Little things

  • I've come to think most Quebecois last names contain only 2 syllables: Chartier, Ouillet, Mailler, Fournier, Gravel, Tremblay, Gagnon, Brunet, etc... Yet first names are becoming longer and composed: Marc-Andre, Marie-Eve, Jean-Philip, Jean-Francois, Charles-Olivier, Louis-Philip, Charles-Antoine, etc... What's going on?

  • Old People and Technology can be classified into two distinctive groups. The first group are those old people who distrust, misunderstand or are confused by it. The second, and funniest, group contain the ones who over trust technology. Old people who say they can't get lost anymore because they have a GPS in the car makes me laugh.

  • Giving responsibility out to those who tag (graffiti) places is a bit odd. Citizens complain about an amount of graffiti on walls, and the responsibility falls into the owner's hands to clean up their facade. Oddly enough, officers are the ones to tell the owners to clean up the graffiti. Aren't these the same people who are suppose to stop graffiti artists?

  • I'm often happy to see a speed cyclist struggling in the rain. It reminds me how many times they thought roads were build for bikes and decide to ride in the middle of the street. If a car and a bicycle collide, the winner is clear. Get out of the way for your own safety.

  • What's so hard with learning the cardinal points? Most people I come across tell me they have no idea which way West is and proudly admit it. Why it is so hard to learn and get a feel for cardinal points is beyond me. It's an important navigation tool and comes off as a frustration to those who try to explain directions to people with this lack of knowledge.


In The News

The front page of the always-good-for-a-laugh Ottawa Citizen today features a story about a group of scientists who have discovered that Viagra is effective in helping regulate the biological clocks of hamsters in order to help prevent the effects of jet lag. It is postulated that the effects could be similar in humans and therefore Viagra would be effective for long-haul flights. This raises a few questions:

1) Long flights are uncomfortable enough as it is. I don't think anyone really wants to put up with an 8-hour-long hardon while being crammed like sardines in "economy" class. Not to mention the undesirable and uncomfortable knowledge that the guy sitting next to you reading Men's Fitness has a raging hardon as well.

2) Who the hell thinks of and funds these studies? Does someone wake up one morning and decide it would be great to give Viagra to hamsters in order to test a random hypothesis that it would have benefits in fighting jet lag? Isn't it kind of weird to be artificially giving hamsters erections? This would no doubt be described as a "side-effect" of the drug. I suppose an erection is still a lot better than the side effects of most drugs. Also, I wonder why they couldn't just test this hypothesis on humans? The drug has already been approved, so why didn't these scientists just pop some Viagra, take a flight to London, and gather some notes on the process? Not that it wouldn't be as much of a waste of time, but at least nobody has to watch hamster hardons all day.

3) Why is this front page news? Was there really nothing more important going on in the world today other than hamster penises?

In other news, the Citizen has a typically worthless editorial running today. It's about the new archbishop in Ottawa and how he should be politically involved in his community, advocating policies, and all this sort of junk. What really got me was the final line. Being that the archbishop is not native to Ottawa, they mention that he was apparently a Montreal Canadians fan, but he now "puts his faith in the Senators." How fucking nauseating.


Road Diaries: Marriage at Bethierville

The following post doesn't follow the standard writing format of our posts. It details a trip I undertook on May 19th to Bethierville for the marriage of an acquaintance. The map of Bethierville can found here.

Road trips are a fan favorite of both writers of this blog. Eric and I enjoy taking them quite a bit and have great appreciation for the open road. When I was invited to take a trip to Bethierville for the marriage of an acquaintance, I saw the opportunity as a personal challenge to see a new place and test where I was at road trip wise. It marked my first trip since I went to Toronto in mid-February of 2006, which means I was overdue for a good drive.

Unfortunately, the trip included other challenges. On the one hand, I knew I was going to be sitting in a church for a brief period and listen to a priest's sermon. On the other, I would explore towns to the East of Montreal which had been part of my list-of-places-I-want-to-explore for quite some time. I had gone as far as Repentigny with Eric and had thought the experience to be odd considering the lack of differences in housing architecture from the ones in Kirkland. I had gone to Quebec before, but hadn't gone back in a long time, and especially hadn't taken the car up there myself, so Bethierville was definitely interesting.

