August 2001

Friday, August 31, 2001

[ 2:17 AM ]

Of course, the day I picked to fly WestJet from Ottawa to Calgary was the day that WestJet's flight dispatch server went down. Every flight was grounded and flight plans had to be done manually, one at a time. You can imagine the effect; I, on the other hand, experienced it. My flight, Flight 111, was two hours late getting out of Ottawa, and nearly six hours late getting out of Hamilton.

With the delay in Ottawa, I was stuck at Hamilton's airport for four and a half hours. This is not a good airport for it: it's essentially a cargo airport with a passenger terminal tacked on as an afterthought. Kelowna's airport was more civilized. It was woefully inadequate to looking after four planes' worth of boarding and connecting passengers: there were people strewn across the crowded makeshift (there was construction) departure area.

WestJet's staff were extremely apologetic, but the problem was that since the server could have come back up at any time, they couldn't tell us to go away and have fun at the bar for a couple of hours. We had to be ready to go on a few minutes notice, and such a constant state of readiness was problematic after a few hours. Nor were we given any options other than waiting. Rumour has it that rebooking on an other airline — hardly an option in Hamilton — would only occur in emergencies. Refunds for the trip — even if completed — were also rumoured to have been offered, but only on demand. (Free liquor on the flight afterward, but that was not generally announced either.) Certainly vouchers were offered when flights were cancelled, but one got the impression that the airline looked after its stranded passengers only within carefully cost-controlled parameters. Cookies and jokes over the intercom can only go so far.

Thursday, August 30, 2001

[ 12:16 AM ]

Finally finished newsletter. Now I must pace the apartment while I fret about what to take with me "tomorrow" (later this morning). This is in lieu of packing, you see.

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

[ 4:44 PM ]

I'm debating whether to attend the reptile show in Red Deer on Saturday. It would be interesting, and I might actually find a critter or two (then what?), but it would mean one less hiking day. Must figure out my priorities for this trip.

In the meantime, I'm in a mad scramble to get everything settled before I go. Finishing files up at work, even toying with the idea of cleaning my desk. Then home to finish the newsletter. And making sure my gadgetry works over there. Plus, oh yes, packing.

[ 10:05 AM ]

The Ottawa Citizen covers the blue racer controversy on Pelee Island. I've been to Pelee Island and worked on Ben's property, so I'm not only interested, I'm involved. The thought that these snakes may have been killed in retaliation chills my blood. I never got to see a racer in the wild when I was there. I may have to go much farther afield to see one. Discuss it here. You can see a picture of a blue racer on Ben's site. Chad has a set of pages about racers and coachwhips which includes a care sheet for those crazy enough to keep these aggressive, high-strung animals. (Yes. Someday.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

[ 5:57 PM ]

That was exciting. Food fights are definitely a problem with baby ribbon snakes. Here is what Florence just had to deal with. She was hand-feeding one of our three baby northern ribbons live fish in the cage. Another came over to try to snatch the fish away. It missed, and latched onto the first ribbon's head. The first snake's head ended up entirely within the second snake's mouth. She separated them by dousing them under the tap. In the long run they should be none the worse for wear; even tiny little ribbon snakes are tougher than they look. But they'll probably have to be fed individually from now on. She's managed to feed a pair of banded water snakes and a pair of Butler's garter snakes in the same cage by keeping them apart or otherwise occupied. But ribbons are apparently quicker, and we've got three of them. Ribbons are also much more visually attuned than other natricines; just look at the eyes on them.

[ 10:47 AM ]

What do Newt Gingrich and I have in common? (Perish the thought.) Both of us write reviews on Amazon. Here are his; here are mine. (More on Newt's reviews at Plastic, where I found out about it, and in the news article to which Plastic refers.)

[ 10:39 AM ]

"I proved, using geometric logic, that a duplicate key did exist." In spite of the growing consensus that the Cornwall pedophile ring never existed except in the imaginations of those who believed in a conspiracy organized by the Catholic Church, MPP Garry Guzzo maintains that there were homemade kiddie-porn videotapes � since conveniently destroyed by the police, of course � that proved the ring's existence. And this guy used to be a judge?

