found book

I found a copy of Linda McQuaig’s It’s the Crude, Dude on the GO train last night. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. I don’t know what I’ll do with it when I’ve read it — Bookcrossing?

An evening with Mr Gosse

I’ve just been listening to BBC Radio 4‘s dramatisation of Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son. It’s rather good.

I think I can safely say that this household knows more about Edmund Gosse than any other in Scarborough. Catherine‘s PhD was based on on the Gosse family, and I’ve read the book and proof-read the thesis. I suspect we’re also the only household in Scarborough that relates episodes from the young life of Edmund Gosse as if they were family anecdotes.

I know, we must get a life …

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.

queen west

Went to Canzine today after meeting. Can you belive it, an almost full house and it was a silent meeting?

Anyway, Canzine was full. Bought a couple of Spacing TTC buttons to show my commuter tribe affiliation (Kennedy — Union), and also a m@b book. Eveyone’s favourite Bramptonian Friendly Rich was there, being friendly and well-dressed. Jim Munroe looked in his element in his No Media Kings room.

After that, I walked down to the turbine. The warm weather had brought the ladybirds out. They were all over the deck.

review of CanWEA 2005 swag bag

So I’m at the 2005 CanWEA conference for the next few days. The swag bag is a standard nondescript nylon thing, thankfully big enough to take my iBook and a few other bits and pieces. The contents are a bit disappointing, though:

  • a very plasticky flashlight that I may discard after harvesting its batteries.
  • a small bag of jujubes.
  • a copy of North American Windpower magazine (which in itself is quite a decent magazine, so is actually one of the highlights).
  • a trade show guide, but no conference program (they were held up in customs; can’t we print ’em here?)
  • various company brochures, zzzz.

You’ll note an absence of useful pens, pads, USB keys, model turbines, or other special swag. I was hoping for more …

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.


So I bought the iBook. So far, it’s plain sailing — but then it should be.


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.


Okay, so if I were to buy an iBook, I must be able to:

  • have virtual workspaces, like X11
  • use a compose key for accented characters
  • be able to do my usual Perl/Bash things in the terminal
  • get basic, useful applications for free.

Since I can do these things on Linux now, there’s no point in me switchin’ in the kitchen.

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.

now reading: Jean Shepherd

Jean Shepherd‘s In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. I have rather a failing for the works of midwestern humorists, and Shep reads like a hopped-up Garrison Keillor. You’d like him.

Why I’m Allergic To ‘Cradle To Cradle’

I’m reading McDonough & Braungart’s book Cradle To Cradle, and it makes me sneeze.

Not that the content is to be sneezed at — it’s a very sensible treatise on a zero-waste, EPR-based society. It’s not the polymer that the book is made from, either. It’s the fact that the a previous borrower of the book from the Toronto Public Library was the owner of a probably very attractive grey cat.

I’m allergic to most cats. And this isn’t usually a problem with library books, as paper doesn’t attract hair. But the polypropylene pages of Cradle To Cradle do, and so reading this book makes me itch. I guess this wouldn’t be a problem if I’d bought my own copy, but it’s a deal more environmentally responsible to share a few copies amongst the thousands of library patrons than keep one for myself.

I don’t necessarily agree with some of the arguments made about the upcyclability (that is, a product that can be recycled into something of an equal or higher quality) of the book. Basic entropy tells you that you can’t reform a product without losing something of the original. Some of the material will evaporate, or the filler will degrade somewhat, or some additional colourant will be required to restore the original tone.

Some other things that don’t jibe:

  • The book is a surprisingly dense chunk of polypropylene. Polypropylene is made from non-sustainable fossil resources. This is a case of doing less damage than the status quo, which Cradle To Cradle decries as being insufficient.
  • The ‘paper’, while very smooth, isn’t fully opaque, so the text from the other side of the page is distracting. That, and the cat-hair attracting static issue …
  • The book’s printed in China. At the very least, it has been shipped half way around the world, again using a wad of fossil resources. Knowing a little of the publishing industry, it wouldn’t surprise me if the raw materials were shipped to China, printed and bound, and then shipped back for the North American market. And this is a good thing how?

In fairness, mad props for McDonough’s work on green roofs, and to Melcher Media for giving the plastic book a try. But thinking that a few polymer pages will change the world is pushing credibility to its limits.

[And I really should temper the madness of my props to Melcher, as it would appear that they’re trying to patent the plastic book. I’m sure there’s some iota of novelty in replacing the form-factor and access methods of a cellulose polymer book with a hydrocarbon polymer, but for the life of me, I can’t find it.]

dark stain ahead

To avoid the rain, and in order to become sufficiently caffeinated for work, I ducked into a Tim Hortons and opened up my Toronto Public Library book, Jane Jacobs’s Dark Age Ahead.

I thought I heard my phone ring, and in reaching for it, I upended my almost-full medium black coffee all over the book. Horrible mess, pages stuck together, much nastiness.

This evening I dragged my sheepish carcase into the local library to explain what happened. The only way I could pay for a replacement book was to “lose” the book. I have to say, it reads pretty well for a “lost” book, but the smell of cheap, over-roasted coffee isn’t so great.