Tuesday, July 31, 2001

[ 4:26 PM ]

A long walk at noon may have helped; at least it hurt less than sitting at my desk for the equivalent amount of time. What is hard for people to understand about ankylosing spondylitis is that activity helps and exercise improves, and that sitting or lying down makes things worse. In such a scenario, a desk job can be torture. Must force myself to be as active as I can during the day. The job doesn't encourage it but I must find a way around that.

[ 11:54 AM ]

I haven't been doing well lately. The pain is not intense or severe enough for me to miss work (fortunately � I can't have much sick leave left) but it's enough, and it's pervasive, to have an effect. The ol' spondylitis has been acting up again, though, as usual, it's difficult to pinpoint where the boundary is between "in flare" and "not in flare": the disease does not turn itself on and off abruptly. The pain and stiffness have been several notches above uncomfortable for at least a week, that much I'm certain of, if only because I missed work last Wednesday. Right now: both heels, left knee, sacroiliac joint (wie immer), upper back, rib cage (tight breathing). Hard to think. Painful to sit still. Job is difficult. Headaches common. Note for future reference. Not my intent to turn this log into a protracted whinge about my condition and what it's doing to me, but it's worth noting it here, if only to keep better track of when and how intensely the flareups occur.

Monday, July 30, 2001

[ 9:49 PM ]

News flash � neither ribbon snake will accept fish fillet proffered on tongs. Actually, this is not news. But here's something that is: Florence stubbed a tail of one of the baby red-sided garters, and she's feeling really guilty about it. It's unfortunate, but she seems more bothered than the snake was, since it kept on eating in spite of its injury. Lots of snakes have stub tails in the wild; several of ours are stubbed. It happens.

[ 11:03 AM ]

Jeff Kirvin (Writing on Your Palm) discusses the problems with digital rights management in general (taking as his starting point the Sklyarov/Adobe case), and with Microsoft Reader in particular (especially focusing on its problems with handheld devices). See my earlier entry on e-books.

[ 9:27 AM ]

I knew it, I knew it. Air rage is the airlines' fault: bad service, bad seating, bad air, bad food, bad attitude. They blame passengers because it's easier to do so than to admit the airline's shortcomings in service; good service, in the view of Angela Dahlberg, whose book, Air Rage: The Underestimated Safety Risk, is profiled in this article, actually promotes safety.

[ 9:21 AM ]

A snake escape this morning. Woke up this morning to find Bubbles, our female San Luis Potos� kingsnake, resting casually on a box in our bedroom. She wasn't supposed to be there! Evidently she had slipped out of her cage at night and made her way to our bedroom � in an almost perfect imitation of Spot's escape last summer. At a loss to understand why it happened; someone probably left the door to the cage loose last night. Once again we were luckier than we deserved: we discovered the escape by discovering her in plain view, rather than finding an empty cage and a snake that could be anywhere in the apartment, or in the building. And she's such a nice, gentle, pretty snake too, a favourite of visitors. We hope she'll breed next year; the babies will be popular.

Sunday, July 29, 2001

[ 9:35 PM ]

Curses! Beverly stumbled across the new OHS web site, still under construction, and announced it to the multitudes. Because it's PHP, and has to be processed by a server, I couldn't just code it offline and upload when everything was perfect. Which meant that unfinished versions had to be available to public view. My mistake was to link to it from this site � that's how she discovered it. I kind of thought I'd be done by now. Oh well. No real harm done; I did some work on the site earlier today and it's mostly finished anyway. Except for the care sheets, everything works, I think. I hope. Genie's out of the bottle, now.

Saturday, July 28, 2001

[ 11:05 PM ]

Clarion West's instructors for next year have been announced: Kathleen Alcala, Pat Cadigan, Gardner Dozois, Nicola Griffith, Joe Haldeman, and Dan Simmons. Most I've at least read, some I've read great heaps of and admire a lot. We'll see what Clarion East announces, but this looks promising. I'm leaning towards West (in Seattle) if nothing else because I can better tolerate the climate; East (in East Lansing, Michigan) is too much like here in the summer, where heat makes me stupid. Might not write as well under such circumstances. Not that I'd be able to tell, given the non-existence of any literary output from me since I was old enough to recognize dreck when I wrote it.

