Thursday, October 31, 2002

[ 6:34 PM ]

Toyota says that by 2012 all its cars will have hybrid engines. They introduced the Prius a few years ago, which was quite a bit more expensive than the similarly sized Corolla; they're counting on mass production to drive down the cost of production. Just as an automaker should. (via Slashdot)

[ 8:14 AM ]

Nineteenth-century drug paraphernalia has been found by archaeologists working at Ottawa's LeBreton Flats. The LeBreton Flats was a working-class neighbourhood just west of the Parliament Buildings. The find is from the notorious Occidental Hotel, and predates the 1900 fire that burned the neighbourhood to the ground. It was rebuilt, and carried on until the National Capital Commission tore it all down in 1962. It's been an empty field ever since, as proposals to make use of this prime space have come and gone. (Maps and images.) This year they finally began decontaminating the soil -- the new Canadian War Museum is planned for part of the site (campaign) -- whereupon this discovery was made. I've watched the construction from my office window all summer, and have heard about LeBreton flats development plans ever since I moved to Ottawa. (posted to MetaFilter)

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

[ 5:34 PM ]

Not my proudest moment on the 'Filter, I'm afraid. I frankly shouldn't have been so defensive in the first place. Note to self: you can afford to be more magnanimous when people tell you to fuck off.

It's definitely less civil there of late, though.

[ 5:33 PM ]

Now Target and Dell (!) are selling iPods; at this rate, Apple will sell more iPods this quarter than Macs.

[ 5:29 PM ]

Mac O'Lanterns: the subject matter may only appeal to die-hard Mac fanatics, which is how I heard about it, but what I'm most impressed with is how it's done. (via As the Apple Turns)

[ 5:27 PM ]

This list of CSS bugs in Internet Explorer for Mac will be useful for me in terms of trying to make a page look halfway decent in that browser. (via Slashdot)

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

[ 8:06 AM ]

Teresa Nielsen Hayden's favourite cover letters that accompany a novel submission. Aspiring writers are kooks, did you know that? (via Oliver Willis)

[ 7:47 AM ]

The United States of My Racist Aunt, by Todd Levin. (via MetaFilter)

[ 7:43 AM ]

If The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (see previous entries: 1, 2) wasn't bad enough, how about this Mighty Hercules sticker book? How about this Mighty Hercules sticker book, Herc? (via Boing Boing)

Monday, October 28, 2002

[ 8:10 PM ]

My box turtle peed on me! And, let me tell you, that little critter can really spray.

[ 8:38 AM ]

Cathy Fordham is going to jail; she has received a six-month sentence for uttering death threats against a former boyfriend. She is a serial perjurer whose false testimony sent another man to jail on charges of assault, rape and stalking — he was innocent of all three — and caused him to lose his house, job and access to his children; he's suing her for it, of course. This story is beyond sad; it's frightening — and it's good to see the beginnings of a just end to it. If nothing else, this woman must be permanently removed from the dating pool! (see previous entry)

[ 8:33 AM ]

Palm has unleashed new products today, though two of them aren't yet available (at least not in North America). They've announced their wireless Tungsten W several months before it's scheduled to be available in North America; it's apparently being released in Europe first, where a GPRS device can appeal to a larger market share. But the delayed release in the U.S. is going to have one undesireable side effect for Palm: is anyone likely to buy an i705 if they know this colour, high-resolution, GPRS device is waiting in the wings? (Not that I can buy an i705; it's simply unavailable in Canada — the i705 is U.S.-only and the Tungsten W is now in Europe, but Canada will in the meantime make do with neither.) In early 2001 they also pre-announced the m500/m505 handhelds months before they were actually available and watched sales of their premium Vx handheld plummet in the meantime; I wonder if something similar will happen here, though I can't imagine that the i705 is a big seller the way the Vx was.

Also announced today, but not widely available for a little while, is a new ultra-thin keyboard, a folding keyboard that is even smaller than the current model, which I own and which never fails to impress people when I use it in public. It won't be available in quantity until early next year.

But the big news is the release of the Tungsten T, a Palm OS 5 handheld with a 144 MHz processor, a 320 x 320 screen, built-in Bluetooth, and a slider that hides the Graffiti area and shrinks the size of the handheld. That, at least, seems to be available now. Brighthand has an early review. Considering that a Palm Bluetooth card costs $250 at Future Shop's online store (and I haven't seen it anywhere else in Canada), it may well be more sensible to buy a Tungsten T than retrofit my increasingly creaky-looking m505 with a Bluetooth card, though US$499 — about $800 Canadian — is serious coin that I simply don't have. Still, I want Bluetooth in the long run, but, seeing as no Bluetooth cellphones are yet available in Canada, I can well afford to wait. Gonna be expensive when the time comes, though.

