Jonathan Crowe

I’m a blogger and writer from Shawville, Quebec. I blog about maps at The Map Room, review books for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and edit a fanzine called Ecdysis. More about me.

Best Of

I’ve been blogging since 2001. Since then, I’ve posted something like eight thousand blog entries across a half-dozen different blogs. This page (a blatant steal of Anil’s idea) collects what I think is some of my best blog writing.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

  • The Funny Name
    “Possibly the most frustrating thing about having ankylosing spondylitis is dealing with the fact that hardly anyone has heard of the disease, unless they have a medical background or know someone else who has it.” (December 5, 2004)
  • At the Ottawa Forum on AS
    “Last Saturday I attended the Arthritis Society’s public forum on ankylosing spondylitis in Ottawa. Here’s my long-delayed (and long-winded) writeup of the event.” (November 12, 2005)
  • Rare Disease Clubhouse
    “An article about a support group called the Rare Disease Clubhouse is giving me pause; either the reporter isn’t taking good notes, the person in question has a case of AS several orders of magnitude worse than anything I’ve ever encountered, or there’s some serious bullshit going on.” (May 18, 2006)
  • I Don’t Have Ankylosing Spondylitis
    “Coming into that appointment, I knew the MRI would tell me one of two things. One, that my ankylosing spondylitis was confirmed, and that it was now time to discuss biologics. Instead, it’s the second thing.” (November 23, 2012)

Astronomy and Space


  • How to Connect a Camera to a Telescope
    “Fortunately, taking photos through a telescope is not at all difficult, but it does involve a couple of pieces of equipment that photographers may not be familiar with.” (August 16, 2009)
  • The High Cost of Deep-Space Astrophotography
    “Deep space astrophotography (i.e., galaxies and nebul´┐Ż) has become the realm of mind-bogglingly expensive equipment — much to the dismay and discouragement of tyros with merely above-average amounts of disposable income.” (September 11, 2009)
  • False-Colour Astrophotography Explained
    “Since this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble telescope, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain the false-colour images taken by the Hubble’s cameras — why they’re in false colour, what the colours represent, and how it’s done.” (April 25, 2010)
  • On Standalone Autoguiders
    “I’ve mentioned autoguiders before, but I suppose I should back up and explain to some of you just what an autoguider is. The short version is it’s a small digital camera that compensates for tracking errors made by a telescope mount that would lead to blurry or trailed star images in long-exposure astrophotography.” (July 7, 2010)


  • Maps and Me: A Personal Essay
    “I can’t remember the first time I ever saw a map, but I’ve always been transfixed by them.” (March 31, 2005)
  • A Look Back at the Chinese Map Controversy
    “In a nutshell, this started in 2001, when a lawyer and collector named Liu Gang bought a map from a dealer in Shanghai for $500. He had it looked at by experts, but did not have a clear sense of what it was.” (February 3, 2006)
  • The Piri Reis Map of 1513
    “The story of the Piri Reis map is the story of how a perfectly innocent 16th-century navigational chart can end up, through no fault of its own, at the centre of a crackpot theory about our planet’s ancient history.” (February 1, 2007)
  • Review: National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition
    “The ninth edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World comes five years after the eighth edition. Despite a new cover design, a change in the map titles’ typeface and considerable changes under the hood, the ninth edition does not represent a radical departure from the eighth. In this review, I’m going to compare the two editions rather closely to give you a sense of what has, in fact, changed.” (November 22, 2010)
  • All Online Maps Suck
    “They all fail in some way, somewhere, and some more than others — and if the maps you use seem fine to you, it’s because they suck somewhere else.” (February 28, 2013)
  • Importing CanVec Data into OpenStreetMap
    “Last February I imported CanVec data into OpenStreetMap for the first time.” (April 14, 2014)
  • How the Mercator Projection Won the Internet
    “When you think about it, the Mercator projection has won in the cartographic arena that really matters today: online mapping.” (November 27, 2015)


  • Valentina Lisitsa and Artists’ Social Capital
    “As I see it, artists in the course of their careers acquire a certain amount of social capital. How they spend that social capital is up to them, but they don’t always spend it wisely.” (April 17, 2015)


  • The Hard Bigotry of High Expectations
    “I don’t think that anyone who manages to get to the Olympics has anything to apologize or atone for.” (February 15, 2006)

  • In Defence of Shitty Little Countries
    “Shitty little countries aren’t supposed to win medals. They aren’t supposed to upstage big countries. They’re supposed to know their place. And their place is not the podium.” (August 14, 2008)
  • All Fall Down
    “There’s something to be said about getting back up and putting in a finish even when all hope of a respectable result is lost. For many athletes, finishing matters. Better DFL than DNF.” (February 21, 2006)
  • Getting to the Games: A Reality Check
    “A common misconception — a result, no doubt, of the countless stories about Eddie the Eagle and Eric the Eel — is that it’s not that hard to qualify for the Olympics, if you pick your sports and countries shrewdly.” (August 23, 2008)
  • A Final Thought
    “The problem with Edwards, Moussambani and other ‘novelty acts’ (as I’ve called them) is that they made getting to the Olympics look easy, and coming in last a joke. They made it easier for us to devalue participation.” (February 26, 2006)


