Friday, November 29, 2002
The Ottawa Citizen has gotten its hands on a copy of a report, scheduled to be released early next year, recommending a $2.5-billion (over 30 years) expansion of transit in Ottawa, with concomitant discouragements for private vehicles. More light rail and additional transitway corridors are proposed.
Fried turkey: something I did not know about. Thanksgiving turkeys are deep-fried in Louisiana. Whole. Here are some recipes: one of Emeril's, and one from the Creole and Cajun Recipe Page. Because you're dealing with a huge pot of hot oil, this is done outside. Not only does this apparently make for a tasty birdie, but it reduces the cooking time to less than an hour. A little tardy for a post related to American Thanksgiving, but here it is anyway. I would have posted this to MetaFilter, except that some bastard did it last year. (via 9622.net)
"Sixty acres of a clover field were wrapped with a continuous blanket of silk": millions of little spiders collectively build something astonishing in northern British Columbia.
Thursday, November 28, 2002
You know, I've been shooting off my mouth a lot about the things I read on the Mac web, but I never actually seriously imagined that anyone would take notice of some of my arguments, much less engage them in a serious manner. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that Daring Fireball's John Gruber challenged my arguments about the OS X Finder (see previous entry), quoting a paragraph of mine in doing so. It's a rare thing on the web to find your arguments dealt with in an intellectually vigorous manner; I've learned, on many a message board, to expect debate to be much more juvenile. I'm impressed, and flattered, but also humbled I have a hell of a lot of respect for Gruber, whose blog is one of the best things out there on the Mac web.
Insofar as his response to my argument is concerned, I suspect that he and I are talking about different kinds of users. He points out that switchers from other platforms may not use the Finder in the same manner or to the same extent as other users, and this is undoubtedly true, because our practices are based on our experience: if I find the OS X Finder more functional than the Windows 95/98/Me Explorer, then I am happy; that the OS 9 Finder may be even better is irrelevant to me because I've never really used OS 9. But I also think he's talking about professional users, whereas I'm just a home user (with an admittedly big mouth) who likes to fiddle with his computer. Most online Mac writing is from a professional perspective, and is presumably targeted at a professional audience or at least the good stuff seems to be and most long-time Mac users, the ones with experience, are probably pros as well. But switchers run the gamut, and a lot of us don't know how to run Photoshop.
That, at least, is my suspicion. If nothing else, there's something of a cultural divide between established Mac users and recent switchers (and, to a lesser extent, between the pro and home users); switchers are, like refugees happy to escape something hellish, much more satisfied with Apple in general (if not outright grateful) than the old core user base and much more comfortable with OS X's idiosyncracies, possibly because we've already had to switch to something less familiar, possibly because we're used to putting up with so much more. If switchers start asserting themselves online, we could be in for some interesting displays of rhetorical fireworks.
This National Post story about the time-consuming drug-approval process in Canada features a New Brunswicker with rheumatoid arthritis who waited a year for Enbrel to be approved.
This is what it's like:
Most pain is ultimately manageable. You beat it back with pain-killers and anti-inflammatories, and you grit your teeth when some seeps through, and you learn to live with it. That's what Ms. Wilhelm did. She became an expert in pain denial. The Wilhelm family mom, dad, two grown kids and two old dogs also learned to cope.
"There were quite a few years where I didn't do any cooking at all," Ms. Wilhelm said, at the kitchen table of their small rural home. "We ate mostly takeout and M&M's [meats] and pre-packaged food. The exhaustion that comes with this disease is overwhelming.
"I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. Kerry [her husband] was waiting on me, the kids were doing laundry, I couldn't even tie up my own shoes. I just lay in bed and watched TV. I formed a really good friendship with [television talk show host] Rosie O'Donnell."
Now that she's on Enbrel, it's altogether different, of course. (Enbrel is apparently covered by drug plans. Must investigate.)
Roy Romanow will recommend that drug costs be covered for Canadians with chronic illnesses with which, acting in my own self-interest, I cannot help but agree. You must concede that there is a difference between a two-week prescription once or twice a year and being on medication for your entire life. I've been on various NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib, indomethacin, diclofenac, naproxen again) non-stop since the summer of 1997, and there is no end in sight. I also wonder whether this will make it any easier for me to get access to the horrifically expensive Remicade (see previous entries: 1, 2). Yes, that would be an increased cost to the taxpayer, but if this stuff is more effective than what I'm on now, I would be off sick less often and my productivity would skyrocket to the benefit of the taxpayers who pay my salary.
