may come with it (say, a 333-MHz front-side bus, DDR SDRAM, USB 2.0, 800 Mbps FireWire, ATA/133 drives — all the other things that can really speed up a computer), there will be disappointment. The iPod was a disappointment (see previous entry). Hell, Mac OS Rumors even predicted a G5 for MacWorld San Francisco — last January. The rumour-mongering has an impact on Apple's sales: if you think that Apple is going to announce a massively sped-up Power Mac in a couple of weeks at MacWorld, why on earth are you going to buy one now? And, once you've been disappointed by the raised expectations and the (comparatively) meagre reality, why, you just might be tempted to hang on a little more, in hopes that maybe the next upgrade will be the one to get.

Apple, since the return of His Royal Steveness, has been fanatical about rumour-squashing. Read the later chapters of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs for examples. If nothing else, if Think Secret's allegations are true, they cannot be a surprise; and unless Apple is heavy-handedly going after The Mac Observer or some similar site, I cannot work myself up into a similar dudgeon. It's righteous indignation but little else; sour grapes make for a bad whine.

[ 6:19 PM ]

Here's another reason why I think Crazy Apple Rumors is the best thing to hit the Mac community in the past year: Apple Acquires Another Application Maker — a satire on the company's purchase of Emagic and the resulting announced discontinuation of Emagic's Windows products. I just about died reading it.

[ 6:17 PM ]

So that means I'm probably looking at Debian, Slackware or FreeBSD: the problem isn't so much the processor as the amount of RAM and the hard disk capacity, neither of which is going to be terribly easy to upgrade (nor do I particularly want to spend a dime on the ancient box at this point). I doubt I'd be using a GUI like KDE or Gnome, or even XWindows, on a laptop whose screen doesn't work — I'm looking at remote shell access here. But a more pressing question is, other than dinking around with a Unix-like operating system, what's the point, here? I have to answer that question. (But then, maybe just dinking around is enough.)

[ 8:36 AM ]

Thinking about putting Linux or BSD on my ancient Thinkpad 380 laptop (the screen of which is all but fscked, so running it headless on a network seems a good idea). There are some sites on installing Linux on laptops, and even on Thinkpads in particular, to which I will link in a later entry. For now I'm looking at the system requirements for the distributions I'm aware of. My Thinkpad is a Pentium 150 with 32 MB of RAM and has a 1 GB hard drive.

Debian: no specific requirements; if it can run Linux, it can run Debian.

Mandrake: Pentium minimum, 32 (text install) or 64 MB RAM, 65 MB (minimum) to 800 MB hard disk space.

Red Hat: Pentium minimum, 32 (text) or 64 MB RAM, 650 MB (minimum) 2.5 GB (recommended) 4.5 GB (full) hard disk space.

Slackware: 386 minimum, 16 MB RAM, 50 MB hard disk space.

SuSe: 486DX minimum, 48-64 MB RAM, 400 MB to 3 GB (2 GB recommended) of hard disk space.

FreeBSD: 386 minimum, 5 MB of RAM, 60 MB of hard disk space.

Monday, July 01, 2002

[ 2:49 PM ]

The trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has now been released for real (see previous entry). I am an Ewok, having discovered Threepio.

[ 2:38 PM ]

It's currently 32°C and supposed to reach 35°C (see Ottawa's current weather). My new apartment, being in the basement, is much better than the old one in terms of keeping everything cool — it's still in the mid-twenties in there, which means that the snakes' cages have their heat turned off, but I do not worry about their brains addling — but even so, I'm not at all bothered to be at work today, in my nice, air-conditioned office tower (which is, incidentally, as tall as a sequoia — or is that the other way around). Because I was on course last week, and announced that fact to my cow-orkers, it came as no surprise (since irony rules the universe) that several urgent files presented themselves that I need to take care of before work starts again tomorrow, so here I am.

Apropos of which, it's supposed to be 36°C tomorrow. I'm coming in shorts; screw the dress code. (Puzzled civil servants ask, "There's a dress code?")

[ 10:05 AM ]

It's not that I think that Mac users aren't interested in politics, it's just that I don't visit Mac sites to read political commentary. I also don't visit reptile sites to learn about how to install Linux on antiquated hardware, or computer gaming sites to learn about the latest efforts to keep Amtrak afloat. If I want political commentary, I'm going to go elsewhere to get it; and if you provide political commentary in a place where I'm looking for Mac content, then I will stop going there for the Mac content, because you're providing less of what I came there to read. (I will leave aside for the moment the question of whether political commentary on a Mac site is actually worth reading in and of itself.)

[ 8:13 AM ]

Saw Wild California at the IMAX last night with Jen and a couple of her friends. Replete with the usual vertigo-inducing shots and other stunning imagery that you expect from such films. I was particularly impressed with the sequoia footage, which reminded me how much I was interested in the ginormous trees when I was young. Something else to investigate further.

I forgot to switch off my cell phone during the film; fortunate indeed that my brother didn't call until later!