Thursday, March 28, 2002

[ 11:55 PM ]

Well. It looks like Ezra has been made to seeseen the error of his ways, and is stepping aside in favour of his fearless leader. The trouble with Ezra is not that he backtracks, but that he does so inelegantly, and in public. Not the mark of a skilled political operative, if you ask me.

[ 11:28 AM ]

Ezra Levant, it seems to me, has a nose for doing exactly the opposite of what is obvious and sensible. As a matter of general principle in our leader-obsessed polity, one should not honk off the leader of your party within one week of his election. It is, in the Yes, Minister sense, a courageous thing to do. But par for the course for Ezra, who has in the past made similarly boneheaded decisions, like threatening to sue members of his own party, and getting sued himself for defamation. Hell, he may threaten to sue me for this little blog entry. The Parliamentary Press Gallery is no doubt rubbing its collective hands in anticipation of the antics to come when he arrives as an elected M.P. — but that presupposes that he get himself elected in the first place.

[ 10:19 AM ]

If sniffer dogs can detect marijuana on clothing months after exposure, then why was a 15-year-old Ottawa high-school student suspended from school when a sniffer dog smelled pot on his winter coat? At the very least, second-hand smoke is a distinct possibility here. (Two words: Ross Rebagliati.) The student has hired a high-profile lawyer. Good for him. The principal is clearly a self-righteous, incompetent dickhead. It's narrow-minded stupidity like this — specifically, arbitrary and unjust punishments like this that are straight out of the ancien Régime — that leads me to hold the education system in such high regard. Snort.

[ 10:14 AM ]

Coming soon to an LCBO store near you: Rescousse beer, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of which will be earmarked for wildlife conservation. Note the eastern spiny softshell turtle on the label — heartening to see a reptile presented as a flagship species in a conservation effort. Now, make an eastern fox snake pale ale, and we're talking business . . .

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

[ 4:49 PM ]

"Compared with wild mice, lab mice are wimps — slower, weaker, and less active." Captive breeding of house mice selected for docility, tolerance of confinement, rapid growth and sexual maturity, and large litters, yet those generations of breeding have left lab mice comparatively less fit, and with smaller eyes and brains, than their wild counterparts. This Natural History article explores the implications for our understanding of genetics and natural selection. It's worth noting that many of the characteristics for which lab mice have been bred also make them ideal as a source of snake food, yet many snakes often prefer wild mice to lab mice; something has been lost along the way.

[ 12:22 PM ]

The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD: I'm looking forward to the 4-disc version in anamorphic widescreen with 30 minutes of extra footage, myself. And by "looking forward to" I mean "drooling like a demented fanboy as a result of".

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

[ 5:01 PM ]

I had heard nothing but good things about The Iron Giant, but as usual, never got around to seeing it. Now I have, and my God it's good. One of the finest films I have ever seen (it's just blown past Princess Mononoke as my favourite animated film, and that's saying something), a beautiful, heart-rending story, exquisite animation, and just an all-round well-put-together package. See it now, I'm not kidding. No, now; whatever you're doing, that can wait. I mean it. Move.

[ 10:35 AM ]

I want a blue-screen-of-death t-shirt!

[ 10:32 AM ]

Palm Desktop 4.0 for Mac OS X, final version, has been released. Have installed it, but haven't tried it yet; I've been syncing at work since the new computer arrived there.

[ 10:29 AM ]

President Bush: Mr. Funny.

This is the goofy Bush, the man who allegedly started waving at Stevie Wonder at a recent Washington concert, only to realize his stupidity and crack up at the whole interaction. . . . This is the Bush who does a mean Dr. Evil impression from Austin Powers (one of his favorite movies), . . . and who, when asked what he had in common with Tony Blair ventured Colgate toothpaste. One of his favorite gags was going up to bald friends and colleagues, laying his bare palms on their heads and intoning like Billy Graham, "Heal!" Like most jokes, these are all a matter of taste. But if, like me, your most treasured videos are Animal House, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Airplane!, you might get along with the current occupant of the White House quite well.
From Andrew Sullivan's review of Frank Bruni's Ambling into History.

Monday, March 25, 2002

[ 4:37 PM ]

Digital Bill of Rights.

[ 4:31 PM ]

Bloom County collections are out of print and hard to find, but I found a big whack of them in a used bookstore on my lunch break. Bliss! Giant purple snorklewackers!

