Jonathan Crowe

Book reviewer, cat photographer, fanzine editor, map blogger, snake whisperer.

The ‘Better’ Vaccine

Last spring people were turning down the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine because they thought the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine was better. Fun fact: no. A recent study suggests that Moderna may actually be a bit more effective, though the reason—differences in which populations were vaccinated with which vaccines, Moderna’s larger and more spaced-out doses—hasn’t been nailed down. Thing is, both vaccines are more than good enough, and at a population level (which is the level at which public health operates, but is hard for individuals to relate to) we’re much better off having more vaccines in more arms than better vaccines in fewer arms—especially if the differences are this slight.

Full disclosure: I got the Moderna vaccine, and I refuse to be smug about it; it’s what was available.

iPhone Migration Notes (for Future Reference)

It’s about to be new iPhone time for us, but in the five-plus years since we last bought phones—Jen’s still using a first-generation iPhone SE, I’m on an iPhone 7—the migration process seems to have changed somewhat, especially now that iPhones have been disentangled from syncing and backing up to a computer. We could set up our new phones from an iCloud backup, but that won’t copy over all our media files; for that there is now the Quick Start method, which transfers data directly from the old device to the new one. It’s done wirelessly; Apple used to describe a faster wired method involving a Lightning cable and a camera adapter, but they removed that from the support page when they updated it last month, so who knows if it still works. Another critical-but-not-straightforward task is moving over all my Google Authenticator two-step verification codes. There’s a process for that, too, and it involves using the app to scan, with the new phone, a QR code generated by the app on the old phone.

Soup Ads and SF

I did not know until today that German publisher Heyne once had a policy of inserting two-page adverts for Maggi soup (and presumably other products) into the text of their books, and that when Terry Pratchett found out about it he dropped them as his German publisher. It also apparently happened to Iain M. Banks—and to Duane Duane, who discovered similar soup ads in the German translations of her Star Trek Romulan novels. (This seems rather more pervasive than my my German ex-girlfriend’s soup obsession, which I found kind of endearing at the time. Then again, she was an sf reader: maybe the ads burned something deep into her psyche.)

Vancouver Island’s Invasive Lizards

European wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) have invaded Vancouver Island. Traced to a release by a roadside zoo that closed down in 1970, the lizards’ island population is now estimated at between 500,000 and 700,000. While some people enjoy having the lizards around—we don’t have many of them in Canada—it’s still an invasive species capable of doing damage. “Hanke assesses the threat to B.C.’s ecosystems as ‘an eight, if not a nine.’ He worries for native species such as the sharp-tailed snake, the Pacific chorus frog and the northwestern alligator lizard. The wall lizard feasts on them all.”

Movie Night of the Cooters

George R. R. Martin paused his journey into the sun to report that Howard Waldrop’s classic story “Night of the Cooters”—in which the Martians of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds invade a small town in Texas whose sheriff has a passing resemblance to Slim Pickensis being made into a short film, with Vincent d’Onofrio directing and starring. Shot on green screen, with effects to follow during a lengthy post-production; I suspect we ought not to expect great things from this. But the fact that any Waldrop story is being filmed in any fashion—that’s noteworthy.

Snakes on a Plane, 15 Years Later

Today is the 15th anniversary of the release of that snakesploitation film masterpiece, Snakes on a Plane. Only it was about as far away from a masterpiece as you could get. On io9, Sean Lussier looks back at the hype, the disappointment and the motherfucking snakes. “The actual ‘snakes on a plane’ part of the movie is great, but the idea itself is so absurd and so small, it takes way too long to set up, and no time at all to fix, leaving a movie with a boring beginning, amazing middle, and disappointing ending.” As I noted at the time, you could tell where the over-the-top bits—the MF-bombs, the nudity, the gross-out scenes—were spliced into what was otherwise a flat and forgettable film.

Transcollines Updates Its Schedules

I noticed when Transcollines revamped the Pontiac bus service that it was making a play for passengers attending school or college; they’ve now updated their online and printed schedules to make that pitch more explicit, with schools and colleges highlighted on each line schedule. Additionally we get detailed maps showing the lines’ exact routes, and bus stops in the city, so it’s much clearer where to wait for the bus. Which is useful for Line 910, the route to/from here, because I couldn’t be certain from the original map where the bus went (especially in the city) or where you should catch it.