[ 10:28 PM ]

Lately I've been reading, and learning how to make, e-books. I downloaded a few free stories from Fictionwise yesterday, to try the service out. Stories can be downloaded in multiple formats, so I tried Palm docs and Microsoft Reader.

Docs don't appear to be able to handle any formatting; I wish Fictionwise would use Palm Reader format instead. Palm Reader is a nice piece of work. I don't mind reading on it at all, and it will read doc files, too. WordSmith can also handle doc files, but its anti-aliasing doesn't do any good unless you represent plain fonts with something else (Arial or Times New Roman), and then the fonts are too large to be effective, so I ended up trying to read on Palm Reader instead. In the end I read the stories � which were excellent (Hugo-nominated stories from Analog) � on the desktop instead, using Microsoft Reader.

I hate to admit it, but Microsoft Reader is a very good bit of software � it's very readable, easy on the eyes, and I've found it very easy to make documents for it. But its digital rights management is the shits: for DRM-enabled files, you have to register with Microsoft Passport, you can't read it on a Pocket PC and you can only have it on two computers at once. (Yes, I can think of circumstances where that might be a limitation!) Which in my opinion cripples its functionality to the point where no one will want to use it. Protecting your copyright by making sure no one so much as wants to read your material � unwise when you're trying to support a new format. So I won't be buying any Reader files from Amazon (which are DRM-enabled) as a result. Even so, I like the platform. Hell of a lot easier to make e-books for it, too; doing it in Palm Reader format was possible but fiddlier, and had to be done by hand. Watch this site for the results.

Friday, July 27, 2001

[ 11:04 PM ]

A snake update. Florence just got back from the vet. Peaches (a snow corn snake) is our Typhoid Mary. We thought he had suffered heat damage at his last home and as a result wasn't eating properly, had lost weight and needed extra TLC. Turns out he had Giardia � he's just loaded with it � and had passed it on to two other corn snakes with whom he had been cohabiting for a month or so. Those corns were in last week and have been Flagyled appropriately. Now it's Peaches's turn. Meanwhile, one of the baby garters had a roundworm removed; this is what happens on a fish and worm diet. And say hello to our newest arrival: a gravid northern ribbon snake someone caught a while back that has passed into our hands. She's shy and jumpy, as a ribbon snake should be.

[ 10:30 PM ]

Just got off the phone with Sam, who informs me that "wet boy" actually refers to some gay leather bondage thing. Uh. That's, uh, not what I had in mind when I selected the site name � I strung a few words together in 1994 that seemed funny to me, and ran with it, creating a rather strange character by the name of Angus J. McWetboy � but be that as it may, we could be receiving some interesting e-mail, depending on how the search engines process this site . . .

[ 1:24 PM ]

Florence got to go out and help Mike with his turtle research yesterday. She got to go outside and play and have fun and get outside the city. She was in a terrific mood when she finally got back. I hate her.

Thursday, July 26, 2001

[ 9:56 AM ]

A strong cool wind dropped the apartment's temperature overnight. It also bounced a fan off a garter snake cage, breaking a lid. Fortunately, we had a spare. In spite of that interruption (at about 3:30 am), I slept well and woke up without much pain. In spite of the cooler temperatures, the apartment is nevertheless uninhabitable due to the construction outside, which is closer today than it was yesterday. But I expect it will be finished � or at least elsewhere � by tomorrow.