[ 6:14 AM ]

Current reading: just finished Carl Kauffeld, Snakes and Snake Hunting; well into John Horner and James Gorman, Digging Dinosaurs, which is about Horner's discovery of fossil Maiasaura nests and herds in Montana, which (so far as I've read) offers tantalizing evidence of dinosaur social life. I really hate having to put this book down.

[ 6:09 AM ]

Department of Monopoly Schadenfreude: Microsoft gets in trouble again for its marketing efforts (see previous entry).

Friday, October 25, 2002

[ 3:52 PM ]

Sony has developed a TV tuner chip for mobile devices. Internet access on a Palm is more or less available, but not widespread; now we're talking about watching television on such a gadget? This is cool, but battery life has to be a factor.

[ 3:52 PM ]

Last night we followed Florence's lead and offered pinky parts to the baby garter snakes: the five remaining wandering garter snakes, the two remaining eastern garter snakes, and two of the three cages of red-sided garter snakes, including the cage of fish eaters. Most of them ate (though I haven't checked in on the wandering garters) — one of the two easterns, three of the four fish-eating red-sideds, and six out of nine in the cage of worm-eating red-sideds. Note that the pinky parts were unscented. This is excellent progress.

Meanwhile, the first clutch of normal corn snakes continues to be picky. A couple of tentative bites, but otherwise no one new started eating. At the moment, two have been sold, three remaining are eating, and eight have yet to eat. (They were born in August.) Next we'll try confining the fussy eaters with a brained pinky and see what happens.

[ 3:45 PM ]

Jeffy is starting to go on about VIA Rail the way that SDB goes on about the Mac. For the second time in recent memory (see previous entry), he's written a column critical of VIA Rail and the government subsidies it receives. I'm guessing that Simpson has been receiving mail similar to my comment about subsidies to road and air travel, because in this iteration he compares government expenditures on road and air to VIA Rail subsidies in order to deflate that argument. His main point is to attempt to debunk the rail lobby's hitching its agenda to the climate-change express: so much traffic is borne by road (and air) that even if the volume of rail traffic quintupled, it would barely make a dent in traffic or pollution.

Simpson's intent in each of his articles appears to be merely to take the piss out of the rail lobby, since they tend to be more dismissive (passenger trains are late and subsidized, passenger trains won't do much for climate change) and less analytical than his usual output. They're still useful; the media tends to report high-speed rail proposals rather positively, for example, and while behind the scenes such proposals never seem to get anywhere, it's useful to have a contrarian perspective like Simpson's. And that's from my perspective as a proponent of passenger rail.

But even as a proponent of passenger rail, I know full well that getting people to take the train will be no easy task, if only because I take the train so seldomly myself. You'd think that, as someone who visits Toronto fairly regularly and who doesn't own a car, I'd be taking the train rather frequently. But I don't, simply because, for two people, renting a car for the weekend is cheaper than taking the train (and it's even cheaper than that if you can amortize the cost of a rental over more than two people), and VIA doesn't accept animals — try going to and from reptile shows with 30-40 animals each way! Granted, my situation is rather unique, but the fact remains that I haven't taken the train to Toronto in three years, even though I'd be more than willing to.

Meanwhile, this discussion suggests why our train seemed to get progressively later as it approached Montréal last August: "For VIA to get priority on its single-track lines, its train must leave on time; if the train is around fifteen minutes late, priority will then be given to freight" (corrections made).

[ 3:41 PM ]

Blogger was hacked earlier today, which prevented me from posting. (More via Anil; cf. Blogroots, MetaFilter and Slashdot.) All the more reason to switch to Movable Type (see previous entry), I suppose, though it's massive overkill for what I want to accomplish with this blog.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

[ 8:40 PM ]

"The Elements" by Tom Lehrer, in Flash animation. Cute. (via MetaFilter)

[ 6:39 PM ]

Much hilarity ensues when Floppy Puppy meets Mr. Boa.

[ 7:14 AM ]

Globe columnist Paul Sullivan drives the speed limit — something that, according to the RCMP, hardly anyone does — and discovers that he likes it. I've been both bemused and astonished whenever I'm driving 120+ km/h on Highway 401 and cars blow past me on either side as though they were on the Autobahn.

[ 6:41 AM ]

O'Reilly's digital photography expert Derrick Story has posted top ten digital photography tips that are actually quite useful to a hack like me who doesn't know what he's doing. My mother, who is taking a digital photography course, would probably find this useful as well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

[ 9:00 PM ]

Emboldened by Dave's report, Florence tried feeding pinky pieces to the nine baby red-sided garters under her care tonight. They all ate; some even made pigs of themselves. And this is with unscented pinkies. I will have to do this very soon.

