Thursday, July 31, 2003

On hiatus [ 9:10 PM ]

I’m in the midst of moving to Shawville — we’ve been moving stuff for the past week and a half, and the big move takes place on Saturday — so the blogging has, understandably, come to a screeching halt. It’ll take a while to get highspeed up and running at the new location, so I’ll take this opportunity to go on a brief hiatus. I’m thinking of moving over to Movable Type in the interim as well. Watch this space for further updates.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of Jen’s new workplace and the new car and apartment. As I said, lots has been happening — too much, in fact, to blog. Be back some time in August.

Friday, July 25, 2003

The worm that garter snakes don’t like [ 8:31 PM ]

Introvert, my male wandering garter snake, is in a lot of trouble. We had him in to the vet on Tuesday to have his symptoms — swelling around the lung, gaping, laboured breathing, occasional spitting up phlegm, reduced activity — looked at. We thought he had a respiratory infection. Would that he had been so lucky. An ultrasound revealed a dilated heart: he was working pretty hard, even given the stress of a trip to the vet. The reason for that and the other symptoms was revealed by the subsequent X-ray. He’s got a giant tapeworm buried in his lung, which is basically suffering an inflammatory reaction, which makes breathing difficult and compresses his heart. Ow.

The source of the parasite? Almost certainly live feeder fish — the same culprit that was implicated in the deaths of several other garter snakes (for example, the melanistic eastern garter). The funny thing is that he hasn’t been offered a live fish in over two years; obviously, this parasite — which may be as much as one-third Intro’s length — has been in there, growing, all this time. Remaining unknown because it hadn’t presented an end of itself as a lump under the skin or killed its host earlier.

This may also explain the deaths of my eastern black-necked garter snake last fall, and my female flame garter earlier this month. It may also explain the deaths of several 2001-litter red-sided garter snakes in the hands of my customers. Internal parasitic infections that killed their hosts in a variety of novel ways. All, quite likely, as a result of a bad batch or batches of live feeder platies that were fed to just about every garter snake Florence and I were keeping in mid-2001.

What’s really frustrating is that there isn’t anything that can be done right now. Surgery would quite likely kill Intro. Treating him with Droncit would almost certainly kill the worm, but, paradoxically, it’s better to have a live worm in his lung than a dead, rotting, decomposing worm. Droncit only works if the worm hasn’t settled down yet; it’s too late now. At this point it can only be removed physically, and that cannot be done unless the worm migrates to the surface (presenting itself as a lump) and can be quite literally yanked out. The trick is keeping Intro alive until that point: all I can do is keep him as warm and as stress-free as possible to keep his immune system up.

For all I know, all my garters from that era — Monster, Piss-Boy, Extrovert — are infected; they just aren’t showing yet. Shit.

Note to garter snake keepers: don’t feed live fish to your snakes!

Converting vinyl/tape to digital [ 8:15 PM ]

The Globe and Mail has a (typically) brief comparison of analog and digital music formats that includes some advice on converting analog (vinyl, cassette) to digital (MP3, WMA). I’ve been keeping track of some guides to converting cassettes and LPs to digital music on the Mac for a while; probably a good idea to put the links down here: Applelust’s review of using Toast and iMic to convert vinyl/cassette; Pierre Igot’s blog entry on audio conversion; the inevitable Macintouch reader report on the subject. [ 8:07 PM ]

John Moltz — he does this, remember? — finally has his new blog up at his domain. It covers a lot more ground than his previous effort. See, he has other interests. As do we all. Good to see.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Uppity anglos, narrow-minded councillor [ 9:30 AM ]

It's only a threat if you feel threatened by it, and I, for one, have a hard time seeing what is so threatening about an English rights group's request that Gatineau provide key -- not all -- documents in English and its suggestion that doing so may stem calls for de-amalgamation in Aylmer and Buckingham. But Gatineau councillor Thérèse Cyr calls it blackmail: I think that says more about her than it does about them.

Profs can't write [ 8:54 AM ]

Fulford asks, about academic writing, "Is it now mandatory to write badly?" And proceeds to bulls-eye the target:

Scholars in the humanities spend much of their time writing, and are forced constantly to read the work of superb writers. Yet they pour out streams of gnarled and barbarous sentences and don't even know they are doing it. Professors in English departments, after lives spent close to the best literature, usually produce the worst prose.