Two Maclean’s Pieces

On the eve of another federal election, where we’ll be asked to choose between the feckless, the disingenuous and the mendacious, here are two thoughtful pieces from Maclean’s that offer more light than heat.

Paul Wells looks at Justin Trudeau’s mixed record on the world stage, which was dominated by COVID-19, quarrels with China, and dealing with Trump and NAFTA. “It’s been a brutal half-decade, and the Trudeau government handled much of it with a grim focus that produced good results.”

Jen Gerson questions why Canadian political parties are so quick to ditch their leaders after just one election. “Parties are treating their leaders like pump-and-dump penny stocks. Dear Leader is expected to perform, and to deliver results, with their success measured by whatever metric their membership values; power, influence, material resources, electoral advances, or simple moral chattel. Assessing a leader’s performance by these metrics, on these timelines, is as bloodless and shortsighted as reciting an earnings-before-taxes balance on a quarterly dividend statement.”

Tyrannosaurs Were Multiniche Predators

Albertosaurus diorama
Albertosaurus diorama, Royal Tyrell Museum, 27 Dec 2008.

Riley Black, writing for Smithsonian magazine, reports on new findings that tyrannosaurs dominated their ecosystems because juveniles and adolescents operated in different ecological niches. “The differences between adult and adolescent tyrannosaurs were so great that the animals almost lived like different species, pushing out mid-sized carnivores in a prehistoric takeover.” So instead of smaller carnivorous dinosaurs hunting smaller prey, you had younger tyrannosaurs.

Some Excitement at a Former Address

It’s weird seeing your old apartment building in the news, even weirder when it does so repeatedly. In the nearly two decades since we lived at 200 Boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes, it has had all kinds of coverage due to its increasingly decrepit condition. The 15-storey apartment block was bought by new owners last November; said new owners have been trying to get the current tenants to move out in order to renovate the building. Some tenants have been pushing back against what they see as a renoviction, and won their initial challenge at the tribunal. The owners are trying again, making four-figure offers to the holdout tenants; hearings at the Tribunal administratif du logement are being held this month. [Most links in French.]

Goodreads Is a Cesspool

Time sheds light on the toxic cesspool that Goodreads has become: “Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of ‘review bombing’ their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.” Social spaces need moderation, in which Goodreads is woefully deficient. Platforms become vectors for bad behaviour not because they’re popular, but because they’re vulnerable.1 Combine that with authors feeling that they have no choice but to have a Goodreads presence (or a social media presence in general), and this is what you get.

Rabbit Island

My third review for Strange Horizons, which looks at Elvira Navarro’s short story collection Rabbit Island (Two Lines Press, 2021) is now online. “In eleven relatively short stories—the book is only 164 pages long—Rabbit Island draws on the fantastic to offer a bleak look at contemporary Spain; its arrival in English translation comes at a point where it is unexpectedly pertinent.”

Amazon (Canada, UK) | Apple Books | Bookshop

‘Art as a Mirror, Never as a Doorway’

Lincoln Michel’s response to the Isabel Fall controversy (previously) has a sharp point about the tendency toward what he calls puritan readings of art. “Art needs criticism to thrive, and there is certainly plenty of hateful, racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted (or just badly made) art out there quite deserving of our scorn. But there is a difference between criticism and harassment. There is a difference between attacking bigotry and in demanding that art be unambiguous is its moral messaging. There is a difference between art—beautiful, strange, complex, and messy art—and Goofus and Gallant comic strips.”

TimeMachineEditor

TimeMachineEditor is a small Mac app that enables you to schedule Time Machine backups at intervals of your choosing. This solves a very particular problem: your choices with Time Machine are hourly backups or initiating them manually, and hourly can be a problem when Time Machine backups take the better part of an hour to complete. Because of this I’ve been backing up at the end of each evening, which actually works well for me, but it’s good to know that an automated option still exists.

Cat Pictures Made Pleasing

Cat pictures may well be nigh-ubiquitous on these here interwebs (see also: my various photo feeds) but there’s an art to it, one that Serbian photographer Zoran Milutinovic has made his specialty. He shares some tips on effective cat photography in this blog post for 500px, most of which boil down to waiting for cats to do their cat things, and not trying to force or rush them. Which, well, yes.

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