[ 8:39 PM ]

This post about the Ontario law regarding native wildlife is going to get lost in the shuffle, so I'll reprint the text here:

For animals that are listed as specially protected or game wildlife under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997, you need a licence to collect or hunt them (section 5), a licence to keep them (section 40), a licence to buy or sell them (section 48) and a licence to breed them (section 45). Doing so without such a licence is illegal, and, based on what I know and have heard, you're not likely to get a licence without a good reason. Reptiles and amphibians that are protected in this manner are listed in Schedules 4, 5, 9 and 10 of the Act.

Animals that are not protected under the Act technically require a small game hunting licence under clause 6(1)(h) of the Act to collect from the wild. This includes all frogs (except bullfrogs), American toads, mudpuppies and newts, and eastern garter, ribbon, brown, red-bellied and ringneck snakes.

[ 6:36 PM ]

At home as a result of my back deciding to be particularly excruciating today. Some disjointed updates:

I watched Amadeus on DVD this afternoon. Here is an essay that compares the historical Mozart, Salieri et al. with the film.

The key individual from Hydro Ottawa left a message on my work voice-mail today, as promised, saying that they accept that I am not the person who lived at that other address and that I should disregard any messages seeking payment.

Also discovered that one of the three baby eastern garter snakes that I brought home has died. My god, but that didn't take long. I kill garter snakes the way Waldrop kills SF magazines. The other two still look fine, fortunately.

Monday, October 21, 2002

[ 5:48 PM ]

The Hydro Ottawa situation (see previous entry) is getting Kafkaesque — it's not every day that the service representative with whom you speak cites Kafka's Trial as a way of indicating that he understands how I feel (that was erudite of him). Still no reply from the key person who is investigating this situation; apparently information from the landlord of the apartment I have never lived in is required. I was promised an answer last Thursday; now I've been promised at least a progress report by tomorrow. I'm going to escalate this situation if I don't get an answer soon.

[ 5:44 PM ]

Dave reports that the wandering garter snake he received from me yesterday has already eaten three half-pinkies. Holy cow. Clearly I am not converting them to mice as quickly as I could. Time to get chopping.

[ 4:39 PM ]

On the Mac web, all sites inevitably tend toward the mean. The average Mac web site is a mix of evangelization, preaching to the converted, bashing Microsoft and belittling Windows users, and armchair quarterbacking of (read: second-guessing and whining about) Apple's hardware, software and marketing strategy. Mac web sites that deviate from this norm inevitably return to it: distinctive voices invariably fall back into the same-old-same-old. Two cases in point:

It's as though all Mac commentary must focus on the same vanilla topics, and all Mac commentators turn into pundits. It's just the writers who change, and they've given themselves free reign to talk about anything they like, with the attitude that I'm a Mac writer, so anything I write is appropriate to a Mac web siteCharles Moore, come on down! It's pure narcissism: ignore your self-imposed mandate and you ignore your readers.

[ 4:16 PM ]

Jennifer's school has an iBook lab (possibly this): twelve AirPort-equipped iBooks with a Base Station and a cart to wheel the whole kit and caboodle from classroom to classroom. The computers run Mac OS X 10.1.x, and the teachers apparently have a hell of a time keeping the kids from futzing with the Dock or playing iTunes when they shouldn't. If the computers were running Jaguar, the teachers would be able to lock out changes to the Dock and even prevent the use of certain applications. Problem solved!

[ 4:13 PM ]

Reptile shows are tiring and stressful things for me, not least because I get back home late on a Sunday night. Having to drive back from St. Jacobs rather than Mississauga this time made things worse; and having to hit three homes once back in Ottawa compounded the problem. I was only in bed well after two.

Sales were somewhat disappointing; make no mistake, this show is much smaller in scale than Grant's are, and with a much smaller target market. Several snakes were sold to people who were in contact with me prior to the show, and came to the show specifically to buy a snake from me. Only three corn snakes were "cold" sales. In the end, I more or less broke even: the gross revenues were somewhat higher than the total expenses of the trip.

Even so, we managed to unload nine snakes, pick up three baby eastern garter snakes that will be useful for club shows and Jennifer's new crested gecko, and visit Jeff and Jenny's new property just south of Orillia, which is utterly amazing — apart from the potential of their new house, the land itself, with streams and very tall trees (and a strange landing strip — long story) is breathtaking.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

[ 8:02 AM ]

Jennifer and I will be away this weekend, so don't expect any posts from me. We're off to sell snakes at the Waterloo Herpetological Society show in St. Jacobs, Ontario. I'm bringing 39 snakes down, more than I ever have before — and those are just the ones that are ready for sale.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

[ 12:49 PM ]

Vegetable consumption is up among Canadians, but 40 per cent of that is potatoes. (Green vegetable consumption is also up slightly.) Repeat after me: potatoes are not vegetables; they are a starch. Also note that fat consumption is up, too — Canadians eating lots of french fries may make the McCains happy, but it's not exactly healthy.

