December 2001

Saturday, December 29, 2001

[ 6:54 PM ]

A public beta of Palm Desktop for Mac OS X has been released (see coverage at MacSlash and Palm Infocenter). And the user community rejoiced, and crashed the FTP servers besides. My verdict? It works quite well, save for some strange record duplication that I can't explain but is easily fixed. My biggest gripe is that, true to the reports, apart from the OS X conduit, it's just a carbonized version of the old Palm Desktop 2.6.1, which I never particularly liked: it's less functional than the PC version, and it's rather ugly, too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2001

[ 8:16 AM ]

The Economist on Nauru: "For a brief, heady moment in the 1970s, Nauruans were, astonishingly, among the richest people on earth. Now they are poverty-stricken, unhealthy and look set to be clobbered by international trade sanctions. The story of Nauru's descent from prosperity to penury is one of the most cautionary tales of modern development." A sad story about a small Pacific island I always found interesting.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

[ 10:35 AM ]

Too much fun: design your own O'Reilly book cover. If you don't know, O'Reilly books are those computer manuals with the wonderful animal woodcuts on the cover.

[ 9:55 AM ]

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a very fine film and is worth seeing. Liberties taken with the original plot are justifiable given the compression of the storyline and the transfer to a visual rather than literary medium. The acting is very fine; the weak spot is probably Liv Tyler, but that's only because she is merely very good while everyone else is beyond insanely great. Characterization, while not loyal to the book, is quite strong. The visuals are stunning, if a bit vertigo-inducing, and some of the computer-generated effects look like computer-generated effects. Some outright terrifying moments in what is supposed to be the least intense volume. The level of detail — clothing, landmarks, Elvish pronunciation — is astonishing and speaks well of the loving attention paid to the project. When I saw it opening night (surrounded by teenagers who would not shut up), it knocked my brain over. Too much to process. Will have to see it again. And possibly again. Go and see it, goddammit; it's much better than Harry Potter.

[ 9:50 AM ]

Yesterday was Florence's birthday, which we and a few friends celebrated last night at the Fish Market, a local seafood restaurant. Seafood being a very safe bet with Florence. Enough so that she'll make a habit of that restaurant again, I think.

[ 9:43 AM ]

Pipe Dreams: the Afghan oil pipeline conspiracy theory debunked. Seth Stevenson tracks the abrupt volte-face by conspiracy theorists from "we're supporting the Taliban so that we can build an oil pipeline across Afghanistan" to "we're bombing the Taliban so that we can build an oil pipeline across Afghanistan".

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

[ 8:40 PM ]

Already have tickets for The Fellowship of the Ring tomorrow night. Ready, pumped.

[ 7:41 PM ]

Omniglot is a guide to writing systems — alphabets, adjads, scripts, hieroglyphics and the like, everything from Chinese to Inuktitut to about a zillion things more obscure in between — and it is a wonderful and fascinating web site. (Via MetaFilter, where it was one of the finest posts seen there — kudos to Graham!).

[ 7:24 PM ]

Many herpers rely on PhotoPoint to host their images of their critters. When PhotoPoint went offline a few days ago, they began to panic — apparently several of them didn't have backups on their hard drives.

Monday, December 17, 2001

[ 4:10 PM ]

Go read this excellent and thought-provoking article in Wired about the prevalence of autism and Asperger's Syndrome among the children of Silicon Valley. The questions it raises about genetic predisposition, the tendency towards autism/Asperger's among computer types and creative individuals in general, and the fact that the computer industry allows them more than ever to congregate and, of course, reproduce with one another, has set off a huge (and equally thought-provoking) discussion among the geeks on Slashdot, who see just a little too much of themselves in the portrait the article portrays.

[ 4:03 PM ]

Apple has added DVD/CD-RW combo drives to their Titanium Powerbooks, which makes them that much closer to perfect, though not everyone would agree. For me, while it's a lustworthy machine, I don't need that much power in a portable — thus, the iBook.

[ 6:48 AM ]

Periodically one of our customers writes to let us know how the critter we sold them is doing. I always like hearing from our customers. If you've bought a snake from us, why not drop me a line, especially if I haven't heard from you since the sale?

[ 6:44 AM ]

Florence checked on our hibernating snakes last night, to see how they're doing, change their water, and so forth. Our female Great Basin gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola) was always the most aggressive of our Pituophis, but this time decided to go completely psycho, hissing nonstop, musking constantly, and striking at (and often connecting with) everything and everyone in sight. (They're not all bluff.) Getting a picture of her hissing in open-mouthed threat posture was difficult with my old, slow digital camera, but she was more than willing to linger in the above pose. No harm done to Florence; in fact we found the whole ordeal rather amusing. One surprise: gopher snake musk is pungent.