[ 9:50 AM ]

If people on this continent are increasingly overweight, then it makes sense to increase the amount of physical education in school. (Apparently it's down to about an hour a week, which is a lot less than I remember.) But, as Daily Tubby columnist Donna Laframboise points out, "unless things have changed dramatically since I was a student, the only kids who will benefit are those least in danger of becoming couch potatoes in the first place." At least someone remembers what gym class was like: a caste system in which the strong and the adept thrived, and the awkward and slow were simply left behind.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

[ 2:55 PM ]

Chris Mooney, writing in Slate, can't stand Tolkien's poetry; it's "simply awful". He gives examples. That isn't hard. Granted, the poetry gets skipped over pretty fast when I'm reading The Lord of the Rings for the nth time, but I have two thoughts. One, how quantifiably bad is Tolkien's doggerel? Cheese poetry bad? Vogon bad? Two, rhyming couplets in English are one thing; how do you critique Elvish verse ("Ai! lauri� lantar lassi s�rinen, / y�ni �n�tim� ve r�mar aldaron!")? Read Mooney's longer article on Tolkien's reception by academe in The American Prospect. And go to the Lord of the Rings film site to watch the second teaser trailer. Hyperventilate and drool while you watch it; I do.

[ 7:44 AM ]

Too much pain this morning; will have to call in sick at work and look after the parts of me that ache. Which at the moment appears to be most of me. It's always worst in the morning, so it should improve over the day. Right now, though, it feels particularly intense. The heat wave has broken � it's amazing how 29�C is so much more liveable than 33�C � so staying at home will not be too oppressive, or at least it wouldn't be were it not for the jackhammers pounding away (already!) outside.

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

[ 6:33 PM ]

Sometimes I'll blather on about the different types of flash memory, and the eyes of the person I'm talking to start to glaze over. Wondering what the hell I'm talking about. Have a look at this article on Brighthand � typical Brighthand fare, picture-heavy and text-light (though not so egregiously as other articles) but as good an introduction to the differences between SD/MMC, Compact Flash, SmartMedia and Memory Stick as you're going to find.

[ 12:22 PM ]

It's my opinion that heat makes you stupid, which is my way of explaining why I feel so zonked out during heat waves. What really annoys me, though, is the inability to feel comfortable at all times. I can dress for non-air-conditioned environments (and wear shorts like today, even at work, I'm such a rebel) and be comfortable outside, but freeze when in an air-conditioned setting, like my workplace. Or I can wear pants and drop dead of heatstroke at the doors to the office tower. As usual I can't win. So far today the haze and muck have kept the sun at bay; shorts were not strictly necessary this morning, and I'm cold at work. After work may be a different story, though.

Monday, July 23, 2001

[ 11:38 PM ]

Another bloody hot day. Typically for Ottawa, the two mid-afternoon thundershowers did absolutely nothing to abate the heat. Reached 33�C inside the apartment. We've prepared ice cubes to throw into the snakes' water dishes if it gets any worse . . .

[ 9:13 AM ]

It's Florence's first day of work at the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation � they've hired her as a part-time translator, an arrangement that suits both parties just fine.

[ 9:12 AM ]

Busy doing, not much time for writing. Yesterday afternoon, Kim Heaphy came over to tour our snake collection and inspect the hatchling corn snakes, one of which she wanted to buy. Then off down the street to a nice Vietnamese restaurant for dinner with friends; Kim is in Ottawa for the week. Talking shop, of course � what you'd expect from a bunch of reptile hobbyists. I came home and went to bed early while the rest of them went for a walk to work off the powerful Vietnamese coffee they'd had. (I wonder if any of them slept.)

Sunday, July 22, 2001

[ 7:40 AM ]

Florence and I went to the F�te gourmande last night with Donna and John. Food mostly deep-fried or otherwise instant, entertainment often very good. Good to be outdoors in the evening, when the temperature outside was better than it usually is inside the apartment, and the sun isn't oppressive.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

[ 1:22 PM ]


[ 10:43 AM ]

Too warm in the apartment again; Moonlight's cage reads 31�C. Lucky that the heat waves so far have been brief, but the next few days don't look good.