[ 8:11 AM ]

Big Momma
"Big Momma", my huge and spectacular female red-sided garter snake, died last night. She had been diagnosed with a malignant liver tumour in July (see previous entry). In captivity since 1999, she cannot have been anything less than a decade old when she died, and probably was older than that, making her one of the longer lived garter snakes in captivity. She was mother to three of the four litters of red-sided garter snakes that became available to the hobby since 1999, including 26 babies with me in 2001 and 42 this year. As the poster snake for, she became known to herpetoculturists across Canada. She was remarkable not only for her bright red coloration, but also for her gentle temperament and calm demeanour (except when heavily pregnant), uncharacteristically so for a natricine. She will be missed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

[ 9:24 PM ]

Japanese "Switch" ads! Hilarious! (via MacNN)

[ 8:40 PM ]

A series of Wallace and Gromit short films is being released, with one available for viewing online (via Metafilter). Ironically enough, I finally got around to watching the Wallace and Gromit DVD over the weekend. My impression is that they improve with each film, with "A Close Shave" the best of the three.

[ 8:33 PM ]

Jeffrey Simpson isn't happy about VIA Rail. More power to him, but he makes an uncharacteristic error in his column: "Speaking of locomotives and subsidies, could anyone please explain why rail is subsidized and air and road travel are not?" But they are, Mr. Simpson, they are. Airports were public facilities until they were privatized in the 1990s. And who, exactly, builds and maintains the highways? Why, the public.

[ 8:29 PM ]

Understand Bali's place in Indonesia — a largely Hindu enclave in an overwhelmingly Muslim country — and you will understand the significance of Bali as a tourist enclave, as yet another centre of unrest in Indonesia, and as a target of murderous fanatics.

[ 12:15 PM ]

Grumbling over last night's Blogger outage, I installed Movable Type on the OARA web site. I've got it up and running now (with a few not-yet-completely-done parts). I mostly did it because the additional features would be useful for the site, but also because the existing blog only had 12 entries, so converting would be easy, and, as a small blog, it would be a good test bed for the software. Once I get it figured out over there, I'll probably switch to it over here. I won't, however, convert my 16 months of Blogger-generated archives — there are just too many cross-links. I plan to make the switchover at the end of the month.

[ 9:44 AM ]

Time for a snake update. The Vapona has been removed from my cages. One more fish-eating baby red-sided garter snake has died. (The ones that have refused worms and eat fish are kept in a separate cage for organizational purposes. I've only got four left, by jeez.) The second clutch of normal corn snakes has hatched; unfortunately, one got into the gears of the incubator, curled up in a tight spot and promptly died. Florence, who has the incubator, had to take it out — in pieces. The remaining nine snakes are doing fine, though, if their siblings are any indication, it will be some time before they decide to start eating.

[ 9:36 AM ]

Blogger was offline for most of last evening and early this morning — thus, no posts.

[ 9:36 AM ]

You'll love this. In a notice containing a veiled threat to cut off my power and turn me over to the collection agencies, Hydro Ottawa is billing me (or rather, "Jonathan Crow") over $160 for an address at which I never lived. Somewhere in Vanier, I take it. They're looking into it. They'd better. Isn't the 20-digit account number enough to identify me properly?

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

[ 6:26 PM ]

Microsoft published on its web site a story by a woman who had switched from a Mac to a Windows PC. Only problem is, the story was made up: her photo was quickly found to be from a stock photo collection, and the prose was marketing-speak at its worst. Daring Fireball has the best summary of this fiasco. Can't Microsoft find real people who've switched, or did it even occur to them to try?

Sunday, October 13, 2002

[ 11:15 AM ]

Vapona doesn't seem to work as well as advertised. Just found two blood-engorged mites on the female flame garter. Damn.

[ 10:16 AM ]

Nunacom is a free font for displaying Inuktitut syllabics.

[ 7:34 AM ]

The landlord is entering the apartment again this week, this time "to do an architectural inspection and sketch of each apartment". They were in last week for a fire inspection. Repeated entries by the landlord are annoying and, if you keep reptiles, a bit unnerving. I managed to calm my nerves last night by reading everything pertinent. Despite the wording of my lease, the landlord cannot do a thing to me about the critters. Section 15 of the Tenant Protection Act of Ontario:

15. A provision in a tenancy agreement prohibiting the presence of animals in or about the residential complex is void.

Combine that with the fact that I'm in complete compliance with city by-laws and my provincial licence to keep specially protected reptiles, and I ought to feel safe. And, from a legal perspective, I am. Doesn't mean I'm safe from hassle, though.

Landlords cannot enter your apartment for just any reason. Section 21 of the Act is the provision under which the landlord can enter after giving notice. This time it looks like it's under item 3.1 of subsection 21(1), which leads me to believe that the landlord is interested in turning the building into a condominium. Fortunately, if the landlord does so, that does not change my status as a tenant at all. (Then again, I'm not planning on staying here forever, but at least I'll be able to go on my terms — at least after the one-year lease has expired — and not the landlord's.)