Relax, it's just a game. The Canadian Hockey Association launches a brilliant ad campaign to combat boorish behaviour among hockey parents. Watch the ads online. Found via Roy MacGregor's column in today's Globe and Mail. (posted to SportsFilter)
Is the O-Train a success? Despite cost overruns and unforeseen technical problems, the O-Train has met its targets and should be extended another two years, a city report argues.
I've been doing some more thinking about the post immediately previous. This phenomenon is one in which all who disagree with your point of view are lumped into the same group. Child molesters and war criminals are spoken of in the same breath as those who are simply on the opposite side of the political spectrum: "you are either with us or against us; there be no road between." Or to put it another way, if you are not among my friends, you are among my enemies, and I do not see any differences among my enemies. Americans with an awareness of recent history will recognize this for what it is; they may even recognize the above quotation.
Extremist warbloggers like this one divide the world into three camps:
- Muslims, who are all terrorists; and
- Leftists (Democrats, liberals and communists), who are all terrorist sympathizers.
As I said, somewhat less explicitly, in my previous post, I'm getting the distinct impression that for some of these folks the war on terror is just another weapon to use against their ideological opponents, rather than a mission in its own right.
While this example is particular to a certain portion of the American Right, the phenomenon is universal. Canadians will recognize this reductionism in the phrase often used by a certain former prime minister: enemies of Canada. (Did my Canadian readers just flinch?) Its core meaning was separatists, but it expanded to include anyone who disagreed with the government position on constitutional reform during the Meech Lake and Charlottetown processes. It was a phrase that backfired because most people opposed Meech and Charlottetown without feeling in any way disloyal to their country, and they resented the implication. A similar backlash will not afflict the extreme right-wing warbloggers because their echo chamber is hermetically sealed: they link amongst themselves, talk amongst themselves, and dismiss everyone else.
(Note that I'm not linking to her either. I'm not being petty; I just don't want her checking her referral logs and rounding up a foaming-mouth lynch mob to come after me. Good thing I don't have comments on this blog. What, you think I'm kidding?)
Did you think that warbloggers were simply propagandists for the full prosecution of the war on terror? Apparently not; at least one seems to think that the war is equally against leftists very broadly defined, as her target is a conservative Democrat. But the mere fact that he is a registered Democrat equates him to al-Qaeda in her eyes:
I find the GOP platform to be based on Truth and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, in other words, Republicans are committed to keeping our Country the way our Founding Fathers envisioned. The DNC position is too often that of Socialism and Transnational Progressivism (a new definition for Communism, in my book). We are at War as much with Liberals as we are with Islamist terrorists. Your side is, unfortunately, the Enemy.
The war on terror as a way of scoring points against the Democrats she'd be writing like this even if al-Qaeda had never existed, in other words. Oliver's quite convinced that she's a nutter; she manages to out-Coulter Ann Coulter. (via Brian and Oliver)
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
The Olympics have gotten too big and need to shrink. Dick Pound will argue this week that the IOC needs to "begin culling the events before we see gold medals being awarded in mall walking and spelling bees," as columnist Roy MacGregor puts it. While ballroom dancing, cheerleading and chess clamour for Olympic recognition, baseball, softball and modern pentathlon may be on the block (their global participation rates are low, or at least regionally unbalanced). My father argues that all judged sports should be out, which is an extreme, albeit justifiable, argument, since that would include boxing, diving and gymnastics in addition to the maligned figure skating and synchronized swimming. (posted to SportsFilter)
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
The legal challenge to Banff's residency requirements seems to me to be essentially based upon greed. There are excellent social reasons to require park employment in order to live in Banff: you don't want the town to become the exclusive haven of millionaires. But people want to be able to sell their homes for as much as they can, forgetting that any additional value is simply because it's in a national park, and that their profits would be as a result of their personal exploitation of a public good. Banff is commercialized and upscale enough as it is, and enough people employed there have to commute from Canmore as it is.
Living off the grid. Faced with an estimated $40,000 bill to bring hydro to their rural home, Pat Wolfe and Jane Beall decided to generate their own electricity. They've spent $50,000 so far, on such things as solar panels, a wind generator, a battery array and efficient appliances, but they're not paying anything for electricity, which cost them $4,000 a year at their old home. High prices change our behaviour, says Jeffrey Simpson: we use less if it costs more. Which is why re-regulating hydro prices will do little to spur conservation. Or, as another resident off the grid puts it (in the first article), "In Europe, the hydro costs 10 times as much as here, but they only use about one-tenth as much as we do, so the bills even out."