Roy suggests that snakes are more aggressive/defensive when hibernating, and she is one of our crankier critters. At the show where we picked her up, she tried to kill Brian, after all. I was surprised that she would be so active at 14°C.

Saturday, December 15, 2001

[ 8:03 AM ]

Ralph Klein gets warm 'n' toasty during dinner (I remember reading while living in Edmonton that he said he drank a bottle of wine a day), stops by a homeless shelter, starts cussing at the homeless, makes the paper (and then some) and ends up farked. What's that ticking sound, you say?

Friday, December 14, 2001

[ 7:52 PM ]

Increased security requirements are forcing train passengers to cross the border by bus. Passengers on the "International", a joint Amtrak/VIA train between Toronto and Chicago, are ferried across the border at Sarnia/Port Huron by bus to meet inspection requirements. Rail advocates point out that this does not occur at other border crossings, and that the least the rail companies could do is advise passengers ahead of time. (The fellow who posted this on a railroad forum didn't indicate his source; I wish he had.)

[ 7:37 PM ]

Extremely funny things on the web, via Boing Boing: AccordionGuy's response to a spammer seeking time travellers; and this imaginative use of PowerPoint to complain about awful hotel service. Enjoy!

[ 7:26 PM ]

If this is any indication, it looks as though Time Cube may be on the cusp of becoming the biggest thing on the Net since "All Your Base Are Belong to Us." Unless it already has and I've missed it and came too late to the party (as was the case with me and "All Your Base" as well).

[ 7:21 PM ]

I've just installed a multiple chat client for OS X called Fire: it apparently supports, with varying degrees of success, AIM, ICQ, IRC, Jabber, MSN and Yahoo! I have accounts with the last two. Send me an e-mail with your chat coordinates if you feel like chatting.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

[ 10:13 AM ]

Blue Nomad has released WordSmith 2.1.1, which includes memory card support, OS X compatibility, and a spellchecker and thesaurus. Palm Infocenter has a review. The OS X compatibility and memory card support will be very useful, but the spellchecker sounds kludgy — fortunately, I don't use spellcheckers anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

[ 10:12 AM ]

Profiles of Canned Foods: Slashdot calls this page "a collection of the strangest canned foods you'll ever see", but it seems awfully mundane to me. Then again, I hang around a lot of ethnic grocery stores.

[ 7:18 AM ]

More and more snakes want to hibernate. Some of the baby red-sided garters are refusing to eat, and we've already decided that the Baird's rat snake and eastern milk snake want a snooze. Our cold closet is full of stackable plastic cages, and there's still more to go.

[ 6:49 AM ]

I've been waiting for a Mac OS X version of Palm Desktop so that I can sync my Palm with my iBook. It's currently out of the question — even under Classic there are problems syncing USB-native Palm handhelds via USB: you can't use the USB port directly, but have to use a serial cable connected to the PalmConnect USB Kit to the USB port. That, or sync by infrared. So OS X compatibility was something I was waiting for with increasing impatience; Palm is promising it by the end of the year, but they've been less than reliable about meeting their schedules before. Now reports are coming in that say that Palm Desktop for OS X will only provide the HotSync conduit — you have to go elsewhere (e.g. Entourage) for a PIM application — and that only the beta will be released this month (final release is apparently scheduled for the first quarter of 2002). Other reports suggest that there will be a Palm Desktop PIM application, but it will simply be a port of the OS 9 version. And among the Mac users there was much grumping, nostalgia for Newtons, and hopes that Steve will have something up his sleeve in this regard next month.

Monday, December 10, 2001

[ 7:39 PM ]

Now that many of our snakes are hibernating, we've been able to move the cages of the snakes who aren't to more desireable locales, viz., not on the floor. This means that some of the more active and responsive performers, like the baby red-sided garters and the glossy snake, can be viewed more easily. We have four baby red-sided garter cages in a row in the living room, at eye level — too much fun.

[ 7:35 PM ]

The iBook can connect directly to the ADSL modem via PPPoE, and quickly and easily, too. Sites unavailable via the network are still unavailable, as are radio stations via iTunes and Software Update. But iDisk mounted easily. I will have to try again via dialup to see if the problem is with Ethernet or the high-speed modem, or if it is elsewhere.