  • Religion and Politics (Oh Dear)
    “It’s not in my interest to comment on NDP communications director Shawn Dearn and his now-deleted tweets about the Roman Catholic Church, even less to offer some defence of him.” (September 11, 2015)
  • The Unintended Consequences of Proportional Representation
    “Now that the election is over, many disappointed Canadians are talking about proportional representation, and how much fairer it would have been than our first-past-the-post electoral system.” (October 20, 2015)
  • The Preferential Ballot: Who Benefits?
    “Of the electoral reform proposals on offer, the one I’m most in favour of is the preferential or ranked ballot, also known as the alternative vote.” (December 2, 2015)

Reptiles and Amphibians

Adventures in Snakekeeping

  • Snakes and Orchids
    “Snake keeping is easy — it’s just unfamiliar. In many ways, dogs and cats are much more difficult, but people are much more familiar with their care requirements.” (January 28, 2010)
  • How Many Snakes?
    “But people asking that question aren’t really looking for a technical answer; they’re really asking, ‘How (on Earth) can you (possibly) keep … ’ It’s akin to being asked how you can possibly eat a disgusting food item: while saying that ‘I open my mouth and shovel it in’ is technically answering the question, it’s not what they mean.” (September 11, 2005)
  • Too Hot for Snakes
    “You may be surprised to learn that hot weather isn’t always good for cold-blooded animals. It is actually possible for a reptile to get too warm.” (July 9, 2010)
  • Mice to Buy, Mouths to Feed
    “Cheap bastard that I am, I thought it might be a good idea to figure out exactly how much each of our snakes costs to feed (at least on paper: the real cost depends on their willingness to eat when fed and our remembering to feed them on time).” (December 10, 2010)
  • When Snakes Bite Themselves
    “I was summoned to answer a question on Ask MetaFilter from someone whose son’s California Kingsnake chewed on its own tail on more than one occasion. You can read my answer there; I’m going to flesh it out a bit more (and organize it a bit better) here.” (August 23, 2010)
  • Why I Don’t Keep Venomous Snakes
    “Even though I think venomous snakes are very interesting, and have several friends and acquaintances who keep venomous snakes (‘hot’ snakes or ‘hots,’ in herpers’ jargon), I will never keep any myself. Here are my reasons why.” (February 5, 2010)

Herpetological Follies

  • Steve Irwin Schadenfreude
    “The worldwide reaction to Steve Irwin’s death has been swift, strong and usually sympathetic, but it’s inevitable that some people are insufficiently socialized that they cannot help but take a shot at the recently departed and the circumstances of his death.” (September 6, 2006)
  • When Biologists Play at Grammar
    “There’s a problem when biologists try to create rules of grammar. For one thing, they don’t own the names — it’s not just biologists who write about wildlife.” (December 4, 2005)
  • The Trouble with Rat Snake Taxonomy
    “In less than a decade, the Eastern Rat Snake — one of the most commonly encountered species in the eastern U.S., and one of the most popular pet snake species — has had its Latin scientific name changed or reorganized four times.” (January 24, 2009)
  • On Ringneck Snakes, Difficult Species and Expertise
    “As reptile keepers, we need to be unafraid to share our experiences. No one benefits if we won’t share our failures for fear that someone else will think less of us.” (July 31, 2007)
  • The Motherf***ing Snakes on Snakes on a Plane
    “I usually make a point of avoiding snake-themed B movies such as Anaconda, Rattlers or Silent Predators: they’re just too painful to watch for someone in the know. But as someone with one foot in the Snakes on a Plane-obsessed blogosphere and the other in the reptile-keeping world, I suppose I had to go see this one.” (September 1, 2006)

Questions and Answers

  • Cats and Snakes in the Wild
    “Cats aren’t the only threat to wild snake populations, and humans certainly have done plenty of other things to put snakes (to say nothing of other animals) at risk, but keeping your cat indoors is one of the best things you can do on behalf of snake conservation.” (November 14, 2009)
  • Releasing Snakes as Rodent Control
    “The problem is that, generally speaking, if your property has a healthy rodent population, it should already have a healthy snake population feeding on them. If it doesn’t, there’s probably a reason for it.” (October 20, 2010)
  • On Hibernating and Transporting Snakes
    “Moving snakes can be a little nerve-wracking the first time, but it’s not nearly as complicated as it seems. In fact, there’s a standard method of transporting snakes.” (September 24, 2010)