You can always tell a long-time Mac user by what he complains about � and by the fact that he complains so emphatically about something the rest of us consider so minor. And, in the case of this article about iPhoto, by the fact that the author gets completely sidetracked by the complaint: is this article about Apple's marketing of iPhoto, or is it a lengthy complaint about Apple's allegedly poor support of non-North American markets?
And then there's John Gruber's lengthy tirade against the OS X Finder, which began as a link to someone else's lengthy tirade against the finder. Long-time Mac users obsess about the OS X Finder, which they deem to be less perfect because it's, well, not the OS <= 9 Finder, which in their eyes is perfection. No it's not, guys; it's just what you're used to. I have no problems with the OS X Finder and, to be quite honest, I don't use it that much. I don't push files around that often, and when I do, I tend to use the file for quite some time, or access the file from within the application. Sometimes I even use the command line. I have seen article after article denouncing the OS X Finder since before I switched last year, and I can't for the life of me see what the big deal is. But then, they put up with cooperative multitasking and a crash-prone operating system (extension conflicts, anyone?) for years on end, so they're clearly selective about what's important. Or maybe it's just that I've used enough different operating systems not to freak out over something new, which is, I suspect, really what long-time Mac users have trouble with.
Monday, November 25, 2002
Linking to the Ban Comic Sans web page might get me in trouble, because it's Jen's favourite font. It is overused used in places where it's just inappropriate which is the whole point of the campaign. I think I have just raised questions about my girlfriend's taste. I am a dead man. (via MetaFilter)
"Apple Computer's quirky ads have never been as good at building market share as 'mind share,' or buzz," says the New York Times about the "Switch" campaign (via MacNN) and it cites as its evidence the "Switch" parodies that have been springing up across the web (see previous entry). Here's a good one that has been making the rounds lately. Now here comes Apple itself with some "Switch" parodies of its own, starring Will Farrell as "S. Claus".
The funny thing is that I've got an idea one that would be extremely funny among my own people Florence, Jen and I Larfed Ourselves Stoopid® as we came up with it amongst ourselves but I don't have the graphic-arts skill to put it together. Nor would you get it, unless you kept garter snakes.
Do you think that Ottawa Stories would be interested in the sustained rant against this city that has been building up in my head over the past couple of years? I bet they would, actually.
MacRumors has published an interesting if unverifiable account of what happened to Motorola's rumoured and apparently aborted G5 project, which was supposed to be running on Power Macs by now, according to the source. The G5's collapse forced Apple to make do with increasingly maxed-out G4 processors on an aging motherboard design until IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 can come to the rescue in the second half of 2003.
There's also this interesting bit about the Marklar project (see previous entry):
Contrary to circulating rumors, it is not meant to be a Power PC exit strategy. Rather, it is intended to be offered to X86 users when Apple sees market conditions being fit for it. What it means by this is regarding Intel's Lagrande technology, and Microsoft's Palladium technology. Apple intends on releasing OS X on Intel, when consumer dissatisfaction falls to an all time low for Microsoft when users become restricted to what they can do on their PC's due to Lagrande and Palladium. Likely it will be released in the event that Microsoft chooses to stop developing for the Mac platform altogether.
Of course, such reports should by default be taken with a grain of salt the approximate size of Liechtenstein.
I've put together a couple of little MetaFilter projects: a mailing list for MeFi members in Ontario and Quebec, in the hope that we can put a meeting together some time soon (MetaTalk thread); and an iCal-based calendar of upcoming MetaFilter gatherings (MetaTalk thread). Six subscribers to the list so far, but no calendar submissions as yet.
Saturday, November 23, 2002
Teachers are digging into their own pockets to buy supplies for their students on the order of $180 million in Canada last year, and, in some individual cases, up to thousands of dollars by each teacher. Not that they're making all that much to begin with.
One more post about France. Jason and Meg are spending a month in Paris, and they're posting about it in their respective blogs; Jason has a separate category for his Paris postings. I keep reading with a certain amount of amusement and a bit of nostalgia, since they're experiencing for the first time what I encountered back in the summer of 1997. But, by spending a month there, they're going about it the right way: Paris is much better in larger doses, especially if you don't tackle it like a tourist on a deadline. They've also read Paris to the Moon, which is as good an introduction to Paris for North Americans as anything I recommend it.