[ 7:29 PM ]

Our desktop PC has been hit by the W32.Magistr.39921@mm virus/worm, via Florence's e-mail. It's a nasty one that not only hits Outlook address books, but also Eudora and Netscape. We've neutralized it, I think. Anyone who has received strange e-mail from Florence since last Thursday should run their anti-virus software and make sure those definitions are up-to-date. (My own e-mail should be immune; I moved it to the iBook on December 1, and this bug doesn't affect Macs, but it may still have hit my old Eudora address book files. Touch wood.)

[ 7:58 AM ]

Steve Bush thinks that Compaq and Microsoft have lied to iPaq owners. When Compaq's iPaq handheld computer was released last year, one of its main selling points was its upgradeability (it has flash ROM), so that upgrades to the Pocket PC software could be flashed onto the old unit. Now it appears that key features of the Pocket PC 2002 upgrade are being denied to iPaq H3600-series owners, and they're hopping mad about it.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

[ 9:02 AM ]

New uses for old computer speakers. We had two sets of computer speakers going to waste; unfortunately "no speakers" was not an option when I ordered the PC from Dell last March. One set is now hooked up to the iBook; the other set, thanks to a $5 cable, is now hooked up to the VCR, and provides somewhat better sound than what emanates from the 13" television. No amplifier required, apparently, for this bargain-basement ad-hoc home theatre system. (A good system would annoy the neighbours � I know this is the case because the neighbours have good subwoofers that shake our apartment. A state-of-the-art system would no doubt cause the building to collapse.) Must try a DVD movie with this and see how it sounds (iBook to VCR to speakers 'n' TV, so many cables).

[ 7:33 AM ]

As Frank foretold a couple of issues ago, Jan Wong takes the piss out of Liberal operative Warren Kinsella in yesterday's "Lunch With" column. I recently read Warren's latest tome, Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics (which, sadly, Amazon does not see fit to stock); I enjoyed it but thought it a little slim. Warren provides surprisingly little dirt, which means that either he is not the consummate insider he implies he is (Wong's thesis), or that he's not telling us anywhere near half the interesting stories he knows (also likely). He's still active and, presumably, does not want to burn any prospective employers' bridges. Keith Davey's Rainmaker showed much more candour. Warren's assessment of the press is not new, but nonetheless useful and entertaining, especially the political press's obsession with process and disdain for policy. But, reading it, you do get the impression that he's trying to impress, too hard. Many of his chapters end with a conversation with "God", i.e., James Carville, who largely serves to back up whatever Warren is arguing — as if to say, "see, Carville agrees with me, so I must be right."

Friday, December 07, 2001

[ 12:40 PM ]

The remains of a 6,000-year-old city have apparently been found off the shore of Cuba. The mind boggles at the possibility of an ancient urban culture in the Americas of the same order of antiquity as Egypt or Sumeria. More to the point, it would be a culture we as yet know nothing about. Head-spinning, mind-expanding stuff.

[ 12:34 PM ]

Current reading: Bruce Sterling, Zeitgeist — months after I bought it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

[ 9:21 AM ]

On November 29, COSEWIC announced updates to its list of species at risk. A detailed description in PDF format is available. Those with an interest in reptiles and amphibians will note that Butler's Garter Snake (Thamnophis butleri), the Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos), the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus) and the Great Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontana) had their designations changed from Special Concern to Threatened (one higher). Meanwhile, Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) were declared Extirpated in Ontario (last seen in 1915) and Endangered in B.C. Plus a few other reevaluations and Not at Risk designations. I keep Butler's Garters; I wonder whether the new designation will make my life more difficult.

Saturday, December 01, 2001

[ 12:25 PM ]

Networking breakthrough over here. No file sharing � will have to get Thursby DAVE 3.1 for that. But I have full web, e-mail and messenger access from the iBook now. Not sure what happened. Firewall and Internet connection sharing are running on the PC. Updated to OS X 10.1.1 here (Software Update doesn't work on the network, so I had to dial in, the horror, the horror) which has some networking improvements, apparently. This morning I simply plugged the ethernet cable into the iBook and I had Internet access within seconds. This is very nice, and I hope it stays this uncomplicated.

[ 10:11 AM ]

Men are not welcome in certain train compartments. In response to attacks on women in late 1999 by a single perpetrator, including two women killed by being thrown out of moving trains, the SNCF offers women-only sleeping compartments on its night trains.