[ 10:27 AM ]

Pretzel and Minnie, two of our corn snakes and the parents of our 14 corn snake babies, were at the vet's yesterday, and were found to be chock-full of protozoans, so it's Flagyl for them for the next week. Glad we can do something; they haven't been eating for quite some time, and Pretzel in particular is looking quite gaunt � and she's got eight eggs in her right now, it turns out.

Friday, July 20, 2001

[ 4:19 PM ]

It's been an Amazon-dominated day: setting up banner ads and links on this site for the associates program (gots to shake dat money maker), mucking about their site, building a wish list, writing a couple of reviews. I'm surprised that I have little else to report.

[ 6:50 AM ]

Awake early (around 5:15 am) and sore this morning, and no hot water, either � a hot shower is good for relieving morning stiffness. Alas.

Thursday, July 19, 2001

[ 9:01 PM ]

Department of Rampant Consumerism: I bought a zippered case for my Palm m505 today. I really like the slim profile of just the Palm with its leather flap � it pockets well � but I have a feeling that carrying like that is just asking to get it damaged. Plus, I had nowhere to keep my MMC cards. The case feels a lot bulkier than just the Palm and its flap, and certainly not as unobtrusive in the pocket, but it does what it's supposed to. The Palm attaches by its left rail and I suspect I'm going to have to swap the case and flap back and forth a lot, depending on what I'm doing at the time.

[ 2:52 PM ]

It looks like I'm going to have to learn C. C, from whom all blessings flow. I have a few ideas for Palm applications, but those ideas are complicated enough that PDA Toolbox won't be enough. In which case, says the conventional wisdom, you should program in C using CodeWarrior. Then there's all the web programming (like PHP, the basis for this site) I'm interested in doing. All the chapters summarizing things like Perl and PHP say something like this: If you're familiar with C, this will be a cinch. Well, how many times do I need to be told? So I'm flipping through books on C at the bookstore on my lunch break, and damned if the sample code in C didn't look a hell of a lot like PHP. I've got it backwards, of course � PHP is meant to be familiar to C programmers � but then, I often do.

[ 10:48 AM ]

Model railroading goes digital: I'm actually familiar with a lot of the technology mentioned in this article, at least conceptually if not in name. I think my father's second layout used DCC. Hooking up a PC to it sounds very interesting, and I'm not to familiar with it, so I wish that the article had mentioned more of that, because otherwise this doesn't sound very current. Hard for me to pass judgment on the article, though, because it's been a while, and I've lost touch with the hobby. (No, dear, don't worry . . . )

[ 9:40 AM ]

Margaret Wente is the best newspaper columnist in Canada, and she's in top form in today's column in The Globe and Mail (link may not be permanent) on the pressure on women in developed countries to have more children to offset below-replacement birth rates. She correctly points out that women in each of the countries cited have excellent reasons not to have lots of babies despite official fears. A separate but related take on this is the clear whiff of xenophobia: the planet's population continues to explode (although birth rates are mostly down just about everywhere, they're still high in many places) and yet Spain, Japan and Germany worry about the reproductive output of their women. Immigration, anyone? Er, um . . . In any event, a population decline in the developed world is a good thing: if we consume too much per capita, then the fewer of us, the better. The problem is essentially demographic: the baby boom aging means that a disproportionate chunk of the population needs pensions and specialized health care, and fewer working adults to pay for it. As usual, it's the boomers' fault. But once they're all dead � and so long as we don't have any more lurches in fertility � a little shrinkage should be fine.

[ 9:24 AM ]

Water off briefly this morning, on account of continuing construction on our street; arrived at work a little scruffier than usual. Second time we've lost water since construction began. Clumsy monkeys.

[ 8:21 AM ]

Amazon has reduced its shipping rates to Canada. Still pricey but getting better. I'm sufficiently disillusioned with Chapters/Indigo, both as a customer and as an affiliate (I haven't received a response to any of my e-mail inquiries) that, in my view, this can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

[ 10:09 AM ]

Have I mentioned how tame our baby garter snakes are? Florence was playing with them this morning. Already they've associated people with food; they come right over to her. They'll be ready for sale soon, and I think our buyers will be pleased with these snakes' temperament. We, on the other hand, will be reluctant to sell them . . .