Like all weddings, the trip started off with interesting goofs. I found out I had torn a hole into the back of my suit's pants. How that got there is beyond me. It marked the 3rd or 4th time I had worn the damn thing! So a bit of suture later, I was proudly walking around in a suit and a tie. I like suits, I find suits to be comfortable and fashionable. So with my sutured hole, I grabbed my camera hoping to get a few shots in, my iPod for some music and got into my car with good thoughts in mind.

I turned the keys in the ignition and realize I'd have to go gas up. Not a problem, I think to myself, I have a gas key! What a wonderful invention this gas key is. It's a little magnetic key that lets you swipe it at the pump and the payments are made directly to your credit card. Easy to use, easy to store and easy to pay.

So I begin my drive by leaving my neighborhood. Hurray, a man in a thousand dollar suit behind a worn out, beat up Corolla. I immediately notice how my car's suspension is slowly giving up on me at the first speed bump. My neighborhood is a bit bizard as it holds the record for the most ridiculous speed bump to ever exist. The speedbump actually happens to be the entire street corner. The elevation is barely a foot, and this gigantic mass of asphalt (which I constantly mispronounce as ashphalt to everyone's giggle) is framed by two extra speed bumps on the same corner of the road. Whoever thought this one up seriously lacked attention to urban planning. The corner wasn't an obvious dangerous zone, and adding a bump before, during and after the said corner isn't the most cost affective solution ever thought up.

Once out of my neighborhood and onto the open road, I start to get comfortable and ready for the drive ahead. The immediate look of commercial zones marks the first 3 exits I pass. From St-Charles bvld to Sources, nothing but commercial entities can be seen. What follows is more industrial and finally, completely industrial as I approach the Decarie interchange. This part of the world is the mark of badly sought out plans as it marks the beginning of the elevated highway. This stretch of road goes for a good couple of kilometres as there are no shoulders and multiple left lane exits, it quickly becomes a traffic hot spot at any time of the day. As a documentary that was released a couple of weeks after the collapse of De la Concorde overpass pointed out, not only is this structure the definition of traffic jam, it also doesn't hold very well after all these years in use. What started as a temporary highway turned permanent fast, and isn't looking into changing anytime soon. This causes my passenger to point out constantly to watch out in front every time a car jams the breaks.

The good news is once anyone passes the elevated highway, I get treated to more left lane exits, multi-crossing overpasses and disgusting sound barriers. Once that's over, here comes to amazing array of bill-boards and fire chimneys of the industrial last stretch of Montreal Island! So long-Montreal, see you in a few hours!

Over the bridge and into Repentigny, the concentration of markets are all found north of the highway into a specific center. This sort of advertisement is gratuitous at best and hard to access, not to mention the on ramps for the highway stretch at least 4km is some regions, so the result is having to see a car going the same speed as me for a good 4km before it joins me onto the highway.

What follows me is a more pleasant stretch of road. Both highway direction get further from one another and a forest fills the gap until just before my destination. Exit 144, Bethierville, the exit is ridiculously built. I'm heading East and am elevated compared to the road the exit is suppose to be linked with, so this means my exit has to do a 180 degree turn going downhill, and to add insult to injury, the final 100 feet has the opposite direction attached with my own, no room for errors folks!

Happy to make the turn, I begin to look into the small town for a gas station that will take my speedpass (in this case an esso). I locate it and decide to gas up. On my way to the said gas station, I start noticing a detail nobody had bothered printing with the invitations: the amazing amount of motorcycles in the region. At this point, I start to feel a bit less comfortable wearing a suit. When 'La Belle Province's' parking lot is filled with more motorcycles then I can count in the seconds it takes to pass in front of it (no way I was stopping to count!), my pulse starts to become more sporadic. I'm not sure the idea of wearing a suit was a good idea. I pass by a few abandonment, but the idea of visiting them eludes me! Why get caught in what could be the secret growing location of a gang? I don't even stop to take pictures.

Once at the gas station, I notice they have the old pumps. Forget about using the speed pass to gas up, the damn display isn't even digital! Suit and speed pass start to look like foolish ideas that could get me into more problems then I had hoped. Once I refuel the car, I head down to the church which is at the same location as 'The visitation de l'ile Dupas' on the map. The interesting things to mention is that the road has a speed limit of 90km/h, and there are no signs warning ahead of what roads are coming, so the result ends up being a 90degree turn at the last minute while jamming the breaks. Also, the division for the islands aren't as clear live. Most of the islands are actually divided into little islands without matching the physical definition of island. You get onto the the actual island, turn left, and somewhere halfway down the road a panel indicates you are on a different island. How strange. I certainly don't recall passing any other body of water marking the separation.

