Sidewalk Hell

You wouldn’t believe how truly difficult it is to get any work done when there are workers using jackhammers to destroy pavement and sidewalks across the street from you.

The irony is that Catherine and I used to cross the street when going up town because of the nice, modern, smooth sidewalk on the other side of the street. For some reason the City Fathers decided that it would be a good idea to show up at the crack of dawn yesterday and completely remove this sidewalk with a front-end loader, and they are spending today doing collateral destruction using the aforementioned jack hammer.

Now if this destruction was in the service of Good rather than in the service of mindless “the schedule says we have to destroy this sidewalk even if it is in good shape” Evil, this wouldn’t be so bad. But it’s bureaucratic jack hammering that’s drilling through my mind, and there’s no more annoying a type.

TV Roundup: Night One

Those of you without television, or without an addiction to it, won’t know that it’s TV premiere week. For the rest of is it’s time to clear out the evening appointment book, stock up on Kit Kats and Feeling drinks, and assume the position on the couch.

Monday night is traditionally not a barn-burner of a TV night for me. I was never an Ally McBeal fan (well, there were the Robert Downey Junior years, but that was an exception), I don’t watch football, and I’ve never found anything else compelling to watch on Monday nights. So I wasn’t as glued to the TV last night as I will be tonight.

That said, the new CSI: Miami was very good, and I’ll certainly tune in again. The program is a spin-off, or perhaps better a spin-over from the mothership CSI program that debuted last year on Thursday nights and took the TV world by unexpected storm.

While not quite as entirely plot-driven as the Law & Order collection, the CSI’s are certainly on that side of the fence: we don’t go home at night with the characters, and although they have the usual sort of weaknesses (dead husband, work friction, fear of alligators, etc.) these are more spice than substance. The true star of the CSI’s is the case, and the science surrounding its investigation.

While I’m not enough of a scientist to be able to say how realistic the CSI forensic science actually is, I’m willing to hazard a guess that it’s at least mostly so, and I can say without hesitation that there is more scientific equipment on display in these series, and more exploration of applied scientific concepts, than any dramatic show on television. That such a show is popular seems to have amazed some critics — I take it simply as proof that there is more popular interest in science than conventional wisdom would suggest.

Although the characters are secondary to the plot in CSI: Miami, there are some good actors on display. I’ve always liked <a href=”,%20David”“>David Caruso, even if he did leave NYPD in a huff looking to start a movie career that never happened: he’s the Big Boss on the show, and he plays it well; better, I think, than his equivalent on the mother show, William Petersen.

Kim Delaney is second in command, and is playing to type: she’s the better detective with a distraught personal life (in this case her husband has died, cause unknown so far; in Philly, her now-cancelled series from last year, she was divorced from her successful husband, and we all know what happened in NYPD Blue). My jury is out on whether she’ll be good for this role.

Emily Procter is the only other name actor in the series, and this is the only weak point. I thought she was fantastic in her role on The West Wing, although she didn’t appear consistently enough on that series to make her a regular part of the show, and this is apparently why she left. While The West Wing role made the best use of her considerable talents, on CSI: Miami, at least from the debut episode, she is playing a generic role with nothing to distinguish it. This may change as the series matures. Let’s hope so.

Tonight’s schedule: the Inside NYPD Blue special at 10 on ABC, followed by the season premiere of that show. There’s also Presidio Med on CBS, but that will have to fall to commercial click-over status given my fondness for the Blue. Man your clickers.

Water Spout

As nervous as I am to suggest another consumer revolt — the last time I did this the result was the immediate removal of the clock from the Bank of Montreal when we sought to have it repaired — I’ve got another issue burning a hole in my brain.

If you are a customer of Sobey’s, you may be familiar with their 10-litre jug of Big 8-brand spring water. The jug is a very nice size, and fits well in a fridge. In these days of water problems, and water scares, it’s become our primary source of drinking water.

When we first started buying these jugs last year, they had a very nice “push-pull” blue-coloured spout that didn’t leak and worked easily all the way down to the last drop of water. Recently Sobey’s has switched to a brown-coloured “push in” snub-nosed spout that, alas, meets neither of these tests: it regularly leaks water into the fridge, it’s hard to operate, and it just plain cuts out working once the water gets low.

If you have encountered this problem yourself, and want to make your frustration known to Sobey’s, I implore you to visit their website feedback page and send them your thoughts. I just received a very nice response back from Sobey’s consumer affairs people after doing so, and I’m sure if enough Sobey’s customers tell the chain of this problem, change will result.