Had a pedophilia item in this blog last week, too. That's just squicky.

[ 10:06 AM ]

"It's a story few men can hear without scrunching their faces, crossing their legs and gasping." A man was assaulted by his girlfriend: she "got a hold of her partner's testicles and yanked so hard she tore them from his scrotum." She's facing aggravated assault charges. This article is titled "That was quite the birthday present" � a quote from a police officer. I ask you: if this had been a story about female circumcision, say, would the article have been titled "That was quite the puberty initiation ritual"? Would the article have begun with sympathy pangs? I've seen this with other reports on similar assaults: what, exactly, makes male genital mutilation so goddamn funny?

Update: According to this follow-up report from Reuters, they were not, in fact, ripped clean off. Still plenty to object to in the tone of the Globe's story, though, which was my original point.

[ 10:00 AM ]

Feeling better. The pain has subsided enough for me to come to work this morning. Good thing, too: the water went off again this morning. This has happened a few times during the construction, always in the morning, almost always without warning. Grumble. At least we were showered before it went off. A little resourcefulness and a bit of water in the fridge allowed us to brush our teeth and me to trim my beard. (I didn't shave while at home. It's been six days. I trimmed the fuzz off my neck to look less scruffy and feel less itchy.) So now I'm at work, and feeling surprisingly well rested, alert and upbeat.

Monday, August 27, 2001

[ 11:34 AM ]

I should talk some more about the baby northern ribbon snakes. We've kept three. They defy my expectations of how a ribbon snake should behave. Ribbon snakes are active and curious, but they're also nervous as hell and hate being handled, which in my opinion makes them poor snakes for beginners. Was going to write a short article for some herp club newsletter to that end. And yet these little critters are astonishing. Of course they're jumpy when you loom over their cage, but they are reasonably calm when handled and will even take fish from your hand. I would never have expected this.

This is in sharp contrast to our single western ribbon snake, subspecies and sex unconfirmed, who, wild-caught and taken through the pet trade, still bites, musks and death-rolls when handled. We've had it since January. Also refuses to eat anything but live fish, whereas two of the three northern ribbon babies will eat fish fillet from tongs.

Simply being born in captivity may be the cause. Captive-bred snakes are almost always calmer than their wild counterparts, and this is apparently quite noticeable with the more nervous species (e.g. Coluber, Masticophis). But their mother was like this to some extent, though we only had her for a few weeks before we handed her off to Jeff and Jenny, and she was gravid or immediately post-partum throughout, so it's hard to be conclusive.

I may still write that ribbon snake article, but it's going to be a lot more interesting than I thought.

[ 10:05 AM ]

I tried Celebrex last year. I found it benign (no side effects), expensive, and in the end, ineffective. Now it turns out that it may also increase the risk of heart attacks.

Yet another annoying thing about ankylosing spondylitis: the cure is often more deadly than the disease. Thousands die every year from the NSAIDs they take for arthritic conditions like mine. Decades ago, using radiation proved quite effective, but it doubled the risk of getting leukemia. Now this. One wonders whether it would be safer just to let the bloody spine fuse, except that it hurts so much.

Still in pain, still at home.

Sunday, August 26, 2001

[ 4:09 PM ]

The pain continues. Today I've been working on the latest issue of The OHS News, probably the last one I'll do. It's going well, better than I thought. It'll be a shorter issue than usual, but the pieces are at least coming together nicely. My goal is to get it finished before I leave for Calgary, and I expect I'll make it.

Saturday, August 25, 2001

[ 1:54 PM ]

Still gobsmacked by the pain, at home and feeling cagey, trying to fight off boredom as much as pain and discomfort. I'm reading the news online, as usual. Lots of Canadian newspaper coverage on Tubby's sale of his half of the Post to Izzy, and What This Means for Canadian Journalism. (It means (a) cuts at the Post and (b) a more pro-government slant than previously, what did you expect? Duh.) Journalists would rather talk about journalism than anything else. The CBC is a blatant exemplar, but you know, everyone likes to talk shop.