[ 4:21 PM ]

My massive movie re-education program continued last night, since I'm TV-less and couldn't watch the Oscars; Goodfellas was the film on tap. Wow. Gritty. Violent. Visceral. That's basic film library, that is — the kind of movie that you have to watch for fear of missing out on the pop-culture references. For example, Jim Breuer's recurring "Joe Pesci Show" sketch on Saturday Night Live was, of course, a straight take on Pesci's character in this film (and de Niro's: "a little bit"), but I didn't know that until last night. And the only mob movies I've really seen so far, except for fragments of various Godfathers on television, have been satires on the form: Analyze This, Mickey Blue Eyes (what they make you watch on planes, oy).

Friday, March 22, 2002

[ 10:44 AM ]

Read this hilarious (and, I strongly suspect, apocryphal) conversation between a librarian and a member of a local Klingon group. Actually I don't suspect; this can't be anything but urban legend. But funny as hell (via boing boing).

[ 10:35 AM ]

Geoff wants me to enable comments on this blog. What do you think? I'll have to switch from Blogger to Movable Type to do it; fortunately, the latter has just released version 2.0. In my copious spare time.

[ 10:30 AM ]

Palm has posted details of its cradle exchange program for m500/m505 users, meant to prevent the static-discharge USB problem. No word on Canada yet, but apparently to come.

[ 10:27 AM ]

Mac heads all over the place are upset at the keynote of course — check the discussion boards of any Mac-focused site, really. Annoyed at the price hikes and high prices of the new stuff, annoyed that Apple cannot or will not provide stuff that prices they are able or willing to pay. To which, in reply, I can only refer to this post at the unfailingly amusing Crazy Apple Rumors site: Mac Users Stunned to Discover Apple a For-Profit Business.

[ 10:22 AM ]

Some additional thoughts about Apple's support of the Bluetooth wireless standard. Though I've heard that Bluetooth may or may not "play nice" with the 802.11b wireless standard used by AirPort, it still looks useful. A Bluetooth USB adapter could in some ways replace a USB hub, and has the potential to increase the number of devices connected to a computer without gumming up the works with wires; this would be more useful for occasional-use (Palm) or low-bandwidth devices (mouse, keyboard).

But even if Bluetooth were to feck up my wireless, it would be a marvellous thing when travelling. Consider this. At the moment there is no way to connect an iBook to a cellular/digital PCS network: no serial port, no PC card slot, no IrDA port for cellphones with infrared. Get the Bluetooth adapter and a Bluetooth-equipped phone, and connections are suddenly possible. Get the Palm Bluetooth SDIO card, and not only is syncing wirelessly with the iBook possible (a useful thing when on the road: one less cable to pack/lose), but you can also connect to the Internet from the Palm via the Bluetooth-equipped phone. In other words, Bluetooth makes mobile, wireless Internet possible with a minimum of additional hardware. Except that I'd have to get a new cellphone. And possibly a new plan, if Telus Mobility doesn't support Bluetooth as soon as its competitors do.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

[ 10:16 PM ]

Apple didn't provide live streaming of Steve Jobs's Macworld Tokyo keynote, so we couldn't listen to him pronounce "automatically" in his idiosyncratic way, but Mac Minute was able to provide a brief blow-by-blow as it happened, and CNet leaked a few details early. The Mac Observer has this snarky log, uploaded shortly after the keynote. Key details as follows:

[ 9:13 PM ]

I've finally got ADSL again, which is wonderful to have back, but I cleverly forgot the phone jack multiplier at the old place and, as it turns out, the phone jack in the bedroom is not connected. So I'm forwarding calls to the cellphone in the meantime as a temporary solution. No biggy in the end, but it took me a moment to puzzle that one out. Having to rely on dialup after over a year of highspeed is just cruel.

[ 8:57 PM ]

Stephen Harper surprises everyone by winning the Canadian Alliance leadership on the first ballot with 55 per cent of the vote. The big surprise, I think, is that Ablonczy and Hill's support was each below four per cent. I thought they had signed up more members than that — strategic voting? So much for my visions of Götterdammerung for that party. No idea what will happen next — will the dissidents come back, for example?