Speaking of French comestibles, check out Miguel's MetaFilter post about French-style artisanal bread coming to the U.S., in a manner that evokes the time that California wines beat French wines in a competition in the 1970s.
Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé, but the wine's popularity has more to do with clever marketing than the quality of the wine itself. "Why it was decided to make the region's humblest juice a wine mainly borne of its worst vineyards, a wine barely removed from the fermentation vat, a wine that is nothing more than pleasantly tart barroom swill its international standard bearer is a question that will undoubtedly puzzle marketing students for generations to come." (posted to MetaFilter)
Friday, November 22, 2002
The online phenomenon surrounding the teenaged Ellen Feiss as a result of her Apple "switch" ad is just a little bit creepy (she's 15, people). Fortunately, as her first-ever interview reveals, she seems to be remarkably well-balanced and unaffected by the cyber-hoopla. The most unkind suggestion that she was on drugs when the ad was shot turns out to be true in a way completely different from what you might expect: "by the time I made it it was like 10, so I was really tired. The funny thing was, I was on drugs! I was on Benedryl, my allergy medication, so I was really out of it anyway. That's why my eyes were all red, because I have seasonal allergies. But no one believes me." (posted to MetaFilter)
MacGPS Pro 4.0 has been released; it allows you to use your Mac with a Garmin GPS, though Garmin's own maps are uploadable only with its Windows software (via MacMinute and MacNN). All I need is a Bluetooth-enabled GPS that can interoperate with Macs and
I should have reported on the reptile show last weekend much sooner than this, but I was pretty tired the day after the show, and my back's been acting up all week besides (I'm home today as a result of it).
In a nutshell, we sold 11 red-sided garter snakes, two anerythristic corn snakes, and all the snakes we brought along on behalf of friends. I also picked up a stunning adult female red-spotted garter snake (T. s. concinnus), which, as it turns out, has mites, which I'm treating right now. Florence and I each picked up a baby red milk snake (L. t. syspila); that'll be a breeding project somewhere down the road, as this is an unrelated male-female pair. Florence's has started eating; mine has not. (Florence also indulged in a hypomelanistic motley corn snake.)
The weather was a bit treacherous. The snow got heavy once we hit the junction of highways 115 and 401 (we came down via Peterborough), and I, mindful of the accident two years ago, got the hell off the freeway a few kilometres down the road, and drove into Toronto via the old highway. Took forever, but I doubt it would have gone any faster on the 401. Sunday morning was pretty clogged, but empty; fortunately, though we were fearing the worst, the weather was unproblematic by the time we left, and the drive back was uneventful, if slower than usual due to caution.
We are definitely going to have to something about coming home late on Sunday nights. Delivering everyone to their respective apartments and putting the animals away means we're up until the early morning; we need to figure out a solution for that.
In other snake-related news, my new bullsnake is established over here (picked up one of Andrew's litter), and two (so far) non-eating baby corn snakes have eaten their first meals a live pinky with which each was confined in a film cannister.
Thursday, November 21, 2002
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Damn it, I want to publish a zine. I think I've always wanted to; my editorial compulsiveness has often struggled with my creative tendencies for dominance (do I want to write or do I want to edit?). I have an idea for one, and it might work if I can get a few of my superfriends to write something for it. I envision a sort of personal-level National Geographic with attitude, but without the self-consciously alt/indie poseur shite that manifests itself in so many zines. (See Broken Pencil on Canadian zines.) I'm still a little vague on what I want, but I think I'd like something along the following lines: intellectually rigorous travel and nature writing; obscure international stories (stuff that reveals a foreign land's culture, not the usual war-and-disaster headlines); insightful, non-angry, disinterested political stories; and stories about cultural encounters, whether geographical, culinary, ethnic, religious or subcultural. Probably published as a downloadable PDF rather than web-based or print assuming, that is, that I can get the content.
It's the first anniversary of my switch to the Macintosh platform; I bought and took home my iBook on this date last year. I've posted a semi-coherent entry in my Slashdot journal that looks back at my first year as a Mac owner.
whatever the Mulroney weaknesses, an ability to hold together his caucus was not one of them. On the contrary. History may prove he was too persuasive for his government's own good, concluding that, if he could carry the caucus on contentious issues, he could carry the country. But he was always careful to carry his caucus and Mr. Chr�tien hasn't been.