In the meantime I've stumbled across some neat stuff about faraway places. Cleo Paskal, who writes for the Tubby, has this interesting page on media in small countries (i.e. Iceland, Kiribati [pronounced "Kiribass"], Samoa) on her web site. And the Globe's Ian Brown has a nice long article on what it's like to live in Djibouti, and actually does quite a good job at describing what 50�C feels like to Canadians. Vivid. Wow. Go read it before the link expires.

Friday, August 24, 2001

[ 2:02 PM ]

Another wrongful conviction overturned, this one for rape. The problem? Taking at face value the testimony of an unreliable witness. Read the story in today's Ottawa Citizen and La Blatchford's analysis in Le Tubby. Blatchford drives home the point that Ms. Fordham's testimony was taken at face value simply because she was a woman alleging sexual assault. I'm not in a position to say whether that was in fact the case, as she asserts, but in general no evidence, of course, should ever be beyond question. It seems awfully easy for the innocent to get convicted, and each case makes me wonder why a little less. This system seems downright sloppy about its application of the principle of "proof beyond reasonable doubt". Now, don't get me started about why all of this conclusively argues against capital punishment!

[ 9:38 AM ]

At home again this morning: walking still painful, so I applied the benchmark (see yesterday). Have raised my daily dose of naproxen to 1500 mg � the most, I'm told, the human body can metabolize in a day � which should get this damned flare under control before long. After that I'll be able to exercise, and since by this time next week I'll be adjacent to the mountains, I'll be strongly motivated to exercise, too. Here's hoping.

[ 9:34 AM ]

With all the harrumphing and hysteria over J. Chr�tien's recent comments in Edmonton about Alberta's prosperity and its impact on its neighbours � right-wing loonytoons raising the spectre of the NEP, talking about the damn firewall again, cursing the Liberals unto the nth generation, etc., etc. � how fortunate we are to have Hughie Winsor of ye Globe and Mail, who explaineth things succinctly, clearly, and fairly:

To an Ottawa-trained ear, that sounded like he was defending the existing system of equalization payments in which richer provinces are taxed to support less rich provinces (a system that some Albertans such as potential Alliance leadership candidate Stephen Harper have questioned). It could also have been a plea for Alberta to stop outbidding neighbouring provinces for doctors and other services.

But to an Albertan ear, that sounded like a warning that Ottawa was planning a new scheme to skim off and redistribute more of Alberta's wealth, something akin to a new national energy program. That produced a sufficient eruption in the chattering classes that the provincial government had to rush out a disclaimer.
In my opinion, Canadian politics can best be explained in psychological terms, where discontented groups lay out lengthy lists of grievances (we're being humiliated, ignored, pushed around, taken for granted) that have more in common with the insecurities of children of dysfunctional families acting out in therapy than in reality, and in historical terms, where the humiliations of twenty, thirty, eighty years ago are more relevant than the present situation. A potent combination, this. Note that I am not singling out any region or group � this is simply the standard operating bullshit for politics in this country.

Oh well. At least we're not going nuts about some missing intern.

Thursday, August 23, 2001

[ 8:43 AM ]

In too much pain to go to work this morning. Once again I'm having trouble walking. I think that may well be the standard against which I judge whether I'm too sick to go in or not. It's hard to tell with a chronic illness, you know? When you're in pain pretty much every day, it's hard to decide that this level of pain is too much to endure at work, but that level of pain is not. I don't exactly have unlimited sick leave, so it's a good idea for me to be judicious in my use of it. At the same time, I shouldn't drag myself to work when I'm in agony. It's subjective, of course, but at least the ability to walk (or lack thereof) gives me a benchmark of sorts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

[ 3:44 PM ]

Conventional wisdom in the reptile hobby should never be taken too seriously. Rubber boas are usually declared to be unpopular, and yet some of us are really keen on getting some, if this thread is any indication. And it is. Part of the problem is breeders who follow the popular. Look at what has happened with leopard geckos in Ontario: they're everywhere. I'd hate to be a leopard gecko breeder in this market. But for the "unpopular" stuff, demand, small as it may be, can far exceed the supply.