The church was modern and built not to long ago, but the head stones in the back date the cemetery to no earlier then the 1920s. The church's back neighbor was basically a field filled with manure, what a smell! The insides were as modern as the outsides, with paintings dating from late 1800s to early 1900s and air conditioning! The temperature was so low inside most of the guests started to feel cold. Whoever left the air conditioning on puzzles me. No one but lone priest was present inside the small church and he started his ceremony stating his territory which didn't match with his current location. What surprised me the most is how anyone could have possibly found this church and decide to get married there. Nonetheless, once stating his credentials, the priest started to argue the importance of holding a marriage inside a church. His argument ran something like this:

God is great, and in his house he rules. It is a beautiful thing to be in the house of God as he is great and he rules. Because he rules and he is great, it is important to be in the house of God.

This one confused me.

Once he was done and everyone spoke, the priest began to speak again. What amazed me (but mostly delighted me) was that only people who were above the age of 60 knew when to say 'amen' or any other saying that needed to be spoken. The priest tried joking and goofing off to make it more interesting, but to no avail. He was fully aware most people were only waiting for the reception to have a party as he stated it often. His mannerisms lacked more professionalism as he took a bite out of the host and we had the good grace of hearing him chew and swallow the thing through the speakers. He then went on to explain how we were about to devour the flesh of Jesus, and drink his blood which frighten me to death. I couldn't understand how such a Pagan ritual had taken place for so long. Cannibalism is widely practiced? Never mind video games influencing teens, how about church influence? As can be read in this article, the Bible is considered indecent in parts of the world for its depiction of violence and sexuality.

The last words spoken were a true form of foolish speech. The priest explained how the church always steals from Jews a specific marriage prayer, but adds the words Jesus to make it Christian. Good lord the copyright infringement! He concluded with these words:

I have to perform a reception in St-Sulpice in 15 minutes, so I must conclude and leave you.

Busy day in a priest's life....

The reception took place on a golf course west of the church, near the river. It had multiple signs that fresh water was not available on the grounds, but a tap outside did offer such an option. Their VIP parking constituted rock and dirt as it wasn't paved. This was the elite's golf club? Everyone remained positive at the reception and offered nothing but good wishes to the newly weds. People still remained positive throughout the reception even when the annoying and unprofessional DJ made the weds run around and kiss people and had the guests play odd, useless and humiliating games.

I'll conclude by stating these facts about the newly weds:
The bride is pregnant 2 weeks, smokes and took a few glasses of wine.
She has given birth to a baby 6 months prior to the wedding.
She is only 19 years old.
Her husband is her old boss, who happens to be 33.
Her husband has had a child with another women before the marriage.
That child is a 16 year old girl.


Sports as Religion

Hockey frenzy is on in Ottawa right now. I'm quite certain I have commented on the issue of sports a while ago -- especially in regards to Noam Chomsky's funny comment about college football from the Manufacturing Consent documentary -- but the issue seems more pertinent than ever. Perhaps, too, I am becoming more jaded about the issue.

I believe that sports fans suffer from a similar type of mental illness that afflicts religious people. OK, OK, perhaps it is not quite as delusional, but it is difficult to ignore the similarities. It seems as though if one if not caught up in "Sens fever", most people express disbelief that it is even possible to not give a shit about the plight of a mere hockey team. Sports fans identify with a team for reasons beyond my comprehension. They don't know anybody on the team, they have no vested financial or personal interest in how the team fares, and few of the players tend to be from the hometown. Regional affiliation is a dumb principle, anyway. Why arbitrarily care about a team more than another just because its "home base" is located within a 50km radius of your house? It's even more curious for people who are bandwagon fans. Either because they don't care about the team at any other time of the year, or because they come from another city and feel that they now have to change allegiances.

So you get these people who dress up in costumes, paint their bodies, decal their car to no end with paraphernalia, randomly scream like the monkey-men in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and endlessly discuss "the big game". If the team loses, the fans riot like a bunch of apes who got their feelings hurt. If the team wins, the fans riot for shits and giggles and to prove that they are very macho and somehow contributed a great amount to the victory.