Is it ever a useful thing to be able to read legislation!

[ 7:24 AM ]

The reason behind the Baird's rat snake escape (see previous entry) is that the knobs on the cage lid were loose enough for the snake to push the tabs off the edge and push the cage lid up enough for it to escape. This is only a problem with the Miracles cages, the knobs of which I installed myself. The challenge in installing these knobs is to make them tight enough to close the cage properly, but not so tight that they cannot be moved by me. In addition, only constricting snakes are likely strong enough to be able to push their way out of a cage in this manner. The Baird's rat snake is the only constrictor in a Miracles cage in my apartment at the moment; the rest are natricines that are unlikely to be strong enough to pull off that stunt. I've advised Florence, though. And now you — make sure your cage lids are tight.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

[ 11:28 PM ]

Let me ask you something. If you had a shrimp allergy, would you go to Red Lobster for a meal? People seated next to us did. I swear I am not making that up. Next: vegans at McDonald's!

[ 10:14 AM ]

While watching the episode of Hilarious House of Frightenstein that was made available for download (see previous entry) last night, I came across something that stopped me dead in my tracks:

Hilarious House of Frightenstein Credits; reference to Ontario Herpetological Society

This bit of synchronicity frightens me a lot more than Bwana Clyde Batty, let me tell you.

[ 8:00 AM ]

Just found the Baird's rat snake along the heating pipes in the washroom; he was knocking over used toilet paper rolls, which for some reason I have laid out along the pipes (future snake hide boxes, maybe), which drew attention to himself. A cage was not properly closed after the Vapona was added last night. All other snakes accounted for. Escapes are always exhilirating, and I've been amazed at just how lucky I've been in that the snakes, once escaped, are very bad at hiding properly and very good at drawing attention to themselves. (Comes from being tame and domesticated, I guess.)

[ 7:44 AM ]

The Globe and Mail's Stephanie Nolen has the fascinating, forgotten story about NASA's early female astronaut program. In the early 1960s, a group of women more than passed the required tests to qualify as astronauts, but they never saw space.

[ 7:42 AM ]

A Brachylophosaurus dubbed "Leonardo" has been found that is essentially "mummified" — traces of the skin and stomach contents have been preserved. Extremely interesting, and exciting stuff for dinosaur nuts. It's easier to point you to Matt's Metafilter post, where I first heard about this, than to all the links contained therein. But do follow those links.

[ 7:38 AM ]

Round two of gassing the snake mites began last night. Since mites were found in Extrovert's and the flame garters' water dish after the first round, and live ones were found on Stubby, at Florence's place, after two rounds, I've doubled the amount of Vapona (dichlorvos) used. They're supposed to be dead, dammit!

Friday, October 11, 2002

[ 6:54 PM ]

New in the trails section: Burstall Pass, after a long delay. Recoding the pages made preparing the photos easier, so I stopped procrastinating. In other site news, note the presence of a new photos page, which will link to all my disparate mediocre photo pages.

[ 2:51 PM ]

The Hilarious House of Frightenstein Tribute Site provides everything you want to know about The Hilarious House of Frightenstein ("Gronk?"), a Canadian kiddie show that was all over the place during my childhood. Some interesting tidbits of information:

  • Billy Van played damn near every character except Igor, the Professor and Vincent Price (and a handful of others, including the puppets).
  • The program was shot out of sequence over a period of nine or twelve months in 1971. Van shot all his scenes as a given character (the Count, Grizelda, Dr. Pet Vet, etc.) sequentially (e.g., a few weeks as Dr. Pet Vet). The segments were then reassembled into over one hundred one-hour episodes.
  • By the time I saw it, Fishka Rais, who played Igor, had already died.
  • The master tapes may have been erased, so we may never see them again.

I am having a serious nostalgia attack right now! (via Boing Boing)

[ 2:47 PM ]

A proposal for a high-speed rail link in the Quebec-Windsor corridor has surfaced again; this time, though, VIA Rail's chairman, Jean Pelletier, is behind it. The proposal would involve a swap of track usage for the two parallel CP and CN lines: CP and CN would use one line for freight; the other would be high-speed passenger only (after substantial refit work, no doubt). There is also some discussion about a Calgary-Edmonton line. Not the first time there's been such talk; it's one thing to propose a thing, it's another to pay for it.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

[ 9:21 PM ]

The Canadian Museum of Nature is free on Thursday evenings, so I took in the Great Asian Dinosaurs exhibit today (see previous entry). I took some photos. Mostly Permian reptiles and amphibians and Cretaceous dinosaurs. Interesting that the adult Tyrannosaurus bataar and Saurolophus angustrirostris were mounted "old-style", i.e., upright, rather than the more modern, and probably more accurate, posture with the back horizontal and the tail stuck out as a counterbalance to the head. (The juvenile T. bataar cast is more like it.) They were probably mounted that way quite some time ago, and re-mounting them is, for whatever reason, impossible.