Of course this probably means, with my track record, that they will immediately stop selling water altogether, but that’s a chance we’ll have to take.


It’s now been over a month since I last used my office PC for any regular work. I’ve turned it on twice, once to grab a file from its disk, and another time to use Quicken; otherwise I’ve been using my Apple iBook for all of my home and business computing, which is the longest time I’ve ever gone Apple-only to date.

I’ve got an admission to make: I absolutely hated the Mac way of doing things before Mac OS X (which is the completely new from scratch operating system that Apple introduced last year). While the conventional wisdom was the Macs were easier to use, I found the Mac OS was cumbersome and confusing. I had a PowerBook 1400 about 6 years ago, and it never really worked like I wanted: it was slow, flaky, and the Mac OS was just too foreign for me to be comfortable using it all the time.

All this has changed under Mac OS X: I can say with no hesitation that it is the best operating system on the market today, and is so superior to both Windows and older versions of the Mac OS as to render anything else simply foolish to use.


Here are some random reasons:

  • Wireless — Yes you can get wireless cards for a PC laptop and use it with WiFi networks. But Apple was first to market with this, and it’s baked right into the operating system. How do you configure a Mac to use a wireless network? You turn it on.
  • Easyness — Is that even a word? One of the things I’ve had to unlearn moving from the PC world is that not everything has to be complicated. On a PC, for example, if you want to change the IP address of your computer, it often requires a complete reboot of the computer; on a Mac you just change the IP, click Apply and that’s it. If I’m at home using my PC plugged into an Ethernet jack, and then unplug and go to GrabbaJabba to use a wireless network, I don’t have to reconfigure anything: it just works.
  • Accessibility — If you have trouble reading, Mac OS X has the best accessibility features. Period. With no add-on software or gizmos required, the Mac will read any text for you, anywhere on the screen, including buttons, icon text and dialog boxes, in a nice, clear voice.
  • BBEdit — This text editor from Bare Bones Software is the best text editor I’ve ever used. It’s got a clear, uncluttered interface, and has about any text editing function you might ever want baked right in. UltraEdit for the PC is a damn good editor; BBEdit is better.
  • Mail — I used Microsoft Outlook to read me email for three years. Outlook is a very powerful program, and, by and large, it worked well for this task, especially when I switch from using POP to IMAP. But Apple’s built-in Mail application (it’s actually simply called “Mail”) is beautiful, elegantly designed, and has more features I can use more easily than Outlook. The nicest things introduced with Mac OS 10.2 (which came out in late August) are excellent junk mail filtering, and a unified in-box, where all the new mail for all of my accounts appears in one place.
  • UNIX — Mac OS X is built on top of a Unix superstructure. That means that it’s heart beats Unix and that it has a beautiful, elegant interface to Unix built on top of all this. For someone like me who lives and breathes Unix maintaining myriad webservers in two different countries, this is wonderful because it means that it’s very easy for me to connect my little iBook to my big servers. For example, I don’t need any additional software, like SecureCRT on a PC, to use ssh to connect to my servers: it’s simply a default, built-in part of OS X. OS X also talks AppleTalk (to connect to other Macs), WebDAV (to connect to web-based fileservers) and Samba (to file share with PCs).
  • Beauty — Mac OS X is beautiful and consistent. And people who make software for Mac OS X tend to create it in this spirit. As a result most if not all of my Mac software looks and feels the same. I like that.
  • Sleep — Putting my PC to “sleep” — a low power state somewhere between “on” and “off” almost never worked. Either the PC wouldn’t wake up fully (for example, it would wake up, but the mouse wouldn’t), or it wouldn’t stay asleep. When it did sleep, it would often take 2 or 3 minutes to wake up. When I put my iBook to sleep (which I do just my closing its lid), I can wake it up (by opening its lid) and start using it literally right away. There is no delay like there was on my PC. This is great.

If you are in the market for a new computer, I can’t recommend more highly that you consider buying one of the new iMacs. Catherine has had one for a couple of months and loves it. Drop by the friendly people at Little Mac Shoppe in Charlottetown and check them out; you will not be disappointed.


Opera VW

At my 8,000 km Jetta checkup back in April, I learned of and reported on Volkswagen’s new Glaeserne Manufaktur plant in Dresden.

Dresden was one of the cities hit by recent flooding in Europe and as a result the city’s Opera House was damaged. This left Semper Opera without a venue. Volkswagen to the rescue: Carmen is being presented inside the VW plant starting October 26.