[ 3:36 PM ]

Three Tom Lehrer CDs arrived yesterday: An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, Revisited, and That Was The Year That Was. The live recordings. Decided to eschew the recent boxed set for some reason. Listening to them now, they don't seem as funny as they did when I was younger. Am I simply more jaded or too depressed (back problems) to appreciate humour right now?

Incidentally, that'll be the last order I make from Chapters/Indigo for a while. Sufficiently fed up with lack of selection and delivery delays, which is a fatal mistake given that Amazon's service to Canada has improved.

Monday, August 20, 2001

[ 10:53 AM ]

My left hip is doing better, in that I could walk to work this morning without having to hang on to someone, but I'm doing far from well. Right now, for example, my rib cage has flared up. Deep breathing is painful. Other bits of me hurt, too, of course, but that's what's catching my attention at the moment. Ow. And so much to do this week, too.

[ 10:05 AM ]

Satire is successful only when it offends. Brass Eye's satire of the British hysteria over pedophiles has been denounced, its creator vilified, etc., etc. Struck a nerve, did we? Well done. Read Salon's article about it.

Sunday, August 19, 2001

[ 8:30 AM ]

My left hip's gone off this morning. Trying to walk is exciting.

[ 8:18 AM ]

Have finally done something about taking a vacation. On Friday night I booked a flight with WestJet to Calgary. I leave on Thursday, August 30 and return on Monday, September 10 � assuming, of course, that I get the time off. I don't expect that to be a problem, though (otherwise I wouldn't have booked first and requested leave later). I'll be going alone, which makes certain things easier logistically (the critters get looked after, and Flo doesn't have any vacation time yet) and allows me to be on my own enough that I might finally be able to do some writing.

Since I'll be staying at my mother's apartment, trying to write would pose some technical difficulties, viz., she doesn't have a computer. My brother volunteered, but I know all too well that a big computer with high-speed access would be all too tempting a distraction from writing. My planned solution was to use my Palm m505 � it's got a dandy little word processor, WordSmith � but I lacked the requisite accessories. Couldn't find them, either. But yesterday morning, before my haircut, I finally found them: a folding keyboard and a modem (that connects to phone lines; it's not wireless). This way, browsing is limited enough on the Palm that it won't tempt me too much, but I'll still get my e-mail. So I'm quite pleased.

Friday, August 17, 2001

[ 11:54 AM ]

More on the really neat explosions just outside our apartment. La Flo witnessed the following:

I was able to watch more from the bedroom window a few minutes ago. The guy who was to set the detonation didn't quite seem satisfied after the four warning whistles. He checked a few things, got the "all clear" signal, then set the detonation. Guess what! He was right about checking and could have asked his colleagues to be more thorough. The mat wasn't quite adjusted as it should have been. A big chunk of rock flew accross the restaurant's parking lot and ended on the restaurant wall. Impressive! Aahhhhhhhhh! Wouldn't have wanted to be outside. The "detonator guy" seemed to be saying to his colleagues: "Told you!"
I'm glad none of our windows face the street!

[ 11:47 AM ]

We've kicked in at Magma's DNS now, so we can see it from home. Geoff reports he can see it from work in Calgary. I imagine it won't be long before DNS distribution is universal.

[ 9:48 AM ]

AvantGo and Transport Canada nameservers have picked up the site again; Magma's still haven't. Which means I can access the site from my Palm and from work but not yet from home. Much faster than I had hoped: I was expecting Saturday at the earliest, Monday at the latest.

Thursday, August 16, 2001

[ 1:27 PM ]

They're blowing up the street in front of our apartment, part of a watermain/sewer/road reconstruction project that'll last at least a year if I remember correctly. So far all we've heard are a series of whistles warning of its approach, a rumble, and a single whistle signalling all clear (presumably). Flo got to see a bit more this afternoon:

Just as I was going up the stairs, I heard the alarm going off, indicating they were ready to widen the hole in front of our building. Interesting. The old tire mats are used to prevent the rock from being projected all over the place. Mat jumped a fair bit.
I was wondering what they were using those big mats for. They're stitched together from pieces of old tire.