[ 10:59 AM ]

My father says, get a proper piano. My mother says, get a digital piano. And I'm somewhere in the middle, between wanting the best tone and key action (real piano) and accepting, grudgingly, that I live in an apartment, and weight and volume control matter (digital piano).

[ 10:58 AM ]

Dammit. Another garter snake dead, Florence reports. Three in three weeks. Not sure what's happening here: there's blood in the cage, but she can't tell where it's coming from. I implicate diet as a reflex, but am not completely certain in this case.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

[ 11:56 AM ]

"This is William Shatner's world. The rest of us just live in it." Warren Clements of The Globe and Mail on the Shatner phenomenon: "Shatner, who turns 71 on Friday, is in a golden stage of his career. . . . Shatner sticks his popular cultural head up more times than a target in a Whack-a-Mole game." No kidding.

[ 10:32 AM ]

The Falkland Islands, 20 years after the Argentine invasion: the Islands now govern themselves and, thanks to abundant squid (and lucrative squid fishing licences) and frequent cruise ship stops, are more than economically self-sufficient.

Monday, March 18, 2002

[ 1:46 PM ]

Finally got around to watching Tora! Tora! Tora! on DVD last night. With some trepidation, fearing that I'd discover that my comments regarding Admiral Yamamoto's statement would be proven incorrect (previous posts here and here; also my first-ever post on MetaFilter). Well, it's right there at the very end: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." Then he goes out and stares off from the deck of his ship, and the text is superimposed again, enclosed in quotation marks. I don't think the film could find a better way to imply that this was a direct quote than this, and yet my information had it that it was not so. Perplexed. (Having said that, great movie. Wow.)

[ 1:38 PM ]

Saturday was a day for rabid consumerism. First, I threw caution and my finances to the wind and bought myself the ultimate herper's camera, the Nikon CoolPix 995. This 3.34-megapixel camera with the 4x optical zoom has a macro mode that is just great for taking pictures of tiny little animals. This was my first attempt. (Yesterday I tried taking a picture of a speckled kingsnake we're selling, but I had it in manual mode with the wrong whiteness setting, and everything came out bluish.)

Then, before heading off to IKEA for more furniture intelligence-gathering, I stopped off at a piano store and the local Mac store, to look at pianos (natch) and computer speakers, respectively.

At the piano store, I was about to ask some questions about the Kawai uprights they had on display — I like Kawais; my father has one — when the sales guy immediately hauled me over to the digital piano section and went on about how they're outselling "acoustic" pianos by 30 to 1. The way he was going on, I'm hardly surprised. But what did surprise me was how good digital pianos sounded. I felt obtuse: how far, after all, had digital photography come along in the past decade? It's not so hard to imagine an electronic keyboard with excellent sound sampling and key-sensitive volume, which is what I saw. Key action wasn't as bad as I had expected, though acoustics are still better. But overall, digital pianos are good enough that I, the self-professed purist, am seriously considering getting one. While the real thing appeals to the purist in me, and will still have better dynamism and tone and feel, digital pianos are cheaper (a good one costs $3,000; decent uprights go for $6,000 or more), lighter — significant when you want to move one into an apartment! — and, again relevant in an apartment, have volume controls and a headphone jack. On the other hand, even shitty pianos from a century ago are still in serviceable condition. So I need to think. And do research. Digital pianos don't have the same web presence as digital cameras do, but here's a digital piano FAQ that looks a bit out of date.

[ 1:22 PM ]

Palm's solution to the USB sync problem is to replace the USB cradles. Funny, I thought it was the chip in the handheld itself that was the problem. I haven't heard from them yet, but since I registered, I imagine I will soon. (See earlier posts here and here, plus Palm Infocenter coverage here.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

[ 10:31 PM ]

Peruse this atlas of the universe until your head starts to hurt. Then tell me, even if there is a god that created all these billions upon billions of galaxies, whether that god cares one whit whether we worship it or not, and how human beings can be in any way significant in all of this. (via boing boing)

[ 10:25 PM ]

Florence reports that another red-sided garter snake has died. That's two in as many weeks; we haven't lost any prior to that since July. Strange. (I don't think the breakup had any impact on their care.)