(via Richard, via Moon Farmer)

Recording radio on your Mac [ 8:16 AM ]

Griffin's RadioSHARK looks interesting -- no, not for the shark fin -- because it's not just an AM/FM radio for the Mac, it's a radio recorder, the radio equivalent of a Tivo or other digital video recorder. Back when CBC Radio's programming was actually good I could see some use for this: on at least one occasion I had to order a recording of a Morningside interview -- it was Shelagh Rogers interviewing Mavis Gallant, and it was for Arlette, who'd written a German-language M.A. thesis on that author. Setting it to record radio when you're out or asleep -- the overnight shortwave world-service rebroadcasts, for example -- sounds useful to. However, the weak link in this scenario is whether there's anything on radio worth recording. That's been a problem lately, even at the sainted CBC.

Handheld news: Sony UX-50, Pocket PCs and Macs [ 8:01 AM ]

Once again, it's proof positive that Sony needs to fire its industrial designers, if it has them, or hire some, if it doesn't: its Clié PEG-UX50 (Brighthand, Gizmodo, InfoSync World, Palm Infocenter) is a novel design -- the twist-clamshell of the NR, NX and NZ series, tilted 90 degrees and made much smaller -- with some decent built-in features, such as a camera, Bluetooth and 802.11b. But it looks like its buttons and keyboard are going to be hell to work with once again. Palm may not update its hardware nearly as often, but at least it's more likely to get its industrial design right the first time.

In other news, Mark/Space's Missing Sync for Pocket PC 1.0 is available: it allows you to sync a Pocket PC to a Mac via iSync, with conduits for Address Book, iCal, iPhoto and iTunes. (PocketMac Pro also allows Pocket PC-Mac syncing, but it doesn't use iSync to do it). Pocket PCs aren't my cup of tea, but they're price-competitive with Palm OS 5 handhelds, and this allows Mac users more opportunities to find a handheld with a feature set they need. (via Brighthand, MacCentral, MacMinute)

Sick snakes [ 7:48 AM ]

Never rains, but it pours. As though it wasn't bad enough to have my female flame garter and my last ringneck die over the past couple of weeks, we've also had Nick (Jen's four-year-old male Everglades rat snake) in to the vet with an infected blister on his nose, and now it looks like Introvert, my adult male wandering garter, is coming down with a respiratory infection: he's gaping recently and last night spit up a bit of mucous. Oh, and he refused to eat last night, too. This after months and months of good health all around. What the hell happened? Grumble grumble vet bills.

Shawville language wars [ 6:52 AM ]

National news coverage of a Shawville news story, all the more interesting to me because it's now almost certain that I will be relocating there shortly, and because I might have a chance at doing journalism out there. The Equity, the local newspaper, covered the story of Bill McCleary's fight with the Office de la Langue française, up to the point where they were seizing his property because of his failure to contest the charges in court (The Equity lacks permanent archives). Which, in turn, were as a result of his insistence -- principled, but some might think unnecessarily stubborn -- at receiving summonses, etc., in English rather than French.

As the CBC reports, the OLF has backed down, ostensibly on a technicality; the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente wonders why the OLF continues to be so stubborn about an issue that most Quebeckers have long since calmed down about. The temperature in the so-called language wars, in other words, has long since cooled off. I hope that's generally the case in Pontiac county, and that this incident is an anomaly where the OLF was unnecessarily picky (looking for something to do) and got the back up of a community that would otherwise not spoil for a fight.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Dead Ringnecks [ 7:24 PM ]

Just had the other (remaining) ring-necked snake drop dead in front of us. (The other died a few weeks ago, apparently from a skin infection.) Much more difficult to tell when something is critically wrong with these snakes; probably why they have the difficulty rating that they do (4 out of 5 on Rossi's scale). Will try to update Ringneck Diary with the details, and yes, I really mean it this time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Slackers Guild and Google AdSense [ 8:13 AM ]

On the outside chance that there is an online hullabaloo brewing over Google's cancellation of The Slackers Guild's AdSense account -- I note that Steve has picked this one up so far -- let me add the following:

Based on my reading of the Slackers Guild's account of the story, the problem isn't that too many people were clicking on the ads, it's that the site was asking people to click on the ads as a way of supporting the site. Maybe webmasters don't have a problem with that ("Support the site by clicking on an ad!") but Google does -- probably because clicking-because-I-like-the-site skews the results expected from clicking-because-I-like-the ad. The amount that advertisers pay Google depends on how often their ads are clicked -- if I recall, the more your ad gets clicked, the less you pay -- so if an ad shows up on a popular site, that whole system gets thrown out of whack. From Google's perspective, that's gaming the system -- a bit broader definition of the term than "gaming the system means writing bots to autoclick the ads", but a valid one, or at least an intellectually defensible one. You may disagree with it, but there it is.

Throwing an online tantrum because Google doesn't want you doing something isn't constructive. If anything, the best way to gain leverage is to argue that you were unaware that asking for clicks was construed as gaming the system and that Google failed to make that clear when you signed up, if that is in fact the case. Does Google's prohibition on "Incentives of any kind for users to click on ads" in its program policies include that, or does it need to be made clearer to include requests?

Monday, July 14, 2003

Anniversary [ 9:48 PM ]

This blog is two years old today. It shares its anniversary with MetaFilter (which is four years old today) and, of course, Bastille Day.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

No more sideblogs [ 11:20 AM ]

In an effort to make this site far less complicated than a personal vanity site should be, I’ve nixed the sideblogs. Originally an experiment that would allow me to post items of sufficient interest to link to, but not interesting enough to comment on, and to allow people to filter out topics they were not interested in (the assumption was that reptile keepers wouldn’t care about the latest point release of iSync), it just added clutter. More buttons and options than a low-profile personal blog really ought to have had.

Moreover, reviews were mixed: my brother complained that the sideblogs were too far down the page for him to be able to browse for new items; Florence liked them in that she could tell, for example, when the Map Room was updated. (In both cases, they would be better served with a dedicated RSS newsreader.)

I’ve decided that simplifying the site in general is a worthy goal, one that I hope to achieve just as soon as I can — I’m pretty backlogged on the web work at the moment, and have Real Life things to worry about as well, more on which anon. But the end result should be a site whose various bits spend less time unfinished or overdue for an update, and less time spent keeping it up and running. Which would give more room in my life for other things.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Mac keyboard shortcuts [ 9:03 PM ]

Lists of Mac keyboard shortcuts from Dave and Apple itself (via Damien).

TCP/IP for your Apple IIgs [ 8:51 PM ]

If you want a TCP/IP stack for your Apple IIgs — shame on you for getting rid of yours; double shame for not giving yours to me (I got rid of mine, sad to say) — you now have two choices: GS/TCP, which requires GNO/ME (a UNIX layer) running atop GS/OS; and Marinetti. Yes, but with what applications? And would I be able to connect a IIgs to an existing Ethernet LAN? And where can I find me a IIgs, damn it? (via Slashdot)

MetaFilter discovers The Map Room: The results [ 8:24 PM ]

Number of page views, as tracked by Google AdSense, for The Map Room from June 19 to yesterday. Guess which day it was posted on MetaFilter?

Graph showing visits to The Map Room

More neo-Nazi mayoralty candidate coverage (updated) [ 8:15 PM ]

The Ottawa Citizen has another good article on Nazi mayoral candidate Donna Upson today. (I can’t find anything online about this subject in the Ottawa Sun. Is that significant?) I’m of two minds about this: more coverage is probably exactly what she wants; at the same time, it’s worth letting everyone know exactly who she is. She’s doing a pretty good job of it herself: she does not come across as articulate or even bright. And scrutiny is a good thing in that we learn in today’s article that she’s been jailed for assault on more than one occasion: she’s clearly better at talking with her fists. Or hadn’t she read the memo that Hitler disbanded the SA?

Update 7/12 11:25 AM: The Citizen isn’t letting up: Saturday’s story is about the reaction to Upson’s candidacy.