The question I ask is to what end does this partisanship exist? You would think that the fate of the world rested on these matches -- and yet what, if anything, really rests on these games? Is there some kind of 'hockey penis' to be gained and flaunted from having the home team win? If people got this involved and excited about things that really mattered, then perhaps we would live in a much better world. Instead, sports partisanship just brings out the grunting, sweaty, braindead, primitive apes that humans ordinarily seek to repress out of "elegance" and a sense of superiority.


A losing economy

This blog has written many criticism of the education system of Canada and Quebec respectively. Archives go on and probably averages around a negative comment on the subject every four months. I would like to point out a few notes on the subject.

Two different extreme fallacies have been surfacing lately and I would like to debunk them.

Falacy #1: Getting a diploma isn't worth the time considering the lack of jobs out there.

This falacy was the first one that surfaced and annoyed me because everyone who spoke it was clearly stating their unawareness of statistics Canada. Statistics Canada has released a report on employment rates for the year 2006 and it can be found here. It states an increase in employment by 55,000 and an unchanged unemployment rate of 6.1%. Anyone who has studied macroeconomics will tell you that unemployment is also broken down into different categories, whereas some can be tackled and fixed to reduce the rate, some remain. It would be interesting for those who believe the above statement to read the description of Structural unemployment on wikipedia, found here.

Falacy #2: If you don't have a diploma no one will hire you.

This one is a little harder to tackle with statistics, but easier to do so using several examples. It is also worth mentionning that several diplomas and degrees can be obtained at once which facilitates the amount of work put into obtaining each (i.e. Someone gradutating from John Abbott College with a Social Science diploma can also walk away with a diploma in Environmental Studies as well as Women Studies). A popular branch of breakfast places called Chez Cora is one that comes to mind, as well as a friend of mine's father. Each didn't graduate from university with a PhD, yet they run financially successful business'. Stanley Kubrick has also been a strong critic of the schooling system and has become a very successful filmaker.

Now that this is out of the way.

Grading systems are a losing economy. A student walks into class knowing what the potential output is and it is only a question of losing as little of it as possible. Potential output is therefore set at 100, with the lowest accepted output of 60. This leaves a 40% margin of error. Students are given a marking system early on during the semester (although this isn't the case in many high schools) weighting different assignments and exams by the total output available for each one.

Management skills are required. If an individual manages his output properly, he can easily stand to lose potential output in certain departments in order to obtain a desired result without much effort. The best example is courses concerning research projects such as QM, RM and IA. These courses have a list of over 5 different assignments to hand in each weighting from 5 marks to a total of 40. Obviously, some of these 5 can be overlooked in order to obtain desired results.

Businesses tend to operate a different way. Where quantity and prices are balanced to meet a potential output at equilibrium with its ressources. If all ressources are utilized to a maximum, then the equilibrium can be met. If not, unlike grading systems, there are systems that can help re-establish an equilibrium. An inflationary gap is out of the question in grading systems, by no means is it possible to obtain higher results then the potential output. So the only existing gap is a deflationary gap but with no correcting systems in place.

The grading system is a losing economy. The goal of many students becomes to simply lose the least amount of points as possible. It's often put in words of 'gain' ("You get 40 marks for this assignment" "You gain 5 points if you do this", etc...) but it truly isn't a 'gain'. It's like being given a high tip at the begining of the night, and as the night progresses, the tip gets smaller for every little inconvenience the client sees. The performance therefore doesn't equal the potential output. Ressources become underused. Why work hard and still lose marks? The equilibrium is more then often found by a good balance between minimum effort and acceptable grades.

A system which allows students to obtain more then 100 mark is therefore more likely to encourage good behavior. With a maximum grade of 100, and a minimum passing grade of 60 (which can be raised or be the only means of pass or fail), self-correcting systems can be placed by the student if it is possible to obtain more then the maximum possible. An inflationary gap can be possible if a student obtains more then 100 marks during a semester and has exhausted himself. This is the sort of system which brings a more positive outcome due to the concetration on getting higher marks. It also creates opportunities for needing students who have difficulties in school. It presents a certain hope that marks will be obtainable to counter lower marks obtained earlier on in the semester.


The Human NPC

A client walked through my door today, he immediately rushed towards the customer service counter and leaned against it, getting himself comfortable before I showed up. As I greeted him, he mumbles a 'hello' back and places his hand over his face displaying the signs of a headache. His following words are "we have a problem here!"