Mulroney's ability to assuage his caucus inoculated them against the need to respond to their constituents: his voice was stronger and more persuasive; theirs was weaker. In the end, that was fatal to the PC Party, and to the democratic process, since MPs who are eager to protect their ability to get re-elected must, in theory at least, yield to constituent pressure. A nervous government caucus of MPs worried about their re-election counterbalances an activist government. Emboldening the caucus was beneficial in the short term, but disastrous in the long term: as constituent grievances were subsumed to Mulroney's astonishing rapport with his caucus, voters abandoned the Conservatives in droves.
Beware opining on subjects about which you do not know as much as you think you do. (All of us commit this sin at one point or another.) Steven Den Beste published another screed about the Mac's shortcomings, this time drawing our attention to how a 3.06-GHz Pentium 4 system makes mincemeat of a dual-1.25-GHz Power Mac G4, particularly in terms of digital video. As usual with SDB, who I always find interesting to read on most other subjects, he's focusing on hardware, and on the CPU and motherboard speed in particular, to the exclusion of all else.
But this time Brian Tiemann called Steve on this and pointed out that, among other things, ColorSync is crucial to graphics industries (like digital video and publishing), much more so than faster render times. James Lileks backs him up (in the footnotes to SDB's original article) as far as the print industry is concerned (ColorSync is vital to his publisher), and so does the Capitalist Lion, who does work in post-production; he also cites a the usefulness of a unified hardware line. These are people in the biz.
In other words, mixing and matching hardware, even faster hardware, cannot generate the consistent results needed when producing graphical content. SDB is not in this industry and wouldn't know this; as a hardware engineer, he talks about what he knows (hardware), and applies it in a way he thinks makes sense (aren't faster render times important to this field?), and, as a result, goofs it. Point: Mac users.
The response from SDB? When in doubt, repeat, but from another angle. And so it goes.
JFK had a host of illnesses for which he took as many as eight different medications a day during his presidency, and was likely in constant pain every day. While the vigour attributed to him at the time deceived the voters, how he managed to function with such stoicism is both encouraging and inspiring, particularly for someone like me who has to function in spite of chronic pain. (via MetaFilter)
Seattle Waterfront, 2002-1907. Two panoramas, taken 95 years apart, with amazing transitions, especially if your browser supports the fading transition or slider bar. Wonderful stuff (as usual) from the gifted Alan Taylor. (via MetaFilter)
Just in case you hadn't noticed, I finally finished the price list section last week, including detailed descriptions of each species offered for sale, along with some nice photos. I also revised the garter snake care sheet (Sheet? It's seven pages long!), and have left it in PDF format to avoid having to reconcile a print and web version, at least for the moment. (I don't have fancy XML-enabled repurposing software.) All of which was in preparation for the show last weekend (more on which anon).
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Matthew Rothenberg on a possible/hypothetical Apple version of a Tablet PC. I've felt that Apple's (lack of) presence in the enterprise sector, which Microsoft is explicitly targeting as the market for Tablet PCs, makes a tablet Mac less likely, but Apple could, as Rothenberg points out, easily put out a tablet that beats the Tablet PC's pants off. Read my Slashdot journal entry to find out why. (Originally posted here but moved there to avoid teching out my miniscule and diverse audience.) And for more on Tablet PCs, read Anil on why they will succeed, and Matt on why they will fail.
I haven't had the time to write about the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring, which was released on DVD last week. So have a look at Brian's take on the film, which is pretty detailed, and covers most of what I wanted to say.
In other news, Spirited Away, which I saw on Friday, lived up to all expectations, and is highly recommended.
Thursday, November 14, 2002
Busy, with the accompanying stress and madness, trying to get ready for this Sunday's reptile show, so my posting has been sporadic.
For a definition of "penny-wise and pound-foolish", see the Ottawa city budget, which cuts funding to two wildlife centres that provide services that would be much more expensive for the city to provide itself.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Monday, November 11, 2002
The feedback Low End Mac has been getting about Moore's columns, and the attempt by one reader to complain to the site's advertisers (see previous entry), is mixed, but a good deal of it seems to be written by people of faith who fulminate against political correctness. Others don't agree, and share my view that a Mac site should deal only with Mac topics, if only to avoid controversy. And while the Christian content will eventually be moved elsewhere, Knight continues to be unrepentant: "we will be publishing future content written from an explicitly Christian perspective elsewhere and we will continue to link to such content from Low End Mac, because we believe there's much more to life than computers." Sure there is; it's just that while Knight believes there's more to life than computers, there doesn't seem to be more to life than computers and God, which makes his argument disingenuous. The end result, based on the reader feedback, will be a Mac site fervently supported by believers and ignored by everyone else.
