Friday, January 30, 2009

I love poor journalism

It gives me something to write about. Thank goodness for Canwest.

A Canwest article in Thursday's Montreal Gazette discusses the results of a survey on the sexual fantasies of Canadians. (Insert your own joke here. I'll wait.)

Go read the article, to which I linked above. Done? Notice anything strange?

It's a decent report, as far as these things go, up to the point where it discusses women's turn-offs. Then it does this:

The survey also looked at fantasies gone awry, with 28 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men saying their dream of having sex with a stranger didn't work out as planned. Other reveries that ended in real-life disappointment included meeting a celebrity (36 per cent of men, 31 per cent of women), landing the "dream job" (15 per cent men, 24 per cent women), falling in love (21 per cent men, 25 per cent women), breaking the law (21 per cent men, nine per cent women), and getting married (four per cent men, 16 per cent women).

See the problem yet?

Granted, the survey almost certainly did not offer simple binary responses, i.e. a choice of yes or no. But you have to think that the number of women and men who enjoyed fulfilling their dream of having sex with a stranger was higher than the 28% and 26% who were disappointed. The numbers of satisfied "customers" (and I wonder if I need those quotation marks) weren't as high as 100-28=72% and 100-26=74%, but I would bet good money that more people enjoyed the experience than did not. In fairness, that's what the article should have reported, but due to the writer's or editorial bias, it took the puritan high road.

Similarly, how can you say that "other reveries that ended in real-life disappointment included meeting a celebrity (36 per cent of men, 31 per cent of women)" when two thirds of the folks were not disappointed, at least, or happy at best? And that's the least offensive of these comparisons. It's irresponsible journalism and while the end result isn't harmful, the principle should be inviolate.

Bonus Google skillz:

About two hours after my previous post, A search at Google for "ovechkin dancing girls" produced this li'l ol' blog at the top. Alas, that fame was fleeting....

Heck, even my long-time claim to the number one spot in a search for "early senility" has been usurped by Reader's Digest, which, by the way, isn't hiring freelance fact-checkers anymore.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ovechkin and the dancing girls

Some kind Montrealer (Elias?) has leaked the closed-circuit video from the all-star game. Here are the two hot dancing girls and Alex Ovechkin's reaction as seem by fans in the Bell Centre.

Geez, think I packed enough keywords in there? I feel like such a dirty slut.

Monday, January 26, 2009

An all-star night

The NHL All-Star Game was a heck of a lot more fun than I had any right to expect.

I don't want to recount the game itself because that's been done elsewhere. One consistent theme that seems to run through all commentary, even in the lead-up to the weekend, surprises me.

Local hockey journalists can't seem to write a story about the all-star game without disparaging it because it's not real hockey.

Dave Stubbs: "At no point was there danger a real game would break out."

Mike Boone: "The game was fun, but it wasn't hockey."

Pat Hickey: "Was it hockey? No."

Even the stale Red Fisher (sure he is): "How do you spell 'burlesque'?"

That's not to say that the above gentlemen disapprove or dislike the all-star contest. Neither do I, but I appreciate it as legitimate hockey.

Obviously, the all-star game doesn't offer the checks and bravery to face the body-crunching hits that you see every night in the NHL and its feeder leagues, but that doesn't matter to me.

I don't know how much hockey the writers above have played. I started playing 37 years ago, and I took three years off during university, and maybe another three years in there that I forget about. Figure I've played for 30 years. I stopped playing organized leagues after Bantam A, I think when I was 15. After Bantam is Midget, and things get serious, at least here in Montreal. A bunch of us in high school started our own house league and kept playing. In fact, that same bunch of guys still gets together to play twice a year, at Rosh Hashanah and Passover, when the emigrants return to spend holidays with their parents.

I can't remember the rules of Bantam back then, but it's safe to say that the vast majority of my hockey has been played without checking. That doesn't mean no contact. I'm a veteran of quite a bit of jockeying in the slot (uh, that means fighting for position in front of the net, Americans) and along the boards. But my ribs are still in one piece (not so much my right shoulder and left knee, though).

Any of the thousands or even millions of Canadians who have my experience can relate to the hockey of the All-Star game. It's the same hockey we play every week, only more skilled. I thought the NHLers in this environment would prove much faster than the game I play in now - the best hockey players I've ever played with - but while faster, it wasn't phenomenally so. Where the pros excelled was in acceleration and in the arms, in the passes, the shots, the moves.