VIA Rail goes wireless [ 8:08 PM ]

Wireless Internet is coming to VIA Rail, in a four-month test run that is limited to VIA 1 passengers in the Toronto-Montreal corridor. Drat. The high-speed connection is a satellite downlink and a 1XRTT CDMA (i.e. cellphone) uplink. (via MacNN)

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Hayao Miyazaki [ 8:56 PM ]

Salon profiles Hayao Miyazaki; select “Day Pass” to see this premium article. Includes a neat and useful summary of his films. (via Ceej)

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

MetaFilter discovers The Map Room [ 12:16 PM ]

Oh. Oh dear.

Mayor, Grand Wizard, Gauleiter — same difference [ 10:36 AM ]

Good heavens. A woman running for mayor of Ottawa has received campaign contributions from the Klan. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg; this is no mere campaign-contribution cock-up, this looks like an unreconstructed racist seeking political office.

Donna Upson, 25, was convicted in 2000 for uttering death threats against a black pastor in Nova Scotia. She says she’s renounced her racist beliefs. But here’s what she says about the Klan:

Well, I think that they have a lot of strong points. I think that what they're doing is very good. I think that they're trying to keep the races separate and pure. They're not a hate group.

And here’s what her platform includes:

a call for a European heritage week, and for Ottawa police to establish what she calls an “immigrant crime unit.”

Standard code words and nudge-nudge-wink-wink neo-Nazism, in other words. The bigotry scale in Ottawa municipal politics has just been recalibrated.

Update 7/10 9:05 AM: The Ottawa Citizen’s coverage notes that the address Upson gives on her nomination form matches that of the National Socialist Movement’s “Canadian unit”; it also describes Upson as a “self-proclaimed white supremacist”.

Update 7/10 10:00 AM: Follow-up CBC Ottawa coverage identifies her as the leader of the Canadian unit of this neo-Nazi organization.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Jan Harder bigot watch, part 4 [ 10:38 PM ]

Despite the controversy she stirred up by her stupid comments, Jan Harder will seek re-election this fall. Her opponent does not plan to use the controversy against her in the election. That does not, however, preclude third parties from doing so. (Hint.)

A plethora of Polish pork [ 10:38 PM ]

Europe’s legendary (and apocryphal?) mountains of butter have been joined by a massive Polish pork surplus, which must be reduced before Poland can join the EU.

Snake collection report [ 8:27 PM ]

Pomme, 2000-2003. This morning I discovered “Pomme”, my three-year-old female flame Eastern Garter Snake, dead in her cage. Her blood had soaked through the paper-towel substrate and was actually dripping from her mouth; she could not have died much earlier than when I discovered her, which was at about 8:45. I’m mystified: no warning, no guesses as to what happened. It’s as bizarre and unexpected a death as that of the Eastern Black-necked Garter Snake last fall. She was in apparent good health as late as yesterday, and has always been a fine snake: great appetite, responsive, friendly, and, of course, drop-dead gorgeous. Jennifer’s best guess is that it was a burst blood vessel — what could cause so much blood and fluid to come out her mouth like that?

Reptile Show. Florence and I were at the reptile show on Sunday, which was sort of disappointing, since only a few snakes of mine were sold — two Red-Sided Garter Snakes and a normal Corn Snake. Jordan bought too many other snakes and had to back out of buying a couple of garters, which annoyed me. Other breeders commiserate: buyers blowing hot and cold is one of those little peeves that, when added up, cause many breeders to give up on selling directly to the public.

I’m not prepared to go that far, but I think I’m going to have to be as tough as the other breeders when it comes to buyers expressing interest in advance. Starting now, I won’t hold snakes for anyone without a deposit: it’s strictly first come, first served. Don’t expect me to have these snakes for you when you’re ready for them (Jordan hopes to get them at the next show; I don’t want to have them around by then, and that’s not just spite talking). A non-refundable deposit — I’m not sure yet what percentage — will hold the snakes for 30 days, after which they will be available again. Paying in full in advance will hold them for 60 days, after which your money will be refunded or housing fees will be charged.

New arrival. Jen’s birthday present was to have included an Okeetee corn snake that I had hoped to find at Sunday’s show. But the Okeetees for sale were overpriced and for sale by non-breeders (which made me less than 100 per cent certain of their bloodline: lots of people sell ordinary normal corns as “Okeetees” in order to heighten their cachet — with babies, you can’t tell the difference). So instead I picked up something that I think she likes more: a juvenile (probably 6-month-old) Gray Rat Snake. Jen really likes rat snakes. More anon.

