why does etymotic hate its canadian customers?

Etymotic — makers of otherwise fine headphones — must really hate its Canadian customers. Not merely do the local suppliers not stock replacement eartips, but getting them shipped from the US incurs UPS‘s unbelievable brokerage charge, which approaches the value of the parts you’re ordering.

A more coherent posting will come later when the old strongly-worded letter of complaint goes out.

big windfarm, big deal

So there was a stramash that the RSPB published a map showing where the Lewis wind farm would reach if it started in Edinburgh. Oh noes! Looks like it’d go all the way to Methil.

I’ve been working on a couple of medium-sized wind farms in Ontario. For top laughs, I tried overlaying them on Scotland, using streetmap.co.uk for the measurements.

Since I’m a weegie, I started at George Square. One of the farms would stretch all the way west by Wishaw, near Murdostoun Castle (and the comically-named town of Bonkle). The other would run north to somewhere between Fintry and Kippen, in Stirlingshire.

For those of you unlucky enough to be based east of Falkirk, I tried the same starting at Edinburgh Castle. The first wind farm would run west to the hamlet of Gilchriston, which is just north-west of Dun Law Wind Farm, which I worked on in the distant past. (If you run the farm west from Edinburgh, you end up in Bo’ness, which no-one would want to do.) The other design would end up somewhere between Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes, near Thornton — and not that far from Methil, a distance that the RSPB would have us believe is just too far for a wind farm.

So, where’s the news, RSPB? How did your land get somehow more precious than ours?

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.

look ma, no wires!

I’ve finally got rid of the ethernet cable that snaked across the kitchen floor to this linux box. A cheapo wireless PCI card (TRENDnet TEW-423PI, from CWO) plus ndiswrapper, and we’re laughing.

What’s with the Council of Canadians, eh?

Every couple of months, the Council of Canadians sends me a large and visually unappealing (1986 called; they want their typewriter font back) mailing, ranting about how those pesky Americans keep stealing our water.

Close reading of the mailing (which is hard, given the woeful typography) shows that the initiatives being railed at are either:

  1. run by Canadian companies, or
  2. are part of legislation voted for by Canadians.

Like most environmental things, Canada has an appalling record of looking after its abundant water. I think we think that the rest of the world thinks better of us than they do, or maybe even frankly cares about Canada.

I’m a bit worried by the CoC’s use of the n-word — nationalist — since it has unpleasant connotations, like the BNP and SNLA. Also, at least half of the mailing could be summed up as The Maude Barlow Fanzine, with only slightly lower production quality than the average zine.

And anyway, pesky Americans haven’t been stealing our water. Catherine hasn’t been sneaking any more out of the house than usual …

ex dexit, or trying to be

Coo, was I really all fired up about Dexit, like I appear to have been in January 2004? ‘Cos, basically, Dexit sucks.

The coffee place I get my morning fix got rid of its unreliable Dexit machine when it changed hands. So I’ve got nearly $70 sitting on the useless Dexit tag, doing nothing.

Today I called for a refund, and discovered that Dexit won’t refund your balance. I wouldn’t have signed up for it if I’d known there’d be this in the ultra-sneaky Dexit user agreement (PDF):

Only in the event of your death (and upon receipt of such documents as Dexit reasonably requires in such circumstances as to whom is entitled to your estate funds), or Dexit closing your Dexit Account without cause, will the remaining funds in your Dexit Account be repaid to you. “Cause” will include any violation of this Agreement, any fraud or attempted fraud, any other operation of the Dexit Account or use of a Dexit Tag in an unsatisfactory manner, or non-use of your Dexit Account for over three (3) years.

So, do I hafta kill myself to get my money back?

Oh, and Dexit’s phone support staff are untruthful. I needed to speak to a supervisor. They promised one would call before 8pm this evening. It’s 9:55 now, and I’ve heard nothing.

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.

Rolser shopping cart

My late grandmother’s intense dislike of them notwithstanding, it looks like a shopping cart from Rolser Canada could be just the thing for the carfree-about-town. Lugging shopping bags about is teh suk.

The intensely tony Pepper Mill in Hazelton Lanes seems to be the stockist for Toronto.

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.

The demented mind of Adam Elliot

a scene from Adam Elliot\'s Harvie Krumpet
I like animation more than Catherine does, so last night while she was teaching, I rented Harvie Krumpet. It’s a series of shorts by Australian animator Adam Elliot. All of them are poignantly strange. The main feature follows Harvie from his birth in Poland in the 1920s to his dotage in Australia. Bad things happen to him, but he abides.

If you can imagine Wallace & Gromit on mogadon, and imagine liking it, you’ll know how I feel about Adam Elliot’s work.

Sustainable Energy Fair

I survived the University of Toronto First Sustainable Energy Fair. The weather was pretty grim, despite the cold and the rain. Maybe some of the solar cooking events didn’t happen, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of all involved.

There was a good crowd, and I talked myself hoarse on the WindShare stand. There were some interesting people there, including the irrepressible Tom Karmo, and UofT‘s own cyborg, Steve Mann. And yes, I am really responsible for getting Winton Dahlström into wind energy; mea maxima culpa.

I have pictures of the sustainable energy fair here.