It goes without saying that, during construction work, the noise levels render the apartment rather uninhabitable. It starts around seven each morning. Definitely an encouragement to go to work. I think it's a conspiracy.

[ 9:36 AM ]

The site will be up and running again by the time you read this (obviously), but it will be/has been down for a few days while the nameservers adjust to its new location. I've changed hosting companies.

You may have noticed that my log entries have been rather patchy of late; part of the reason for that has been technical problems at, my former hosting company. FTP authentication problems meant that for most of the month of August I had been unable to upload files (or log entries) to the server. They couldn't get it fixed, I spent days unable to touch my own files, access was sporadic at best � finally, I lost patience earlier this week. Sent a fax cancelling my service yesterday morning. While they couldn't fix the technical problems at all, and took days to respond to my questions, that they looked after right away: the site was down by the time I got home from work. I wouldn't wish's level of service on my worst enemy.

I didn't think they'd pull the plug that quickly, so I had to look around for another provider. I settled on DreamHost, which hosts Tranquileye, the author of which I am acquainted with. The price was good and I got the impression that they weren't quite so mind-destroyingly corporate, had a good relationship with their clients, and had lots of online help. That's my first impression, at least. I got set up very quickly last night; I was impressed at how quickly and efficiently that was done. By now, all my files are uploaded. I'm just waiting for the nameservers.

Monday, August 13, 2001

[ 2:13 PM ]

Spent the weekend driving to and from Toronto. Busy, therefore no log entries. Dropped off some European history books chez Sam; he still has a use for them, whereas I do not. Delivered baby garter snakes to happy customers. Picked up some supplies. Didn't get enough sleep. Staying awake is painful right now.

Friday, August 10, 2001

[ 9:51 AM ]

If I were to write that cultural history of facial hair, the U.S. punditocracy's collective fit over Gore's new whiskers would be a gold mine of material. I can't keep up with all the commentary written about it. Here's a good one in Slate by Michael Brus, which deals with the question of why beards are controversial in the first place with considerable ability. At this rate, that cultural history will be written after all, but not by me.

Thursday, August 09, 2001

[ 8:33 PM ]

It's 36�C in here! Aaaaaahh! Switch everything electrical off, they're generating too much heat! That's right, everyth�

[ 3:27 PM ]

Many baby corns have now eaten their second live pinky. Flo is ecstatic.

[ 12:07 PM ]

I am skeptical of the claims apparently made in a lawsuit filed yesterday in California that certain Palm handhelds can blow out the motherboards of the PCs to which they are attached. The ensuing discussion (in reaction to this Palm Infocenter article) suggests that the problem (if it exists; many are skeptical) is Palms connected via the USB port to Dell computers. I have a Dell Dimension 4100, and a Palm m505 connected to it by USB (as well as a Palm m105 connected by serial), so if this claim is true I should be worried. But I have a hard time believing the claim � not without more information, certainly.

[ 11:20 AM ]

Starlight 3 arrived from Amazon yesterday, and so far I've read two of the stories therein. Both of which I'd heard much about in Locus's review of this anthology, both of which are wonderful. So I have to talk about them ASAP.

Andy Duncan's "Senator Bilbo" is a marvellous little riff on politics, race and xenophobia, set in a modern Shire. It's osmium cheesecake, meaning-dense and lovely, and profound. Not, as you might have expected, simply a critique of Tolkien's own racial politics (D�nedain/Eldar vs. Southron/Easterling/Dunlending); this is a clear allegory of modern times � something Tolkien hated having LOTR characterized as.

Then there's the Ted Chiang story, "Hell Is the Absence of God". Chiang is an astonishing writer. He has written few stories (by my count this is only his sixth), and almost all of them have been up for major awards. "Story of Your Life" (Starlight 2) won the Nebula and "Seventy-two Letters" (Vanishing Acts) is up for the Hugo this year, but "Hell Is the Absence of God," in my opinion, is even better than either of these. Simply told, direct, and so, so emotionally powerful. If it fails to sweep the awards next year I will be pissed.

Fourteen more stories to go in this collection; will keep you posted.