[ 10:05 AM ]

God calls Stockwell home. The same startling CP photo is running on the front pages of three of the four papers available in Ottawa; no doubt it's being used across the country. See it here. Look at that effect: like he's about to ascend. The religious imagery has to have been deliberate.

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

[ 4:33 PM ]

"Did you take your Ritalin today, Stocky? Good boy!" Rebel Alliance MP Jim Gouk (Kootenay � Boundary � Okanagan) reportedly told a group of party members that Day has the "attention span of a two-year-old" (link may not be permanent).

[ 1:02 PM ]

Here's a news item that's rife with assumptions about gender. A report by the Women's Executive Network, reported uncritically by The Globe and Mail (link may not be permanent), says that working women would like a four-day work week to "bring more balance to their lives". The implicit assumption is that only women have to worry about work-life balance (read: family, children, housework � Kirche, K�che, Kindern), because from this report it doesn't look like they asked men the same question. Presumably, men would prefer an eight-day work week, or a four-day work week for the purpose of balancing work with golf. Do men not have lives outside work that need balancing? I certainly do. Making "work-life balance" a women's issue undermines their position in the workforce and reinforces traditional assumptions about women's responsibilities outside work � the same traditional assumptions that once led employers to fire female employees once they got married or pregnant. You haven't come a long way, baby.

[ 12:47 PM ]

Should stay out of Novo Club on my lunch break: bought two new useful-looking pocket references, one on CSS (style sheets), the other on PHP, both from O'Reilly. Should stay out of Dunn's too, while I'm at it, before I get too rotund.

[ 10:40 AM ]

Observers have been worrying about the future of Palm for some time. This article by Marc Hedlund offers some ideas on what to do about it, in terms of marketing and hardware/software development. Armchair criticism, to be sure � but thought-provoking and much more substantive than the chatter on the handheld-computing boards.

[ 10:34 AM ]

Cable television stations in the U.S. are making cuts to classic television shows to make more room for ads and promos; as this Salon article argues, you're paying more to see less than we did in syndication. Remember syndication? Classic television was what ran in the afternoons, before talk shows.

[ 7:47 AM ]

How do you take care of eastern ribbon snakes? Read my reply to this question on kingsnake.ca's Snake Forum. I don't keep eastern ribbons, but I do have an western ribbon, lots of garters, and moreover I've done my homework.

[ 7:20 AM ]

Blue Nomad has released version 2.0 of WordSmith, their excellent word processor for the Palm OS. I had been anticipating this upgrade for weeks, and it was a factor in my decision to upgrade to the m505 � it uses font-smoothing technology on colour screens. (To say nothing of the other improvements.) Woke up to an e-mail from them announcing the upgrade, so off I went to their site to download it. Already up and running. Oh my, it's lovely. Now I must find an m500-series keyboard!

Monday, July 16, 2001

[ 9:27 PM ]

Florence reports that 11 of our 14 baby corn snakes, born between July 5 and 7, have now shed for the first time. (Baby snakes shed 7-10 days after birth. Then they eat.) Meanwhile, I had two inquiries from people interested in buying baby corns, mere minutes apart. And I'm not even advertising that hard.

[ 5:16 PM ]

Where are the intelligent SF movies? I stumbled across this article in the NY Times (registration required) while surfing in the Asimov's forum. It explores the dichotomy between intelligent SF on paper and the lowest-common-denominator product on screen, and why all those excellent SF books have never been made into movies by Hollywood.

[ 12:22 PM ]

Just posted a reply, on kingsnake.ca's Snake Forum, to a question regarding the use of minnows as garter snake food.

[ 11:58 AM ]

Palm Infocenter reviews the Kodak PalmPix for the Palm m500 series. They don't like it: doesn't focus well, no flash, no lens cap. (!) Another reviewer on Brighthand's discussion boards was similarly underwhelmed.