n' ummm thattt doesnt render in netscrap because of the person improperly naming the image file... if you were to remove the space in the name....pelee 001.jpg ...to be .. pelee001.jpg the images would show fine...:Ofi
sooo to your...."So upgrade yer browser, already"... ummm /me would reply....sooo code your pages properly...:O)))
This person is essentially correct about the nature of the error; I just didn't want to bother with fixing an error that only shows up on a browser that people shouldn't be using anyway. My response:
The error was discovered after I had coded the PHP for the photo gallery pages, and it would have taken more than just renaming the files I would have had to search out every cross-link, for example, as well as recode the galleries.
I don't test on Netscape 4 because it's not available to me I don't own a Windows or Linux machine and I don't boot into Mac OS 9 so these errors have to be pointed out to me by that diminishing group of Netscape 4 users out there.
Since the bug was specific to Netscape 4, and people should upgrade from Netscape 4 browsers anyway, and since I am not being paid to maintain those pages (in fact, I'm paying to have these and many other pages hosted) and have many demands on my time, I didn't want to have to bother with the recoding work, and posted that instead. Sure, it's the lazier of the two options, but hey, it's my site, and I'm busy. ;)
You're welcome to your opinion, of course, but I've long since given up trying to make my pages work properly in Netscape 4, and most web developers agree with me.
Frankly I'd be more worried about HTML standards and compatibility with, say, IE 5.5 (Windows) and Mozilla 1.x. Mind you, reptile hobbyists, most of whom are technophobes, are much more likely to be using an ancient browser. In the final analysis, it's just too low on the priority list to bother with. I've got lots of other pages around here that need fixing, too.
Thursday, November 07, 2002
Some Apple-related humour that has been circulating recently:
- Another Switch parody. "My name is Anakin Skywalker, and I'm a
. . .Sith Lord." In Flash.
- Fox Trot's take on the Ellen Feiss phenomenon. (Amend, a Mac user, actually did an "All Your Base" cartoon last year. He knows his memes.)
- The only keyboard you'll ever need for your Windows PC.
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Not to belabour all things iBook, but the Globe and Mail has a story about Maine's laptop initiative, under which every seventh-grader has been given an iBook. It's getting quite a bit of attention given the interest of Bernard Lord, will we see something similar in New Brunswick? (via MacNN)
Apple announced updated laptops this morning. Most Mac-heads expect to be disappointed with such announcements, as they invariably fall short of expectations. Not this time, oh no. There's a big puddle of drool beneath every laptop enthusiast this morning.
The iBook received a price cut, a speed boost, and a more powerful graphics chip. The low-end model has a CD-ROM, a 700 MHz G3 and a 16 MB ATi Radeon Mobility 7500, and costs C$1,599 (US$999). The next two models have combo drives, 800-MHz G3s and 32-MB Radeon 7500s; the 12" model sells for C$2,099/US$1,299 and the 14" model sells for C$2,599/US$1,599. When I bought my 12" combo-drive iBook (600 MHz G3, 8 MB ATi Rage Pro) a year ago, it cost C$2,899. That a combo-drive laptop with 32 MB of video RAM from Apple can cost only $2,100 is mind-boggling. Want a laptop as a second computer? Buy one of these, I'm not kidding. (Hell, I'm wondering about the trade-in value of my year-old laptop, which is hardly sensible.)
Now the PowerBook also got a price cut and a speed boost (either 867 MHz or 1 GHz), as well as the ATi Radeon Mobility 9000 (either 32 MB or 64 MB), but the big news is the slot-loading DVD burner on the 1 GHz model. Most people were predicting a lower speed bump, no graphics upgrade, or no SuperDrive, and they were pissed about it; to say they are now ecstatic is an understatement. Mind you, at C$3,699/US$2,299 and up, these TiBooks are not in my price bracket! General excitement notwithstanding, is there a real need for a portable DVD burner, or does this simply make the TiBook a more complete desktop replacement? Still, there's that drool.
