Sunday, November 16, 2008

Geeked out

The whole family attended yesterday's Geek Montreal Geek Out - eventually. We started without Child Three, then lost Child One to a party, but eventually all wound up together.

We started by playing the fastest game of Clue I've ever played, thanks to an early lucky guess, but the main feature was the showing of a documentary on the Graffiti Research Lab, which was followed by a mass effort by most of us to build LED throwies. A throwie is a slim battery (like a watch battery, LED, and flat magnet duct-taped into a small, throwable package. If you toss it at something ferromagnetic, it will stick. The battery will allow the LED to glow a month or so.

We didn't have enough batteries to build more than a few large handfuls of throwies. Ours were dimmer than thos ein the video because our batteries were weaker. Inspired by the Graffiti Research Lab, most of us set out to find something ferromagnetic in the Crescent Street area.

By that time, the family was united. Child Three did not want to go throwing (throwie-ing?). He had asked me if what we were going to do was legal, and I wasn't sure what to answer. I said it was a gray area. He asked if it was like graffiti. I said sort of, but there probably weren't any laws specifically against using throwies.

Whether it was his sense of right and wrong or because he only had a cotton sweatshirt in which to brave the rain, Child Three opted out of the vandalism activity.

You'd be surprised how hard it is to find pieces of ferromagnetic building material in downtown Montreal. We found a lot of aluminum. Damn Quebec and our cheap hydroelectric power that can be used to smelt aluminum.

I finally found an appropriate target, in the alley between Crescent and Mountain. The backside of Thursday's is a two-story sheet of corrugated steel.

Of course, the throwies go "plink" when they hit. It sounds like you're throwing pebbles. There's a walkway above the alley, and we were spotted by kitchen staff, whom we studiously ignored. My keen tactical mind appreciated that the moment was ripe to disengage and move on before enemy reinforcements showed up, so I headed further down the alley, far enough that I could escape around a corner if, say, cops showed up to arrest the rest of my family. Someone would have to retrieve Child Three and make bail for the females. Always thinking, I am.

Cops didn't show up, but a security guard did. I wasn't close enough to hear the conversation, but when I saw the guard launch his own throwie at the wall, I figured I could safely return.

Done behind Thursday's, we walked around looking for more targets, but didn't find much. We sprinkled a sign post on Crescent closer to Sherbrooke, but those weren't high enough to discourage removal. If at night you go behind Thursday's sometime over the next month, however, you should be able to see evidence of our vandalism street art. Or you can visit Elvi's Picasa album.

Bonus search engine:

I've taught my classes about the Dark Web/Deep Web/Invisible Web, which is the accumulation of Web info that standard search engines do not access and present as search results. Examples are drop-down menus, databases, and (until recently) PDFs. DeepDyve is a new search engine that claims to bring search-engine light to the Dark Web.

I haven't tried DeepDyve yet. It requires registration, although it's free. I'm not anti-registration, but I can't be bothered to take those extra five minutes. I will soon, perhaps, but in the meantime, DeepDyve's mere presence is worth acknowledging.


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