Ed Bilodeau

This weblog had moved: http://www.coolweblog.com/bilodeau/

# Notice (Oct 19/05): So ends my stay here on Blogger. This morning Google implemented an anti-spam 'feature' that forces me to answer a challenge phrase when I want to post to my own blog. No notice of the change, nothing. Worse is that it doesn't even work! I type the phrase, submit, "An error occured", post deleted. Damn you, Google. Chances are I will revive my blog somewhere else, sometime soon. I'll post the new coordinates here as soon as they become available. (BTW, I'm unable to post anything to my RSS stream, so I'd appreciate it if readers could spread the word and ask people to take a look at this notice)

Update (Oct 19/05, ~noon): After a frustrating few hours (and not just trying out alternatives to Blogger), I've decided that this is a good time to take a break from all this. A day? A week? Who knows. But I need to step away from it before I pass a heavy magnet over the whole mess.

Update 2: According to this post, the reason I'm seeing the CAPTCHA (challenge phrase) is that Blogger has classified my blog as spam. Thanks. User for five years and now I'm spam. I searched the Blogger site, but there is no mention of how to get the spam flag turned off. There is also no way of contacting anyone at Blogger. Wow. Spam they say I am, so spam I must be. Maybe it is time to take a break.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Charles Wagner, 1904:
we have in abundance that which, if must be, we can go without, and are infinitely poor in the one thing needful. And when the depth of our being is stirred, with its need of loving, aspiring, fulfilling its destiny, it feels the anguish of one buried alive -- is smothered under the mass of secondary things that weigh it down and deprive it of light and air.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I have a meeting at GSLIS later this morning, so I thought I would start the day working from the InfoCommons rather then heading into the office. Mostly checking email, the regular sites, etc, etc. All easily done from a web terminal.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

IT hiring on the rise again:
The most difficult positions to fill are those for IT project managers, Web applications programmers, computer security analysts, database administrators and network engineers, respondents said. The most sought-after skills include experience with PeopleSoft, Oracle and SAP systems, as well as with Extensible Markup Language, or XML, the report noted. Mastery of J2EE, Microsoft .Net, Java or Visual C# programming language is also in great demand, Gartner said.
Decay: Nation's physical plant falling apart: "But the general situation - nothing seems to work very well anymore, everything seems to be breaking down - ought to concern us all."
Last night was the final lecture of my Managing Knowledge with IT course. It was a good semester, and I gained several insights into KM as I prepared and participated in the course with the students. I'm hoping to find time over the coming weeks to record some of them here.
FWIW, here's my theory on the brutal murder of an innocent man by UK police:

You have a group of police officers, approaching a suspect's residence, hepped up and ready to go. They are in particular frame of mind, vigilant, on the lookout for particular clues or patterns that fit their ideas about the situation.

They see someone, they yell for them to stop. (According to this article, UK police are not required to identify themselves before shooting.) This other person sees a group of men coming towards him, brandishing guns. What does he do? (What would you do?) He runs. (According to a CBC TV news report I saw last night, a friend of the victim claims he had been in an bar fight recently, and may have thought these men where part of that group.)

Once the man ran, he automatically fit into the pattern the police officers were predisposed to see. Once the suspect ran into a train, the police officers must have been fairly certain, and their training kicked in:


Seven shots to the head.

Sadly, the man was completely innocent. The behaviour that made him appear guilty was cause by the police. They are responsible for creating the situation, and for ending it.

(See also: Malcom Gladwell's Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking: book, audio presentation)

UK PM Tony Blair:
Blair suggested police faced a difficult choice.

"Had the circumstances been different and had this turned out to be a terrorist, and they had failed to take that action, they would have been criticized the other way."
This comment ignores the fact that (a) the man was entirely innocent, and (b) the only indications of possible guilt were in fact caused by the police themselves. This same reasoning could be used to justify almost any atrocity.

It is also a frightening bit of logic, one that mirrors the justifications given by the US government for their preemptive invasion of Iraq. You have to ask yourself: What else are the US and UK governments prepared to do preemptively, "just in case" someone might do something bad in the future?
Homolka movie to debut at Montreal film fest. A clear exploitation of the victims of this crime, maximized by the sychronization with Homolka's recent release from prison. The people behind this movie (as well as the festival organizers) should be ashamed.
For the past few weeks I was trying to work with a dual-display set up, using my laptop as a secondary display. Every time I undock my laptop, though, the display settings get mixed up. Not only does the setup not automatically restore to the original settings, in some cases, like this morning, nothing I do can get my desktop extended over both displays with the correct resolution on each monitor. So, I'm back to just using my flatscreen.

I've also been thinking about getting a new PC. Or rather, making a case / begging the powers that be to get me a PC. I'll keep my laptop for presentations and remote work, but in the office I'd like to have something more powerful (i.e. > 1GHz) and preferably with a large display (dual 19" LCDs, SVP?). Well, if I'm dreaming, I may as well dream big!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Yahoo deception. While preparing for my seminar on e-resources last week, I noticed that Yahoo search places sponsor links exactly where users expect the most relevant search results to be.