.Mac subscribers can now publish blogs on their iDisk with a new third-party application called iBlog, now out in beta. It's also an RSS aggregator. Since .Mac was announced, I've felt that weblog publishing would be a useful feature for Apple to add, enough so that I submitted the idea to Apple. Whether they go for it is anyone's guess, but these guys have beaten them to the punch if they were planning it. (Their web site design is bound to get them in trouble, though.) Because it's a desktop application, it's not nearly as versatile as server-based solutions like Blogger and Movable Type, where you can post from any computer with web access, but is closer to Radio Userland. As for its RSS aggregation features, it remains to be seen how it will stack up against the formidable NetNewsWire Lite, about which see Daring Fireball. (via MacSlash) (Update: posted to Blogroots)
Are weblogs an effective tool when you're being stalked? That's the question raised by Quinn Norton's diary of a stalking, which chronicles the constant phone calls, e-mails and veiled threats from someone nearly halfway around the world. She considers it a minor stalking (she's been stalked before), and her purpose is as much documentary as it is to shine a little public scrutiny on the fellow. Others disagree (see the Boing Boing discussion), arguing that doing so establishes a relationship with the stalker and proves he's getting to you, which is what he wants. I'm not convinced of that, because I don't think this guy fits the classic pattern of a stalker who imagines a relationship with his target. (via Boing Boing)
A counter-example: last September, a certain researcher decided to go after a number of prominent bloggers, one of whom her primary target responded by taking down the thread on which it all began. (I posted about it, but took it down after the thread was pulled.) She's still making trouble, and Anil has decided to publicly comment about it, which I'm not sure is a good idea, as the comments to the post bear out. Direct confrontation and scrutiny is not always the best policy.
Still, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I had been blogging when one of Florence's old friends whom we lovingly referred to as "Fat-ass" was causing her trouble. An old friend, nothing more, with whom Florence had had a falling out in late 1998, but who was calling and e-mailing her for years afterward, spewing abusive garbage while playing the aggrieved victim. Would I have posted about that? Damn straight, I would have.
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
A review of the dual-867-MHz Power Mac G4 from a gamer's perspective, with a heavy focus on the graphics cards it ships with.
Maybe you're travelling to Nunavut, maybe you've just seen Atanarjuat, but for whatever reason, you're keen to learn some Inuktitut. Where to begin? Take a course if one is available in your area. Listen to some words and phrases. But unless you're heading to a region (PDF map) where the Inuinnaqtun dialect is spoken (it uses the Roman alphabet), you're going to need to use Inuktitut's syllabics. Download some fonts (another source, and another) -- you'll need them for many sites, including this Inuktitut language reader. Or try out this handy converter. Finally, the Living Dictionary is the definitive reference to this language. (posted to MetaFilter; see previous entry)
Monday, November 04, 2002
The U.S. grows more corn than anything else, and Michael Pollan says that's a problem.
We're producing way too much corn. So, we make corn sweeteners. High-fructose corn sweeteners are everywhere. They've completely replaced sugar in sodas and soft drinks. They make sweet things cheaper. We also give it to animals. Corn explains everything about the cattle industry. It explains why we have to give [cattle] antibiotics, because corn doesn't agree with their digestive system. It explains why we have this E.coli 0157 problem, because the corn acidifies their digestive system in such a way that these bacteria can survive.
And we subsidize this overproduction. We structure the subsidies to make corn very, very cheap, which encourages farmers to plant more and more to make the same amount of money. The argument is that it helps us compete internationally. The great beneficiaries are the processors that are using corn domestically. We're subsidizing obesity. We're subsidizing the food-safety problems associated with feedlot beef. It's an absolutely irrational system. The people who worry about public health don't have any control over agricultural subsidies. The USDA is not thinking about public health. The USDA is thinking about getting rid of corn. And, helping [businesses] to be able to make their products more cheaply whether it's beef or high-fructose corn syrup.
(via Rebecca's Pocket)
I disagree with the decision of Dan Knight and Charles Moore to publish non-Mac content on Low End Mac, namely, Moore's columns on terrorism and Islam from a right-wing Christian perspective (see previous entries: 1, 2), though they certainly have every right to do so.
Using a site ostensibly dedicated to used Macintosh computers in order to publish opinion pieces on an unrelated subject is narcissistic and takes the readership for granted. It assumes that people will read whatever you publish, no matter what. It puts the interest of the writer ahead of the interest of the reader, which is something I'd associate more with fanzines and herpetological society newsletters that have no budget and are desperate for writers, rather than a heavily trafficked, and actually kind of useful, web site with a budget and columnists.