We hockey players know what this variety of hockey is like. We experience it every week. It's what we do for fun and we enjoy watching the pros play that same game on the same rink at a much higher level of skill.

It's not the feat of endurance and strength that will win you a Stanley Cup, but it's what we know. For the same reason, women's hockey holds as much or more appeal for me as the NHL. It forbids checking and also resembles what I do Friday nights - although again at a much higher skill level.

I'm not sure the columnists I've linked to above understand that. Maybe they're jaded by years of watching hard-hitting NHL-grade hockey. Maybe they've never played the game at all.

Bonus comment:

The highlight of the night at the game, judging by fan response, was not a hockey moment at all. The crowd camera picked out two dancing women incredibly hot, even for Montreal, and displayed them on the scoreboard screen. Kudos to whoever cut to the next shot (was that you, Elias?), which was Alex Ovechkin staring up at the scoreboard with wide eyes and unbelieving, pursed lips. Caught in his lascivious act, Ovechkin smiled sheepishly as the crowd roared.

Check it out, from the TV feed, which doesn't show the women who appeared on the in-house camera.

Stubbs described it:

But the video highlight arguably went to Ovechkin, who was caught on the arena scoreboard with his jaw dropped open one skipped heartbeat after two young women in badly shrunken T-shirts had been shown dancing at their seats. It was the only parental-guidance moment of the night with kids - lots of kids - in the Bell Centre.

I thought the T-shirts fit just fine.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Microsoft Songsmith

In some universes, this is potentially an awesome product:

(By the way, that laptop is a MacBook, for irony points)

And then this happens:

And this:

And this:

And even this:

What was heard can't be unheard!

Bonus teaser:

Child Three and I went to the NHL All-Star Game. I have something I want to write about that, but I'm too tired to phrase it, so it will have to wait for tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Britannica cracks

Encyclopaedia Britannica president Jorge Cauz has announced that his company will accept user contributions in its encyclopedia.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the revelation Cauz let slip yesterday during a visit to Australia.

Cauz promised that the feature would appear within 24 hours, but the company's Web site does not have an announcement. Users may be able to add content already behind the gate - the encyclopedia is a pay service and although it offers a free trial one week long, I haven't signed up. (I can access the content through my Concordia library account, although I haven't done that yet either. If someone wants to pay me for an article on this, I sure will.)

Encyclopaedia Britannica has taken a lesson from the wild and wooly early years of Wikipedia, which started from nothing to become the world's largest encyclopedia in word count and number of articles. Britannica is second.

Over the last few years, Wikipedia endured a number of high-profile scandals, which led the organization to start choking off its policy of complete openness.

The most popular example, one I use in class, is the John Seigenthaler Sr. Wikipedia biography controversy, of which you can read freely at, yes, Wikipedia.

Britannica has now moved to embrace the wiki model of user contributions but Cauz says his staff of editors will keep a final say on all additions.

I have no doubt that this shift in policy will benefit Encyclopaedia Britannica, but it won't address another of Cauz's complaints, that Google is complicit is Wikipedia's rise to prominence. "If I were to be the CEO of Google or the founders of Google I would be very [displeased] that the best search engine in the world continues to provide as a first link, Wikipedia," Cauz said, in the Herald article. "Is this the best they can do? Is this the best that [their] algorithm can do?"

Wikipedia is free to access and folks with Web content can link to Wikipedia articles, as I have done above. Google's PageRank algorithm values pages that other pages link to, and that's why Wikipedia articles rank so much more highly than Britannica's. I couldn't link to a Britannica article even if I wanted to. Millions of other people who put their content online can't either, so we instead link to Wikipedia, and that's why Britannica lags so far behind in the search race. Cauz should know this.

Bonus fun search of the week:

Some hapless searcher came to my blog through a search for "can't hit anything in 109F" (without quotations), for which I rank third at Google, not that that's a point of pride. I wonder which game technically involved, historically educational simulation he (or she, I suppose) enjoys.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another day...

...another job application.

Like I predicted, I never heard from the posters of that perfect job. In the meantime, I've signed up for pogey (unemployment for you non-Canadians). There's just no freelance work out there for my combination of skin-deep tech knowledge and specialization in esoterica. Even my old fallbacks have cancelled freelance budgets, leaving me without earning a dollar since the middle of December, not that my income was great even then.

Wait - I'm exaggerating. I forgot that I did earn $40 for an hour of Web consulting just after Christmas.

As hinted at above, I did just apply for a consultancy that doesn't pay great but will keep me in cheap and delicious President's Choice coconut chocolate bars.