[ 10:18 AM ]

More on beards in politics (viz., the lack thereof) from turbofascistic Tubby columnist (and bearded one) Mark Steyn, who detects the systemic exclusion of the hairy from political life and as a result finds Gore, with his new facial shrubbery, "the most courageous politician in the Western world." I shudder to find myself in agreement with him.

Tuesday, August 07, 2001

[ 4:13 PM ]

What do you think: does Al Gore look better with a beard? (Let's just leave aside the na�ve notion that physical appearance is irrelevant to politics, shall we?) I think it works, personally.

Note, though, how most major political figures of the postwar era have been clean-shaven. There's a story to be told about the cultural significance of facial hair, and the way it's changed over time. At one point I had hoped to write it � it seemed a rather neat cultural history project that I could embark on once the nasty business of publishing and tenure in one's own field was done with.

I've had a rather problematic relationship with facial hair myself. I rather like the look but my facial follicles aren't real cooperative about it, and leave me with something that could best be described as a fuzzy caterpillar hanging off my chin. I sported that for a year and a bit � from the fall of 1995 to November 1996 or thereabouts � and the number of people who liked it throughout that period was in the single digits. The number of people who complimented me once I shaved it off was not. During that I got the impression that women were not neutral about facial hair, strictly love or hate. Flo is definitely in the "hate" column. I hate shaving but I value my life.

[ 1:21 PM ]

Trout eat rattlesnakes? That's what Gaylon Holmes discovered. He talks about it in this article about the Prairie Rattlesnake, Crotalus viridis viridis:

Interestingly, I have observed two instances of predation upon C. v. viridis by rainbow trout. Both of these cases involved fish caught by sportsmen that revealed young prairie rattlesnakes in the stomach of the fish. Both rattlesnakes were males and appeared to be less than two years old. This is not so surprising as the prairie rattlesnake is an accomplished swimmer and frequently crosses the many small waterways of Wyoming. Most riparian regions of the state are small and isolated by large expanses of prairie and C. v. viridis are attracted to these areas during years of low rodent populations as well as for hydration.
The article is nearly a year old, but I just stumbled across it, and thought this passage in particular was very interesting.

[ 12:52 PM ]

Some of the people on our corn snake waiting list are getting impatient. They're wondering what's taking so long. It's taking the baby corns longer than we expected to start eating. Partly that's due to our inexperience and lack of supply of live pinky mice. Six of the remaining 13 have now eaten live pinkies, but that's their first meal ever. How long it will take to get them over to thawed, I don't know yet. This is our first year breeding corn snakes and we're making all kinds of mistakes, but we're learning. One thing I do know: I won't sell any snakes before they're ready. If that annoys potential customers, so be it; I care more about the snake's well-being than I do about satisfying an impatient customer. There would be something very wrong if it were otherwise; these are, after all, living creatures.

[ 7:08 AM ]

Flattery will get you everywhere. Mike Lyon saw my garters at Paul's zoo the other day, and has posted some pictures and said some nice things.

[ 6:54 AM ]

Let me complain about the weather just a little bit. It's freakin' hot. Too hot. Impossible to be comfortable at home. Always covered in a thin coat of sweat-derived slime. Dropping ice cubes in snake cages all day. This is really unpleasant. I've lived without air conditioning on the prairies, but I've never encountered anything as vicious as this, and on a sustained basis, before coming here. I am becoming more heat tolerant, but the combined heat/humidity always manages to stay one step ahead of me, and I am always uncomfortable. I find it perverse that 29�C now feels cool; I'm far too Nordic for that!

[ 6:43 AM ]

The title for Star Wars: Episode II has been announced: it's Attack of the Clones. Hmm. Sounds a bit off. Didn't much like the title "Phantom Menace" either, but this one sounds even more hack.

Monday, August 06, 2001

[ 12:42 PM ]

Space has stopped broadcasting Babylon 5, and Flo is going into withdrawal. As a result she will not be budging from the couch during the B5 marathon this afternoon. She's most despondent; I may have to feed her tie-in novels until they start releasing episodes in DVD later this year. Go visit The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5 if this sort of thing interests you.