Knight and Moore have maintained, defiantly, that people who use Macs are also interested in other subjects as justification to keep on publishing Moore's screeds, whenever someone complains. The problem is that a site's readership is inevitably diverse in its opinions except for the one thing that drew them to that site reptile hobbyists visiting Kingsnake.com's forums, for example, probably disagree on everything except that reptiles are kind of neat. I've argued before that people read Mac web sites to read about Macintosh computers, not war, terrorism and faith; if they want to read about those other subjects, they will visit sites dedicated to those subjects. Liberal atheists who use Macs will not agree with conservative Pentecostals who use Macs on those subjects. Publishing something on a controversial and off-topic subject is going to offend someone; it's just a matter of whom.
And so it has come to pass with Low End Mac: Dan revealed last week that someone has taken great offense to the content on Low End Mac and is writing to the site's advertisers. Dan is outraged, unrepentant, and unmoved: he sees this as an attempt to censor the site. But this crisis is largely their own damn fault. Free speech means no prior restraint; it also means facing the consequences of what you write, and I find it hard to be sympathetic if you present something controversial to an audience that doesn't expect it and cry censorship when people protest it.
I do think that writing to the advertisers is going too far, but Low End Mac has been particularly intransigent on this point. Then why not simply stop reading the site? For the same reason that people write letters to the editor complaining about something they read in the paper, rather than just cancelling their subscription: even if a publication is privately owned, it is to some extent a community resource.* Low End Mac provides a useful service, and it would be even more useful if Knight and Moore would quit taking up space with politics and religion and responding to all the letters they're getting on the subject. To put it another way, a subscriber to the Ottawa Citizen who can't stand the columns of the odious John Robson should not be told to either put up with it or cancel his subscription. Readers have a stake, and free speech also means the right to make a big stink if you as a reader are not happy (and while the site may be free, readers draw advertisers). Readers raised a stink, and Knight told them to get stuffed. One reader decided not to give it a rest (since Moore certainly hasn't), and as a result Knight is playing the martyred Christian and fulminating against political correctness. What he's essentially objecting to is a readership that won't shut up and take its medicine. That attitude, more than anything else, will doom Low End Mac to oblivion, irrelevance, or just plain nuttiness.
(* Note that this does not apply to personal weblogs, which are explicitly author-driven, but it does apply to weblogs that focus on a specific subject.)
Brighthand has a review of the other Palm OS 5 handheld, the Sony NX70V.
The University of Winnipeg has sold its science fiction collection. That collection allowed me to write two papers one undergraduate, one graduate that I would not otherwise have done as well, were it not for some obscure vintage paperbacks found therein.
It's snowing in Ottawa today, which means that nicotine-addled civil servants huddle a grand total of six inches outside the doors of their office doors for their fix, right under the signs prohibiting smoking right by the entrance. Smokers who work for the government annoy the hell out of me. All over downtown Ottawa, there they are. Pushing past people as they rush out the door of their building, cigarette and lighter in hand, so that they can light up 15 femtoseconds after they exit the revolving doors. Walking along city sidewalks with a lit cig in one hand, its ash end threatening to burn anyone who walks by I'm amazed I haven't been burned yet. Ottawa's smoking rate is supposed to be lower than the national average; are civil servants, as a class, an outlier?
Sunday, November 03, 2002
SF author Charles Sheffield died yesterday. It was known for a few months that he had been undergoing treatment for brain cancer. Even so, I waited until Locus and the SFWA site posted this news, for fear of error. (via Boing Boing)
I managed to try out a Palm Tungsten T briefly at the local Compucentre yesterday. Now there's only so much you can do with such a gadget at a store web browsing over Bluetooth cannot really be evaluated but I can say this: the screen is gorgeous, the fonts and icons are lovely, the unit is physically small (it's still much smaller than a Pocket PC), and the sliding action is quite neat. Not much point in my touching it unless I can find at least one other Bluetooth gadget worth owning in particular, a cellphone. I can well afford to wait. (If I wait long enough, Palm OS 6 will be out.)
Saturday, November 02, 2002
Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills has started up again; I went last night. We saw about a dozen mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus), which seemed closer because of the extreme shallowness of the water. Some were in pairs, which Fred thinks might indicate courtship, and one was halfway through eating a bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), which was a huge meal for it. A northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) was also swimming at the site, and we also saw some giant water bugs and crayfish. Not bad for early in the season.
Butterfly farming, whether it's to provide live, captive-bred butterflies or framed insects, is a way for people to generate income by nurturing rainforest habitat rather than cutting it down. It's happening in places like Costa Rica, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. But you can also raise butterflies yourself. Bits and Bugs had a kiosk at Rideau Centre today, which led to this pleasant discovery. (posted to MetaFilter)