He goes on in a fit of rage, ranting on about how some parts of the system isn't working out for him. All of his troubles are towards the internet portion of the service. He rambles on, overpronouncing the word stupid a few times and offers these wonderful words of wisdom to fixing all online errors "its like just changing two lines of codes or something!". This man is late in his 40s, if not early in his fifties. After he's done with his speech stating that if nothing is fixed he will no longer be a member of our store, he goes to the machines to rent a movie, but can't figure out the proper way to put in his cards even with clearly indicated arrows printed on the top of the membership card.

This incident brings me to what everyone who worked in the service sector can relate to: 'The Human NPC'. An outlet for many consummer's anger are store clerks. A customer walks in, already angry, looking for a clerk to bully around. The client isn't looking for answers, or problem solving, but merely someone to vent anger upon. After all, these are simply clerks! Dispensible, replacable, no-need-for-education people who aren't that important. This sort of violence mirrors what several people consider inappropriate in video games: Soulest slaughter served digitaly. Yet, this sort of behavior is accepted in society. A disgruntled client is what we call them.

The man walked away no more informed then he wanted to have in the first place. He had yelled and satisfied his anger just a bit. No solutions were needed, just a good ear. I was left will a little smile as I witnessed stupidity at its best.


Online Rebellion: The Digg Community Revolts Against Censorship

Something monumental happened yesterday and unfortunately, short of those who read tech news sites, it will probably be overlooked by most people. The Digg community revolted, taking over the site in order to espouse a specific protest agenda, and succeeded in subverting the corporate censorship machinery. This event was monumental because it represents a type of alter-corporate protest which has, until now, only been seen in grassroots protest movements such as the now-infamous Seattle WTO protest. We now understand the true power of online social networking in the context of Web 2.0.

Let me bring you up to speed with a brief summary of how the events unfolded. The digital rights management scheme embedded into HD-DVD and Blu-ray is called AACS. It was designed to provide considerably more protection than what is currently available in regular DVDs -- the theory being that copyrights will be more stringently enforced. There are, however, a number of problems with this scheme. First of all, it requires that consumers wishing to view content use certain types of connections to their display. It also disallows consumers who have legitimately purchased the media to make a legally-allowed backup copy, or to transfer it to another medium for personal viewing. Most tech geeks are generally against digital rights management because of past fiascos (the Sony rootkit situation comes to mind), as well as the resistance to being dictated what one can do with media they have legally purchased. It is generally argued that pirates will pirate no matter what, and digital rights management therefore hurts legitimate consumers more than anyone.

Recently, there was a minor exploit of the AACS system, but it was client-side and so it was quickly patched. However, a hacker who was dismayed that he couldn't play his purchased content because he didn't have the type of connection required for the protection scheme to work recently found the hex encryption key (09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0) for HD-DVDs (it is different for Blu-ray), essentially shattering the copy protection scheme and allowing any disc to be viewed on any display, and also allowing the discs to be copied. The key was not made publically available, but a lawyer for the AACS accidentally leaked out the key in a legal document.

Here's where it gets interesting. Digg, a democratic social networking news site where users votes determine what stories are pushed to the front page, had a highly-rated article on their front page which contained the encryption key. The AACS was not happy about this, and issued a cease-and-desist letter to Digg. They complied, not having the money or resources to fight a lawsuit, and not only deleted the article, but also banned the user who posted it. A story was then published which talked about the censorship of this article by the Digg moderators, and it too was deleted and the user banned.

The community protested this heavy-handed approach which they felt undermined Digg's credibility. People began to urge that users digg stories which contained the encryption key. Last night, every single story on the front page of Digg contained the key, a reference to the ongoing protest, or to the state of the Digg community because of this event. Popular news sites such as Slashdot quickly caught on to the story and reported on what was going on at Digg. The BBC and other popular "traditional" news outlets had a front-page story this morning about the situation.

Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg, made a post on his blog explaining why they had initially deleted the posts with the encryption key. He now told the community that they had spoken, and they had been heard. Should Digg go down in an intense legal battle, "so be it", but he would be proud that they went down fighting for what was important. He vowed that stories containing the key would not be deleted, and he urged the community to "digg on".

Consumers' criticisms of copy protection schemes, and the legal tactics used to protect the protection schemes, finally boiled over and exploded in this beautiful demonstration of discontent. This is grassroots protest at its finest and most powerful. We have never witnessed this on such a scale in the online realm before. May 1st was a defining moment for the Internet as a social networking tool, and it should without a doubt go down in the history books. I have never been so proud to stand up for freedom of speech and consumer rights.