My French is not good enough for this job, which is a shame. It would be cool to work on the Canadiens site.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What to buy?

Thanks to the holidays and my recent birthday, I have a stash of cash to burn through at Elvi is going to California in February, so I'll have stuff shipped there and she can bring it home.

I'm stumped on what to buy, though.

I don't need any books. I'm all stocked up thanks to other redeemed gift certificates. I'm reading Stephen King's "On Writing" and have some David Mamet on the on-deck shelf. I have all the music I need, and I don't see the point in ever buying DVDs so long as they may be rented (except for "Futurama", that is, and then only the original series. As far as my psyche is concerned, there is no "Futurama" after the final holophone concert. Well, I'll make an exception for all 22 minutes of "Everyone Loves Hypnotoad" (check out the comments here).

Leaving aside media, I'm left with clothes, home furnishings, sporting goods, and consumer electronics, the last also known as toys.

I can't fathom buying clothes over the Net. What fun is that? There's always the risk that it will make my butt look big. Or that it will make me look short, which most of my clothes do. Strike that as an option.

Home furnishings... seriously? Next!

I did look at sporting goods. Child Three is always in need of goalie-equipment upgrades, but we do live in Hockey Freaking Central and a 20-minute drive beats's selection and prices. Every so often, I think of buying a decent pair of running shoes and of getting back to running (I was on my high school's pathetic cross-country team for the one race we participated in) but that's not really gonna happen, is it?

So, we're left with toys. At the top of the family's wish list is a Wii Fit. Elvi's sister brought hers over the holidays and we all enjoyed using it. All the vendors at, including, charge US$130 plus shipping, however, and MSRP is US$90, about what we'd pay locally. That 50% mark-up is tough to stomach.

Elvi suggested I get a cell phone. I am the last adult in the Northern Hemisphere without one. Thing is, I don't need one. I might if I ever left the house, but I work from home and the landline works fine with better quality. I can think of an occasion every month or two during which I'd like to have a mobile phone, but I can't justify the monthly expense for an account, at least not for now.

Other ideas that popped into my head were an Apple TV or Time Capsule, but I don't stream enough media to make the first useful and I don't have OS 10.5 to make any benefit from the second not a pain in the ass. (I currently back up via a RAID.)

What's left? Some Wii games, I guess. I'm thinking NHL 2K9 and Boom Blox, but that still leaves a lot of cash on the table. Elvi suggested a Webkinz samoyed, but we already have something like that, with the added bonus that it pees in the hall.

Do you have any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Midweek bridge mixture

On the last day of my 42ude, allow me to present a few nuggets that have caught my attention.

• Set aside an hour to browse Michael Durham's wildlife photography site, Durm Photo. Durham seems to specialize in the difficult shots, relying on all kinds of technology to get the amazing shots he presents. In deep woods, he sets up cameras and lights to capture animal that trigger the sensor attached to them. Photos of wild cougars are rare, but Durham has several, including photos of feeding behaviour. One image of a rain-soaked elk slogging through the mud entranced me. It looks so... stuffed. Durham also likes focusing on smaller subjects. I have no idea how he manages to capture head-on shots of flying insects, but I'm glad he does. You'll be glad, too. I think the site could use a more direct navigational system, but the sublimity of the photos easily overcomes that small annoyance.

• Speaking of life, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have been studying the chemistry of extracellular RNA. Their paper in Science reports that they found RNA that self-replicates without any of the mechanisms found inside cells. Those RNA strands that could more effectively replicate themselves came to dominate the environment. It's true molecular evolution, and the amazing discovery sheds light on how life evolved from chemistry. Here's the press release from Scripps, a piece from NPR's All Things Considered, and an article in ScienceDaily.

• This is why you should only use Quebec maple syrup, kids:

• You will use this keyboard in any colour so long as it black or you will die a coward without honour.

• You may already know that the iTunes Music Store has removed copy-protection from nearly all its music files. You can know download once and use the music anywhere, even in music players other than iPods, without going through extra trivial steps. But of you're tempted to stick it to the man and share the music you've bought, you should know that every file you buy is imprinted with your account information, more precisely the e-mail address associated with your iTunes account. Good luck with that.

• We've always been far more liberal than most of our friends with respect to our kids' use of the Net. They've pretty much had complete freedom to go and do what they want, and in a decade of this approach, there's only been one breakdown, and even that wasn't so serious. Child Two was searching for a site on dolls or Barbies or something, and stumbled into a porn site. Maybe that's why Eddie Izzard freaks her out, although Frankenfurter doesn't, oddly enough. Where was I? Oh, yeah.