(I'll post my more casual photo galleries on my .Mac web space. My reptile and mountain photos will be presented on the main site, with homemade PHP, and the images will be tinkered with individually — which is why it's taking me forever to do photo galleries that are ostensibly more important to this site.)

[ 5:04 PM ]

A bit of JavaScript on my trails page prevented those using IE 6.0/Windows and IE 5.2/Mac from seeing the page. I'm not sure if it was bad JavaScript or non-compliant Microsoft browsers (oh no, it wouldn't be that), but I've pulled it and it works fine now.

[ 12:13 PM ]

Fortune on the fall of "Generation X" after the dot-com boom: "No generation since the Depression has been set up for failure like this. Everything the dot-com boom delivered has been taken away — and then some. Real wages are falling, wealth continues to shift from younger to older, and education costs are surging. Worse yet, for some Gen Xers, their peak earning years are behind them." Apparently I missed out on all the fun, though the only adverse effect I've suffered is a decine in the value of my mutual funds. (via Slashdot)

[ 12:06 PM ]

This post + this post = this Metafilter post. Sometimes it takes a while for the pieces to come together. (And sometimes it takes a while for them to comment on the post, grumble, grumble.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

[ 4:29 PM ]

I discovered two online magazines today that I will have to explore a bit more. Professor Barnhardt's Journal is new and shows promise (via Metafilter); Flak Magazine has been around a bit longer, so there are lots of archives to play in (via, um, Professor Barnhardt's Journal).

[ 4:28 PM ]

Jack Shafer raises the eternal journalist's question: do journalism schools do any good? He's neither for them nor against them: the presence of a J-school degree on a résumé will make him neither more likely nor less likely to hire that person. But, after interviewing four colleagues with J-school degrees, he discovered that they

had the inchoate desire to work in journalism when they applied to graduate school but felt clueless about how to get a serious job in journalism. They needed a credential to give them courage to enter the workplace, and I don't hold that against them. . . . The simplest justification for J-school resides here. It allows you the opportunity to explore your interest in journalism under the guise of attending school. . . . J-school can also be a helluva placement bureau for your first job: Almost all J-schools place their students in internships, where one acquires experience and job contacts. . . . J-school socializes its graduates, educating them about the mores and folkways of journalism and how to dance the newsroom dance.

I'm not sure whether this makes me more or less likely to want to be a journalist, or to attend journalism school, but it strengthens my vague notion that simply going to work at a small newspaper would be as effective, and Shafer actually says as much.

[ 4:25 PM ]

I kill garter snakes, I swear. I'm cursed. I've lost dozens of garter snakes to various causes, but I've lost only one snake that wasn't a garter. Garters are clearly much less resilient than lampropeltine snakes.

Two more baby red-sided garter snakes found dead yesterday, one with a full meal in it, the other a weak case I had anticipated. I've lost nine of the original 42; Florence, who took 10 at the start to look after, has lost one. These guys baffle me. Florence theorizes that a lack of food earlier this summer may have weakened them now, even though they're being fed reasonably well. I'm not convinced, but I don't know what constitutes starvation for a baby natricine. Certainly several of the snakes that have dropped dead over the last few weeks had eaten several meals in a row before doing so. I cannot discount the effects of last week's Vapona treatment or, more likely, something toxic in the nightcrawlers used as their food. (Bait-store nightcrawlers may have pesticides or other residues on them; they're collected from places like golf courses, after all.) I'm quite certain it's not dessication this time.

And, to our surprise, we found the eastern black-necked garter snake dead in her cage, with three wounds along her side, including one puncture outwards, with a spine at its centre. Surely we didn't feed her a stickleback along with the feeder platies, but Jen and I are at a loss to figure out how that spine got there. Clearly her last meal did her in, but we have no idea how.

Monday, October 07, 2002

[ 4:15 PM ]

Media contrarian Claire Hoy wonders at the saturation coverage of the Ron MacLean contract dispute and the willingness of the media to overlook interference by politicians and advertisers that they would have fulminated against in another context, i.e., if it weren't Ron.

[ 4:14 PM ]

Ron Duhamel remembered in The Hill Times, in the House of Commons, and in the Senate. (see previous entry)

[ 4:12 PM ]

I have an idea for a web page that requires the use of the Tengwar — Tolkien's Elvish characters. Which means I need to find a font, even if it's only to generate a screen capture for graphical embellishment. Googling turns up a number of TrueType Tengwar fonts. Tengwar Parmaitë looks the best; Tengwar Cursive looks useful; and Dan Smith has several Tengwar fonts. Haven't installed them yet; they should work on OS X in spite of being identified as Windows fonts (accessing all the characters might be more of a challenge, though). Here's a tutorial on writing with Elvish fonts and the Online Tengwar Transcriber that you can use if keying out the characters is daunting. From what I can gather so far, it's not easy.