[ 10:32 AM ]

Didn't take them long to fix it; here's what that CBC Online news item really meant: "Rogge will be the eighth European president in the 107-year history of the IOC. There have been only nine." (Emphasis added.) Now that makes sense. Not every boner is fixed immediately; a few years back they kept referring to Cyprus as "Cypress" . . .

Now that I think about it, I should really watch my mouth about botched early drafts, given the tentative, early-draft nature of mcwetboy.com. But then I'm not (cue the trumpets, tympani) the CBC, either. So I'm allowed to have shoddier standards. What's scary is that, as far as I can tell, I don't. (See what being an editor does to your perspective?) So I think I'll keep on mocking.

[ 6:53 AM ]

More brilliance in writing from CBC Online: "Rogge will be the eighth president in the 107-year history of the IOC. Ther have been only nine."

Sunday, July 15, 2001

[ 7:46 PM ]

Holy living fuck. The red-sided garters are mating right now. I didn't expect them to do this in the middle of July � it's about as far away from mating season as this species can get. And yet, their schedule has always been off: they first mated in October, then hibernated from the beginning of December to the end of February. She must have ovulated the moment we brought her out of hibernation, because she gave birth around May 21. So they're early. And because the active season is longer for them in captivity than it would be in the wild � three months of hibernation versus up to eight in the wild, in the more northerly parts, but these are probably more southerly snakes � it's entirely possible that she could give birth again before we hibernate them once more. Check back in early to mid-October to find out. Two litters in one season! And I've already got 45 babies (from two different females) on my hands . . .

[ 5:52 PM ]

I don't believe it. The (adult) red-sided garter snakes are engaging in mating behaviour again. The male has long since been established as one of the horniest male snakes I ever saw, but even he settled down some time in April; the female seems strangely receptive. She's robust enough to double-clutch, if that's even possible . . . what are they doing? It's July!

[ 7:49 AM ]

Webhosting.com has solved the PHP problem I was having yesterday, viz., no PHP compilation. The answer appears to have been simple: a ".php3" extension on files rather than ".php". Funny, I had asked that very question when I called. Now everything works. I'm going to be busy now.

Saturday, July 14, 2001

[ 9:04 PM ]

The latest (August 2001) issue of Reptile and Amphibian Hobbyist has an article on the captive care of eastern indigo snakes. I am generally unimpressed with this magazine. I find its articles insubstantial (they read as though they were dashed off at the last minute, with not much thought or preparation going into them) and its copy-editing atrocious. (Reptiles magazine, its only real competitor, suffers from these problems too, but it's inconsistent about it � it's occasionally good.) The former can be justified if the publication is aimed at beginners; as for the latter, it's never okay to confuse "to" and "too" when you expect people to pay for your content. Also true in this case, but this time the author of said indigo snake article is Fred Albury, a frequent denizen of kingsnake.com's Indigo Forum. Which piqued my interest, so I bought it. So far it's as informative than the online indigo snake resources I've encountered, but no more; I suppose it's a fine enough article on its own terms. Given what it's trying to accomplish, given its venue.

[ 8:02 PM ]

Today my father drew to my attention that baseball player Rico Brogna will retire at the end of this season. Now, I don't know my baseball, and would not know Brogna from Adam except for the fact that he has ankylosing spondylitis, and is the official spokesjock of the Spondylitis Association of America, whose web site is, rather susceptible to cheesy support songs and celebrity pith, and not quite my cuppa. Be that as it may, I was still surprised to see that the AS has, apparently, finally gotten him. He's only two years older than me, and came down with it six years before I did; probably a more severe case. Feel for him.

Still, why couldn't CNN/SI have bothered to at least name the disease? What pisses me off the most about having ankylosing spondylitis is that no one has so much as heard of the disease, unless they have it themselves, know someone who does, or have a medical background. Would it have hurt?