They are labeled as sponsor links, but over on the right-hand side of the screen, where few people are likely to notice them. They are also highlighted with a different colored background, but from the user's persective, that could mean anything.

I wouldn't recommend Yahoo as a search engine to anyone, not when there are other, more useful options available.

Friday, July 22, 2005

This afternoon, Nathalie and I headed down to Old Montreal to do some walking around. After a late lunch at Titanic, we headed over to Marche Beausecours to look at the craft and artwork. From there, a quick stop at a shop filled with nice, imported Italian furniture, then over the the Cite Multimedia for an ice coffee, some more window shopping, and, eventaully, a bus-ride home.

It was a nice afternoon, with lots to see. Unfortunately, the camera batteries chose that moment to die, so I wasn't able to take pictures. I made mental notes of things to come back and capture, especially the ghost buildings and signage that still lingers on the walls of the old city.
The great legacy skills debate: "given that most of these [mainframe developers] still have a decade or more of regular employment ahead of them, the concern should be less on replacing their technical skills and more on leveraging the business knowledge that they possess."
Longhorn Windows Vista.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lifehacker: "The Hipster PDA movement is so much fun and, well, hip because it rejects gagdet consumerism and repurposes a common object in useful ways" (emphasis mine). Anyone who has followed any of the Hipster PDA movement (see: Flickr tag = hipsterpda) knows this statement is not all that accurate.

The gadgets may be low tech, but they are still all gadgets. Inexpensive, maybe, but all high-margin items that the Staples store manager loves to sell. They almost certainly make more money off a HipsterPDA-type buying a basket of index cards, clips and pens then they do off someone who buys a Pocket PC.

What about the overpriced Moleskines and space pens favored by the HipsterPDA crowd? No consumerism there. No, sir!
Why are Movie Theatre Revenues Declining?. The experience of going to the theatre is getting worse and worse, while the cost continues to go up. And we keep getting fed remakes and sequels.
One small problem with RSS Bandit: When it launches and it tries to update my feeds, it consumes 100% of my CPU. Not a big deal, but definately an irritant.
Rob Curley on IT Conversations: Unexpectedly, one of the better presentations I've listened to. Entertaining and informative. Highly recommended to anyone running a web site (esp a news site).

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Note to self: First thing tomorrow morning, install RSS Bandit and migrate feeds from Bloglines and Blo.gs. I've used older versions of RSS Bandit, and the lastest is very slick. It makes it very easy for me to view new posts in the reader or on the original site.
I'm curious: does anyone else out there enjoy Ovaltine? Or are you more of a Postum person? (comments?)
Today the humidity that we've been suffering through finally broke. It was still hot (~ 29 or so), but compared to the weather we've had over the past few days, it was downright pleasant. The mid-range forcast seems to be for average and cooler temperatures. Finally!
This morning I held a seminar on using e-resources as part of the Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies program that goes on every year here at McGill. This is my first time participating, and although it required a fair amount of preparation work on my part, it was well worth it.

The students seemed interested and engaged, despite the fact that their access to most of the resources we talked about will be cut off when they return to Indonesia a month from now. I spent a fair amount of time talking about using the web and open resources, but when your home library doesn't even have an ILL service, much less an extensive ejournal or journal collection, what can you do?

I put together a resource page for students to refer to in the future. My slide deck is available there as well, for those who might be interested.
Reading through sites like 43 Folders and life hacks, I sometimes get the feeling that we should somehow know this stuff, that in the past we would have learnt this through strong social connections to our family, friends, and work. Figuring this stuff out would have been part of growing up.

And yet here we are, a bunch of adults, building a wiki so that we can figure out how to not forget our keys in the morning or make a good cup of coffee.

"Hey, I never thought of putting on my shoes after I put on my pants, but you're right! It's a *lot* easier! Tks!".

Not to knock the sites, I think they are great. I'm just embarrased to admit some of the things I learn there.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Seb is moving back to Montreal. Phew! Finally, the tide begins to turn! With the recent departures of Aaron, Michael, and most recently Karl, I was beginning to think that Montreal was not the place to be.
Cool! None of my feeds are showing up in Bloglines! Looks like I'll be able to get some work done today after all!

Update: The feeds are back. First task: export OMPL from bloglines (just in case). Make note to search for alternatives (again). Question: why isn't there a bloglines status blog? Why don't all online web applications have a status blog?
Wanted: A tool/site like blo.gs that polls RSS feeds (like an aggregator) but rather then give me the items, just tells me the site has been updated. The problem with blo.gs is that the site you are interested in has to be pinging blo.gs. If it isn't, you're SOL.

Monday, July 18, 2005

This morning on CBC Newsworld I saw an interview with someone from Environment Canada talking about the 'wacky weather' we and the rest of the world has been experiencing. At one point, the Environment Canada employee said something along the lines of, "it's as if the weather has gotten less predictable".

I nearly threw my coffee mug at the TV.

The lead piece on the news was similarly frustrating, a piece on Hurricane Emily, which read something like "Thousands of tourists affected as Hurrican Emily slams into Mexico." What about the people who live there? Why focus on the tourists who decided to vacation in Mexico during hurricane season? Why focus on those who, after the warnings, decided to stay and chew up valuable relief resources?