[ 12:16 PM ]

Mark Frauenfelder used his lighthearted OS X conference keynote to reflect upon his experience as one of Apple's "switchers" — including the insults he received from PC users and even tech columnists (see previous entry) — and to suggest some whimsical gadgets he'd like to plug into his Mac, if they existed. (via Boing Boing)

[ 12:07 PM ]

The Palm Zire has been released. Read the coverage at CNet, Brighthand, Palm Infocenter and Wired; Palm Infocenter already has a review. It's priced at US$99 and targeted at non-traditional PDA users. The principal differences between it and the Palm m105 are as follows: the m105 has 8 MB of memory and uses a serial port and AAA alkaline batteries; the Zire has 2 MB of memory and uses a USB port and an internal rechargeable battery. Those requiring a Palm strictly as an organizer — Palm's intended market for this dingus — will frankly not need more than 2 MB of memory, and its design is apparently aimed at ease of use and battery life. At 108 g, it's the lightest Palm OS handheld ever. I'm surprised, however, that it doesn't have a backlight.

[ 12:05 PM ]

"The open secret of Canada's public-education system is that it tolerates failure. . . . For this reason — to root out failure — a testing culture is developing across Canada and around the world. . . . The tests may seem like an expensive way to tell people what they already know. . . . But to the extent that the tests force all the system's players to come to grips with failure and underachievement, they are invaluable." Today's Globe and Mail editorial.

[ 12:03 PM ]

"So why is it that sex still counts? Suzy Whaley recently qualified to become the first women to play in a Professional Golf Association Tour event. Tennis star Venus Williams's serves have been clocked at around 190 kilometres per hour, about the same as Andre Agassi's. And women can match men in long-distance running and swimming marathons." After four years of court challenges, Justine Blainey took her battle for the right to play on boys' hockey teams to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1987 — and won. Now a married chiropractor with a daughter, Justine Blainey-Broker reflects on the gender gap in sports. (posted to SportsFilter)

Sunday, October 06, 2002

[ 2:44 PM ]

The Alberta government, which charges that the Kyoto Protocol's impact on the Canadian economy (and, it goes without saying, Alberta's oil and gas sector) would be severe, is ratcheting up its campaign against the Protocol (and the Canadian government's support thereof). Meanwhile, two environmental groups have released a report that argues that Canadians could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent and save $30 billion a year in the process by 2030 (PDFs of the report summary and full report). And, if reducing emissions starts at home, you can apparently cut your own energy bills and emissions in half simply by stopping leaks and drafts in your house. (posted to Metafilter)

Saturday, October 05, 2002

[ 7:56 AM ]

If, like me, you've been to Pelee Island, you won't be neutral about the Globe and Mail story that Lake Erie, which was once touted as an environmental success story, may be dying again — and for reasons that researches cannot yet explain.

Friday, October 04, 2002

[ 12:06 PM ]

Many of you are feeling sorry for these icons. That is because you crazy. They are just icons. They have no feelings. And your new desktop is much nicer. (via icönomy's redesigned site)

(Update: They're blocking external links. Visit through the main page.)

Thursday, October 03, 2002

[ 4:40 PM ]

You knew about the new trailer for The Two Towers, didn't you? What in Arda are they doing with Elrond? What's up with him? Very interesting . . .

[ 3:59 PM ]

A pet boa constrictor has been identified as the source of a Salmonella infection from a platelet transfusion that caused a fatality: the donor was also a snake owner. Conventional wisdom in the herp community suggests that catching Salmonella from anything except aquatic turtles is an order of magnitude more difficult, so this is interesting, and a bit unsettling. At least the report's authors are talking about screening and sterilization, rather than a ban on reptile keeping. (Note the statistic: three per cent of the U.S. population owns a reptile.)

[ 12:48 PM ]

Brad Newsham explains why it's so hard to get a cab in San Francisco; this illuminating essay seems applicable to my own experiences with the Ottawa cab industry. (via Boing Boing)

[ 12:39 PM ]

Remember this guy? Now he's suing Google.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

[ 8:14 AM ]

The first Palm OS 5 device has been announced, and it's from Sony. (see previous entry)

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

[ 3:39 PM ]

I was never quite sure about the propriety of MacRaffle, which raffled off Apple hardware over the Internet. The small donation to a selected charity, buried in the fine print, seemed to me to be an insincere fig leaf rather than the genuine (and legally required) article, and the "no purchase necessary" mechanism seemed, well, odd (have a look at's analysis). I wasn't sure because I couldn't imagine that something illegal would have the audacity to be up and running and advertising itself all over the place, or the ability to do so without being shut down within days. But now it has been shut down by the Ohio state attorney general on the grounds that it's an illegal gambling site.