Ringneck diary. Stewart wants a new entry. I guess I’d better hurry up and write one. There have been some developments, including the loss of one of the four ringnecks, so it’s not like I don’t have anything to say . . .

Daring Fireball on Google AdSense [ 7:46 PM ]

John Gruber (“Daring Fireball”) writes a typically intelligent essay about independent publishing on the web and reports on his little experiment with Google AdSense (begun here).

Google AdSense ads are popping up everywhere, the way that Amazon associate links spread like kudzu a few years back. The reason for that, of course, is that they represent a quick and painless way for webmasters to get paid for their content without having to resort to subscription fees or massive advertising, neither of which make sense to small fry like Gruber — or even smaller fry like me.

I’ve had Google AdSense running on The Map Room since June 19, and I’ve made all of $5.35 since then. But traffic is still building (so far it looks like I’ll double or triple June’s numbers this month) and it’s got potential — particularly in the context of otherwise not getting any sort of compensation for putting something cool (well, everyone says The Map Room is cool) on the web.

What’s particularly interesting — as Gruber points out — is that it’s perfect for narrowly focused content sites like The Map Room or Daring Fireball. Map-related ads show up (for the most part) on my site: advertisers get an audience that is highly interested in their product; readers get ads they might be interested in, and are as a result more likely to click on them; I get money. It’s all good.

Sony Ericsson T610 review [ 7:39 PM ]

MobileBurn reviews the Sony Ericsson T610, the Bluetooth cameraphone over which I’ve been drooling since the day it was announced (almost immediately after I bought the Ericsson T39m, shazbat), and finds it considerably wanting (via Gizmodo). Note that the T610 is meant for the European market; if I’m not mistaken, people using it in North America are importing it and plugging in their SIM cards to use, unsupported, on North American GSM networks. Perhaps the forthcoming T616 — the North American equivalent — will address some of the signal problems that Michael Oryl discovers. I’m really crossing my fingers about that.

Friday, July 04, 2003

So that’s where all the traffic is coming from [ 9:08 AM ]

The Guardian’s weblog linked to The Map Room yesterday. Scrutiny is intimidating, success even more so: The Map Room has gotten more buzz in the last three months than this shabby little blog ever has in two years. Eep.

Still more eggs [ 8:38 AM ]

Six more corn snake eggs, from Florence’s snow corn, were added to the incubator yesterday. The amazing thing is that there was still room. Now we’re only waiting for the black pine snake, who doesn’t really look gravid and is still eating voraciously (a full load of eggs compresses the stomach and diminishes appetite), so it may not come to pass this year.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Guilty pleasure [ 6:13 PM ]

My new guilty pleasure is Beat the Geeks. I’m a polymath, not a specialist, so I wouldn’t stand a chance, but man that’s a cool concept.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Iconomy and Plep on my favourite subject [ 3:59 PM ]

Snake-related posts from unlikely, though well-loved and familiar, sources. Iconomy links to a history of the rattlesnake — the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), actually — as emblem of the American Revolution: “Don’t Tread on Me” and all that. And Plep points to a page (currently offline) about the Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis) on Guam.

An Apple II on your Palm [ 3:53 PM ]

I’m keen on the Apple II (yes, still — nostalgia) and I’m keen on Apple II emulators, which you would have figured out from some of my posts last December. I also like the gadgets. So of course the idea of an Apple II emulator for the Palm OS gives me the shakes, even if it runs suboptimally on a 33 MHz OS 4 handheld. (via Palm Infocenter)

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Stress, disease and interleukin-6 [ 12:54 PM ]

I’ve only just started on Gabor Maté’s When The Body Says No, but this report fingering interleukin-6 as the link between stress and illness — stress causes interleukin-6 to be released into your bloodstream, and interleukin-6 has been linked with several diseases — is definitely relevant (via Boing Boing). Particularly to me: a couple of months ago I concluded that I’ve been suffering from chronic stress (so bad it can shut me right down) since at least my early teens, and I strongly suspect that the stress may have had something to do with the onset of my ankylosing spondylitis — it certainly exacerbates it, causing me to go into flare.