[ 9:01 AM ]

Globe and Mail columnist David Macfarlane comes up with a brilliant metaphor (link may not be permanent) to understand why rest of the country's resents Toronto: the CN Tower's blinking lights. "Finally, I realize. I understand. It's not the tower itself, it's the arrogance of the assumption that nobody would like to look at anything else."

Sunday, August 05, 2001

[ 7:33 PM ]

When it comes to forum postings, this is just the sort of thing to make me hit the roof. Can you blame me? (Update: These messages have since been deleted by the webmaster.)

[ 1:51 PM ]

Paul came over again last night. He bought a pair of red-sided garters on behalf of a young member of his junior herp club. He took four of the nine baby ribbon snakes. And he bought four more red-sided garters for himself � that's a total of ten! I guess he likes them. And it can't hurt our bottom line if our garters are featured in public at his facility . . .

Saturday, August 04, 2001

[ 5:36 PM ]

Paul and Sheri came over last night to help determine the sex of our baby garter snakes and pick a few out for themselves. The total came to 18.27 � that means 18 males and 27 females. Interestingly, a 2:3 sex ratio that was consistent with both females: 10.15 from one female (not including one stillborn, possibly one eaten by a male and one post-natal fatality) and 8.12 from the other female (not including four post-natal fatalities).

Now that we know the snakes' sexes, we can offer them for sale (many people want mated pairs). So the advertising juggernaut begins, wherein I push these snakes for all they're worth.

Paul never fails at being enthusiastic, and last night was no exception. This is a guy who works with Gila monsters, rattlesnakes, arboreal vipers, and more species of crocodile, monitor and tortoise than you probably have ever heard of. Yet he was absolutely delighted with our babies, and wanted more than the six females he took last night. (All females, to help de-skew the sex ratio for me and to prevent him having hundreds of baby garters in a couple years' time.) He even took the snake with the stub tail, which was nonetheless a pretty one apart from her injury.

Flash forward to this morning. Paul calls me to say that he fed his six garters in front of a rapt audience of younguns, and that they performed as promised: ravenous little monsters. He's completely smitten with them, and wants more (!), essentially as an animal he and his staff can take to shows to demonstrate feeding. (Currently he uses chameleons, I believe.) Certainly these snakes wouldn't get tired of eating earthworms, and it'd be really hard to overfeed them on worm. No doubt these snakes believe they've died and gone to heaven.

In related news, all ribbon snake babies have been spoken for. Except for a couple we're keeping for ourselves, they're going to a couple of educational programs/zoos.

[ 10:56 AM ]

I'm pleased to announce the arrival of nine apparently healthy northern ribbon snake babies this morning. No stillborns, no slugs. Ribbon snakes have smaller litters of larger babies than do common garter snakes; the average is eleven or so. These babies are very thin (of course) but surprisingly long � around as long as our garter babies, which are nearly three months old. The mother is only about two feet long, and was tremendously fat before birth. (For a ribbon, this is saying something!) During the birthing process, you could actually count the lumps of baby as she passed them.

[ 9:14 AM ]

Our gravid northern ribbon snake is giving birth right now. Details to follow.

Friday, August 03, 2001

[ 7:10 PM ]

The poxy back is improving; those lengthy noontime walks I've been taking must be helping. They must be; my calf muscles are aching like mad. (It's called exercise, son.) Will pick the bike up from the shop soon; maybe I'll even ride it this year. I've been getting Uriah Heeps of advice about my ankylosing spondylitis � my pharmacist today strongly suggested acupuncture � but the fact remains that I should be exercising more, and exercise helps. (I often tell the story of how a week's worth of intensive hiking in the mountains in September 1999 meant that I felt no pain for three weeks afterward. You'd think with such a clearly established connection, I'd exercise more. But no, instead I do my best to resemble a blancmange.)