[ 3:36 PM ]

This Thursday, the Canadian Museum of Nature opens an exhibit of Asian dinosaur skeletons from the Russian Paleontological Institute. Putting Russian dinosaur collections on tour reportedly raises funds for cash-strapped scientific institutions back home, but others allege that Russia's own museums are the poorer for it, and the money — and fossils — may be going astray. (Posted to Metafilter, where it isn't generating comments like the hot-button Iraq drivel that passes for content there nowadays. But I thought dinosaurs were cool?)

[ 12:19 PM ]

Apple says that .Mac now has over 180,000 members, but some analysts, comparing that number to the 2.2 million former iTools users — as well as some people, comparing that to the estimated 25 million installed base — are unimpressed. Phooey on 'em all. Here's why:

  1. Any idiot should be able to recognize that it's no mean feat to get people to sign up for something that's free. Hell, if you can't give something away for free, there's clearly something wrong. Hotmail and AOL Instant Messenger, both free to use, have user bases well over one hundred million. So it's not realistic to compare the number of users of a free service to the number of users of a subscription service.
  2. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Macintosh users used a workaround to sign up for multiple iTools accounts. iTools had a 20 MB limit on free storage; why pay for extra storage when you can simply sign up for another account and get another 20 MB for free? How many people have multiple Hotmail or Yahoo accounts? I know of some. But it's all anecdotal. No way of measuring. But 180,000 paid-up members are "worth" more, then (like clock frequencies on different chip architectures): they don't use up multiple accounts. Additionally, you'll have fewer dead addresses; no one pays for something they don't use.
  3. And more importantly, paid members make you money; free members cost you money: 180,000 paid members use fewer resources and make more money than 2.2 million free members.
  4. Comparing .Mac subscribers to the installed base is fallacious. Not every installed Macintosh could use iTools/.Mac (did no one notice that 2.2 million iTools users was less than 10% of that purported installed base?) — you need OS 9 as a minimum, and if someone is still running 68000-based Macs or early Power PC-based Macs — a distinct possibility, actually! — then they can't use .Mac even if they want to. .Mac is more useful in OS X and even more useful in Jaguar; 180,000 out of the estimated 3 million OS X users is about 6 per cent — not bad at all, although there are probably plenty of antediluvian OS 9 .Mac members out there.
  5. Not every installed Mac is hooked up to the Internet. (Really!) These are Internet services: no Internet, no point.
  6. Not every installed Mac is used in the home: .Mac is consumer focused, and a professional using Quark or Final Cut Pro is not likely to need its features as much as a non-technical home user.
  7. Not every installed Mac is in North America. Europeans complain that some of the features — iPhoto stuff, mostly — isn't available overseas, and in fact iTools was historically targeted at the North American and Japanese markets. Macintosh users in Egypt are not likely to sign up for .Mac.

In short, I can't tell whether .Mac is a success or not, but I wouldn't presume to do so based on the silly assumptions and guessed data that passes for analysis out there. And some of that isn't even analysis; it's half whining and half implicit blackmail of Apple: give me more free stuff or my next computer is a Dell.

(I thought I was done on this subject yesterday. Still had another rant left in me, it would seem.)

[ 11:56 AM ]

Garter snake babies are dropping dead at a furious rate. Last night and this morning, as I was removing water dishes and adding Vapona strips (for mite removal), I found two more dead red-sided garters — one I had anticipated, the other a surprise, as it had eaten and still had a lump of food in its belly — and a wandering garter (that had not eaten). I'm not sure if these are the weak ones that were not eating (it was wandering garter #6; #7 hadn't eaten but was alive; the other five have eaten and look well) or if something is taking them out randomly, or apparently randomly (i.e., I can't tell in advance). So little information on raising baby garter snakes out there.

[ 11:48 AM ]

Senator Ron Duhamel, a former St-Boniface MP with whom I was acquainted (though not closely) during my politically active days in Winnipeg, has died of cancer at 64.

[ 7:12 AM ]

Microsoft has cut the price of Office v. X by $300 for new Mac buyers. Sales of the OS X version of Office have been disappointing for Microsoft, and the article cites numbers that indicate that the installed base of Office-on-Mac users has declined over the last five years. I can't help but wonder to what extent the Mac installed base is now comprised of anti-Microsoft computer users — has that increased as a proportion of the whole over this time, or has the Mac user base grown increasingly anti-Microsoft? I think that Microsoft would (privately) have to take that into account, as much as they would if they announced products for Linux: some of the people using a non-Windows system are deliberately avoiding Microsoft. How many, and the extent to which that has changed over time, I have no idea.