take yourself to Guelph!

We spent our anniversary weekend in Guelph, which is a nicer town than most Torontonians give it credit for.

(the title is Catherine‘s tourism slogan for the city.)

Goodbye, Star Wars Tree

burnt-out mini mall, Kennedy & Eglinton
The mini-mall burned last night. Looks like the centre of the fire was the gift shop in the middle of the block. The rest of the block is pretty badly damaged, though. It looks like the place will have to be rebuilt — or replaced with a condo block, which seems to be the fate of shops in Scarborough.

I hope that noone was hurt.

So, goodbye Yoga’s, with your selection of teas and Sri Lankan groceries. Goodbye Star Milk, the mom, pop and smiley baby store with your VLT in back and dodgy videos over the drinks cooler. Goodbye Poondy Bread, purveyors of that which has paneity. Goodbye Amma, ace Sri Lankan takeout food shop, the place where I developed a taste for really spicy food.

But most of all, goodbye to the gift shop. Even though I never went in there, I’ll miss the sun-yellowed unsold toys in the window; the almost-Transformers and plastic racing cars.

One toy, unsold through two summers, perplexed me most. It was a cardboard tube wrapped in tinsel. Cardboard tags with pictures of Star Wars characters were attached to it with those nylon annoyances you get on new clothes. It resembled more a christmas decoration than a space weapon, which I think it was supposed to be. We called it the Star Wars Tree, and I’m guessing it wasn’t officially licensed from Lucasfilm.

It’s all gone now, washed away by the fire hoses.

completely not feeling the love for the iPod Shuffle

Shuffle mode on the iPod Shuffle isn’t random. It seems to play the same tracks in the same random order every time you restart the device. It only seems to get a new randomization when you sync with iTunes.

Oh yeah, and it’s too wide to fit alongside a standard USB plug on an iBook. I’ll check the BestBuy returns policy, ‘cos this thing just ain’t doing it for me.

no, I don’t get this, either

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Crews face bonfire night attacks:

Firefighters and police faced a series of attacks from gangs as they attended bonfire night call-outs in the Strathclyde area.

When I read this, I’m glad I left the Land of Ned.

timely quotation

Anent George W. Bush’s “God Told Me To Do It …” revelation, was it purely coincidence that the week’s quotation in Catherine‘s Women Artists Datebook is:

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

 — Susan B. Anthony
?

world’s slowest USB

I tried copying about 180MB of files from my old Thinkpad onto a USB key using the mini-ITX box last night. It’s supposed to have USB 2.0 High Speed, but it certainly hasn’t; it took several hours. It managed a little over 5 Kbytes/s on a single file.

By comparison, the iBook moved the same amount of data from the key to the desktop in under four minutes. That’s more like it.

I wonder what could make the mini-ITX box so slow? As far as I can tell, there are no USB1.1 devices on the bus. Unless the device was mounted ‘sync’ (where every write isn’t buffered, but immediately written to the USB key), it’s a mystery.

Tiger’s Dictionary

OS X Tiger's Dictionary
I was pleased to see that Apple had included a comprehensive dictionary with OS X 10.4. The Oxford American is a decent enough reference tome, and the computer implementation isn’t bad at all.

The typography’s fairly clean, if rather heavy on the whitespace. Cross references are active; if one clicks on the small-caps word whitlow, you’ll go to its definition (if you have to; it’s kinda nasty). For some reason, the Dashboard version of the dictionary doesn’t have active xrefs.

Searching isn’t as good as it could be. As with most electronic products, it assumes you already know how to spell the word. The incremental search does allow that, as long as you have the first few letters right, the list of possible choices is quite small. Like all electronic dictionaries that I’ve seen, it’s not possible to browse the text in that spectacularly non-linear way that makes a real paper dictionary fun.

It does seem to have a good few Canadian terms, but a true Canadian dictionary should be shipped with Canadian Tiger. Correct spelling isn’t just optional. It also only labels British and Canadian spellings as ‘British’.

So, in summary, pretty good, but far from perfect.

I (still) believe in bugs

mantis

We found this praying mantis at the back of the office. Paul picked it up, but it flew off. It didn’t seem to mind having its picture taken.

This (my second) mantis sighting was much more interactive than my first.

ididn’tBook

For a truly soulless evening, take yourself down to the BestBuy at Scarborough Town Centre.

STC is a mega-mall, with the obligatory huge concrete and asphalt deadzone around it. Its current sales slogan is For what defines you, which must mean that its denizens are in a pretty parlous state, existentially speaking. Its only slightly attractive feature is its derelict KrispyKreme store, which opened as a flagship, then frazzled almost as quickly as a KK’s dextrose rush. Abandoned donut shops are Canada’s ruined abbeys; places of worship gone to seed.

BestBuy itself is an outcast from the mall, in an especially ped-unfriendly way. Perhaps the only defined route there is through a monster split-level Wal-Mart, but I didn’t have enough hitpoints to make it through that particular slough.

I’d checked their website, and it said that the store had iBooks in stock, at $50 below retail. Did the store have any on display? No. The Apple section was set behind the customer service desk, which was a scrum of slightly disgruntled shoppers. So I left without seeing one.

I wandered in a bit of a post big-box haze to McCowan RT, a weird little station at the very end of the rails. At least I was rewarded with a beautiful sunset over the 401 at McCowan; all boiling red and purple. That’s about the best you’ll get near STC, and for free, too.

windfarm or wind farm?

So how do you write it?

I use the former. Some people might say that the latter is more correct (one doesn’t refer to a pigfarm, after all), but we’re not really farming wind here. That we leave to the bean farmers (hohoho; I do believe that was the very same joke that Lord McAlpine used to use when showing bigwigs through the RES Ltd office in Hemel Hempstead).

I’d really prefer to use the term windpark, using the original meaning of park for an enclosed field. I guess it’s a bit European for most folks here, so it’s windfarm for me.

(One shouldn’t confuse a windfarm with WindFarm, the toolbox of choice for the leet wind haxx0r).

my lappy is not well

My ThinkPad T21 is dying. Well, its processor and interfaces are fine, but its backlight is erratic, the battery lasts about 20 minutes, and the case is badly cracked. Because it takes so long for the screen to come on, it’s almost no use as a portable computer.

It’s a shame; it has been a nice machine. I’d prefer not to have to buy a new machine — it’s a toss-up between another used ThinkPad, or a new iBook — but this gets me very frustrated. Catherine has been complaining about how tetchy I am about it.

I’ve probably been very bad at responding to e-mail over the last few weeks because of this. Apologies.