[ 7:00 PM ]

A couple of days ago F. and I decided that money was shorter than anticipated and vacation time (since she just started a new job) was problematic, so our long-planned (or at least long-hypothesized) trip to Calgary and adjoining neato mountains in early September was probably not going to work. F. nevertheless was insistent that I in particular needed a vacation away from the daily demands of home, and suggested getting away for a week to some retreat or other to try to get some writing done. I've investigated Kingston as the most likely possibility: accessible, enough to do to keep me busy when not writing. Tracking down potential accomodations is proving most annoying: nearly every hotel and B&B is more expensive than I'd like, and nearly all of them subscribe to a Victorian-tea-room decor that might be charming if it wasn't so motherfucking ubiquitous. When I talked to my father about the idea he couldn't for the life of him understand why I simply didn't go to those abovementioned revered mountains instead. So now I'm real conflicted about it, as it were. Will figure it out eventually, maybe even in time to do something about it.

[ 5:36 PM ]

SF author Poul Anderson died on Tuesday from prostate cancer. He was 74. Regrettably I have read very little of his work; no doubt my father is shaking his head in dismay at that fact. Someday I must rectify that. Someone lend me a copy of Tau Zero!

[ 10:30 AM ]

Up late talking to my father, sleepy this morning � can't sleep in, almost always awake at 6:20 am regardless of the amount of sleep I've had, because of the heat, light, construction and birds. Note to self not to stay up late. Saw doctor this morning, replenished naproxen supply.

[ 8:11 AM ]

I'm of two minds regarding the report that the mountain pine beetle has been found in Banff. On the one hand, shit, there goes my park. On the other, the park is basically overforested after decades of fire suppression and a little clearing out, whether through cutting and burning infected trees or through the infestation itself, is probably not a bad thing in the long run. Note that CBC Online's report focuses on the impact on the Alberta timber industry, not the park.

Thursday, August 02, 2001

[ 6:26 PM ]

Three books arrived from Amazon yesterday: The Essential Ellison: A 50 Year Retrospective by Harlan Ellison, an expansion of the previous 35-year retrospective that includes such latter-day gems as "Mephisto in Onyx" and "Xenogenesis"; The Jaguar Hunter by Lucius Shepard, his first collection (I now have all three), now including a recent story, "Radiant Green Star," which I've yet to read; and a cookbook on Louisiana cooking, Louisiana Real and Rustic by bam-boy Emeril Lagasse � I want to learn more about the cuisine, and this book looks like it'll do the trick. No customs/GST charges on this order � Amazon seems to be shipping to Canadians from Windsor. Another book due shortly; we'll see if this holds true.

[ 3:36 PM ]

A teacher writes regarding my entry on physical education in schools as a way to combat obesity:

This particular issue has become somewhat of a "cause" for me, as you know. Most of those kids are eating shit at home and at school and not sleeping most of the night because of their parents' irresponsible lifestyles. They don't have the energy for even one hour of gym classes. Just brutal. I took a group of grade ones on a nature walk and they were winded five minutes into it. What the hell? I will announce, however, that the way gym is being taught has changed since we were kids. Very little emphasis on team games and sports and more instruction on flexibility, movement and free-play. Yippee!
It strikes me that the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction (typically), like whole language as a response to oppressive grammar teaching. Anyway, she goes on to say:
And another thing, some of them were getting so fat that tying their own shoes from a bending-over position was difficult. They constantly lean on doors and walls and are complaining already about back problems! What an ugly picture. Then I met some parents . . . yikes.
You know, this makes me feel positively healthy. But I have some idea about the class background of some of her students and that's a factor: the working class/poor tend to be (a) more obese and (b) less worried about it, apparently.

[ 11:26 AM ]

Peaches, an adult male snow corn snake, died last night, possibly at the very moment Florence was giving him his medicine. Cause of death is probably a long-term and massive Giardia infection coupled with possible organ damage from an overheating accident with his previous owners about a year ago. He was sick when we got him last December and his prognosis was poor even then; it's probably to our credit that we've managed to keep him going for another seven and a half months. Florence wishes, nonetheless, that we could have done more � that we could have recognized his problem as a Giardia infection in the first place rather than just organ damage, that we could have treated him earlier. But then we didn't know how little time we had left, how far gone he was when we took him to the vet. And for all we know the Flagyl was too much for his weakened system. He's done now, anyway.