And that's the CBC news. Lingering on any of the main US channels is far, far worse. Entertaining drivel.

I think I'm going to stop watching the news in the morning.
Last night we watched a documentary on CBC about Khalid Jarrar, an Iraqi student (and blogger) who was given taught how to use a camera by a CBC reporter so that he could report on life in Iraq from his point of view. It was a good piece, although I would have prefered to see more of his footage.

One thing that wasn't mentionned, unless I missed it, was that Khalid Jarrar was recently arrested by the Iraqi intelligence service.

This is one story of one person in one part of the world, sadly one of very many. Our technologies enable us to hear many more of these stories then is possible through mainstream and even alternative news channels. I hope that this new, overwhelming awareness does not lead to dispair and apathy.
Euan Semple: "You can increase the likelihood of connections, you can increase the chances that such connections will result in one person helping another and you can help create a culture in which helping each other is a good thing but you sure as hell can't manage knowledge."

I find it interesting that most people who have a problem with the idea of knowledge management are locked into the same faulty idea of management in an industrial/factory context, and of resources being something tanglible, concrete.

1 : to handle or direct with a degree of skill: as
   a : to make and keep compliant
   b : to treat with care
   c : to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of
2 : to work upon or try to alter for a purpose

Successful knowledge management requires a completely different way of thinking about work.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I'm almost certain the Wikipedia is the only encyclopedia to have an entry on the McGill metro station.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Me: Notebooks
Note: If you find updates slow here, I also post to delicious and flickr.
Karl is moving to Tokyo. Glad for him, sad to see him move. Luckily, I know I will be able to continue to know him through his writing and his pictures.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Love. Health. Work. In that order.
(Although the first two are part of the same thing.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Reality check: I have a lot going on, a lot to do, and not enough time to do it in. Still holding it together, though.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Although it is technically a day off for me, I'm in the (empty) office trying to catch up on some work. So much to do, I could work straight through the day and the weekend and still show up on Monday feeling behind.

My goal/dream is to be able to approach the end of the workday without a rush of anxiety and frustration.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Listening to the news, over time, my brain tries to pick out patterns to try to make sense of it all. One pattern: a lot of the infrastructure that we built 30, 40, 50 years ago is falling apart. No one has been willing to spend the money needed to fix it because no one has been willing to take the political heat to do so. Our governments have decided to wait until things get really broken, until we the citizens are affected, at which point they will jump into 'action'. Or sell off what is public to their private companies. Or maybe, like the empire in Foundation, things will just continue to decay without anyone caring enough to do anything about it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thanks to BMG (and everyone who abused Napster, thanks, really), I just went through the most PITA procedure trying to get the latest Foo Fighters album onto my PC. In the end, I had to let the CD take over my PC, transfer licences, and transfer the music to my PC. The result, a bunch of .wma files that I'm not sure my MuVo can play (correction: it can)

Thankfully, the music is really good. Update: the album is terrifyingly good.
Fireworks exploding in the distance
Temporary towers soar
Fireworks emulating heaven
Til there are no stars anymore
Fireworks aiming straight at heaven
Temporary towers soar
Til there are no stars shining up in heaven
Til there are no stars anymore

from Fireworks, The Tragically Hip

Monday, July 04, 2005

Although McGill's offices are officially closed today, I'm in to prepare for tonight's lecture. Very quiet here and online, thanks to the US holiday.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Our library OPAC MUSE, finally has a feature that allows you to bookmark items in the catalog. Sure, it is tied into MUSE, meaning that I have yet another list of things to keep track of, but really, it will be so useful.
Rebecca MacKinnon: More on Cisco in China. Cisco selling tech to Chinese government to control its citizens.
Last Monday we went to see Batman (recommended, btw), and cringed as we had to sit through about 10 minutes of crappy ads before the trailers began. Ads drive me mad on our small TV at home, so seeing them filling the entire field of view at one thousand decibles is enough to shake your soul.

According to the NYTimes, this is a phenomenon that is likely to continue. The rest of you, enjoy. Once we get around to getting a proper TV and DVD player, I highly doubt I'll be ever setting foot in a theatre again. "People still enjoy the social experience of going to a theather." What? Are you mad!?! God, they must think we are zombies.
Teachers who are upset about students only using Google to do their research, who are in tears over the poor quality of the sources cited in their work, should quit complaining and do something about it. First, ignore how the students find their sources. Focus on the quality of their sources. If they are poor, deduct marks. Students will be forced to learn, yes the hard way, how to locate and evaluate information in a scholarly context. Those who are not able to do this will do poorly and maybe even fail. So be it.

Until there are marks on the line, students have little incentive to make the effort to learn how to conduct scholarly research.
Students build library for homeless shelter: "Before the students could unpack the boxes and load the library cart at the unveiling event, the children of Homestart were enthusiastically gathering to see the new books. "We didn't really know what to expect, so it was overwhelming to see so many children clamoring for books, asking how they could check them out, and sitting together to read," said McCracken. "I don't know that I've ever seen so many kids so excited about reading.""