[ 10:09 PM ]

I've got some snakes for sale, including a couple from the permanent collection that have fallen in the crack between what I want and what she wants. More may follow, depending on how we make up our minds. Already though I've got one joker replying: "Hi are you able to send one ribbon snake to Vancouver Island Cobble Hill? What does this snake eat?" Read the fucking ad, where I already told you (a) that I don't ship and (b) what the damn snake eats. I get this kind of thing every time I post something for sale. The price of doing business with the public. Note to self: develop thicker skin.

[ 12:17 PM ]

The Copyright Board proposes raising levies on blank recordable media (cassette tapes and blank recordable CDs), and expanding the levies to include flash media cards, DVD-Rs, and hard-drive-based MP3 players (pdf document). The proposed levies would double the current levy on CD-Rs and CD-RWs, add 25% to the retail price of DVD-Rs (which are mostly used for archival storage and home DVD production), and add $20 per 128 MB to the cost of flash media cards (which are mostly used in digital cameras). They would also impose a $21-per-gigabyte levy on hard-drive-based MP3 players, adding $105 to the price of an iPod and over $400 to the price of a 20-GB player. While the principle of collecting the fees is hard to argue, the rates proposed are excessive, if not punitive, and the proposal taxes forms of media that are almost never used in audio copying. (Discussion at MetaFilter, Slashdot.)

Monday, March 11, 2002

[ 10:25 AM ]

Holy shit, what is that thing? The Sony CLIÉ PEG-NR70 is Sony's latest Palm OS handheld. It's the first with a 66 MHz processor (others have at most 33 MHz), has a 320x480 screen with a virtual Graffiti area (it's generated graphically, not silkscreened onto the digitizer, and can disappear when not needed), 16 MB of RAM, and a built-in keyboard. It plays MP3s. One model has a built-in digital camera. Coolest feature: the screen pivots around and swings shut in a way that I can't fathom. This is easily the freakiest and most cutting-edge Palm OS gadget ever done. Available only in Japan at the moment.

[ 8:00 AM ]

Jaysis! Learn Irish slang in under 20 seconds, a dictionary of Irish working-class slang terms, the sort of thing you'd encounter in a Roddy Doyle novel. But it's funny filth, Jen! (via metafilter)

[ 7:54 AM ]

Rented and watched Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels last night: hysterically funny and terribly entertaining. It and Snatch have a lot in common: theme, convolutions of plot, actors — and how much fun they are to watch.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

[ 7:19 PM ]

Isaac Asimov died in 1992. Now his widow reveals that it was as a result of complications from AIDS, which he contracted as a result of blood transfusions during bypass surgery in 1983. Shocking news: he really did die too soon (via boing boing).

[ 9:08 AM ]

It's been a whirlwind. To sum up: I got the apartment. Last weekend I moved the essentials, bought a bed, some shelving and some kitchen gear. Since then, in spite of the huge amount of stuff still to be moved, I've been settling in, setting up, and trying to figure out some semblance of interior design: what goes where, what new things to buy, how to make it all fit. Phone was supposed to be installed on Friday, but owing to a mixup that sent me ballistic Friday night, wasn't installed until yesterday. Currently using AirPort with a dialup modem: slow, but functional until ADSL can be installed here, and that'll take a week. Having a phone means long phone calls with distant friends, and hopefully keeps down the minutes on the cell phone I've been burning through. F. and I are being civil, better than I had hoped: we're discussing how to divide possessions and animals, and she was kind enough to drop off two snakes last night, to keep me company. The rosy boa and the glossy snake. More moving to come today, and that won't be the end of it, not by a long shot.

Friday, March 01, 2002

[ 11:14 AM ]

Sometimes I amaze even myself, at least in my ability to recover quickly from a major setback. Not forty-nine hours after the breakup became official, I put down a deposit on a new apartment. And it's a nice one, too, if a bit pricey, but I was basically faced with a choice between an apartment that was essentially perfect except for the fact that it's a basement unit for $1,000/month, or an apartment with several serious shortcomings (several of the following: too small, too inconveniently located, shabby condition, crummy neighbourhood, too much road noise, isolated location, smells funny) for $800/month. I decided that saving $200 would not improve my quality of life as much as a first-rate apartment. And this one really is first-rate. Have a look for yourself — the photos are dim because I took them at 5:00 pm in natural light alone (and this is a basement apartment, after all). New flooring, new fixtures, new appliances, new cupboards and drawers, new brick accents. It's worth it, dammit. Now I just have to wait for the reference check.