Parents have been hammered with media reports and screeching interest groups into viewing the Internet as a suspicious cantina, filled with alien monsters of all kinds, all of whom want to sexually abuse your child. The New York Times reports on a task force that has concluded that this is just not so. Sending them online is no more dangerous, and is often rather less so, than sending them off to a store to get some bread. People in general basically behave, offline or online.

I have a pet hypothesis that this parenting generation has been scared paranoid by the proliferation of stories of harm to children. It's not more dangerous out there, on the street or online, than it was when we were kids. I was taking the city bus home from school in Grade One, and that was common. These days, it's nearly all carpools in elementary schools (school bus service is rare). My friends and I would take the Metro downtown and hang out when we were 11 and 12. Now, that's unheard of.

It's not more dangerous out there, though. We hear more about missing and abused kids because the media network - I suppose I could call it a grapevine - is more efficient at informing us about the misfortunes. Bad news bombards us more frequently, even if the rate of occurrence is the same or has even dropped.

Nevertheless, I still give my kids only Quebec maple syrup.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Take that

Without question, the most popular post here at 101 is visited not for its content but for the picture I inserted. In the photo, my youngest brother hugs a giant penis sculpture. More visitors come to 101 for that photo than for anything I've written.

In one way, it's not surprising. The results for a Google image search for "Jeff", my brother's name, has that photo atop the pile. But something else may be going on.

While procrastinating examining the issue last week, I discovered that this photo was being used on another Web page. The site was not only using the image without permission, but its HTML code led to the image on my server. My host was responsible for the bandwidth of everyone who loaded that image on the offending page. That's a major breach of etiquette - if you're gonna break copyright, at least use your own server.

The Web page with the photo offended me in another way. It is only a lengthy series of vaguely sexual images with captions, and the images link to porn sites. I think it's a useless grab for revenue, with the site owner cashing in a few pennies for every referral/click. The person who posted my brother's photo did wrong regardless of the page content, but the content made the whole thing a bit more sordid. Porn's fine, it's the lack of added value that bothers me.

In order to get the image removed from that site, I needed to know who to ask. A visit to led to the offender's domain registrar, where I discovered that whoever registered the domain had used a service called Privacy Protect to maintain anonymity.

If I wanted to find out who was responsible, I had to get through Privacy Protect, and the organization does provide a form through which one may beg for information. The site states above that form:

1. If any domain is engaged in spam, abuse or any illegal / unlawful activity you may report the same.
2. Please enclose evidence of spam or abuse or the activity in question.
3. Our abuse team will review the complaint and reveal the actual contact information of the owner where appropriate.

I wasn't sure whether or not to expect a response, but those terms seemed responsible, so I filed my complaint.

I got an answer a day later:

Please note that the issue you brought to our notice needs to be filed with the Hosting Provider. Find the hosting provider's details of the domain name at

At the recommended page, I found out that the site is hosted by a company in Brampton, Ont.

I could call that company and quite possibly get the runaround, but there are ways to crack down on this practice, virtual toggles to flip that disallow remote linking to your stuff. There are also more amusing ways to deal with the situation. Guess which I chose.

I changed the name of my brother's image file and adjusted the HTML code of my blog pages so that they displayed the renamed file properly. The code at the target of my displeasure, of course, has an img tag that refers to the file by its original name - which means that any image file with that name that on my server will be displayed on his Web page.

Simply, it's trivial to find an image, rename it with the original filename of the photo, upload it, and have it appear on that Web page instead of Jeff's photo.

I hope the page owners are enjoying the Goatse image. (If you know what Goatse is, you're chuckling. If you don't... - well, you don't want to know.)

Elvi thinks my solution was very Chris Locke. I'm not putting a link to the offender, but if you do a Google search for the original filename of "jeff-shaft-775880.jpg", you'll find dozens of other people my little move may inconvenience.

Bonus personal Chris Locke trivia:

Chris liked what I used to do. He came through San Jose on a marketing tour for a client with some piece of hardware I had no personal or professional interest in, but set up a private press conference for me so he and I could meet and chat on the client's corporate dime while they pitched me. Good times....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blinders and bombs

The tiff in Gaza, I needlessly write, enflames passions.

The Gazette today published a letter from a reader that I couldn't let rest. In "Claims aren't facts", Naved Bakali chastised an earlier letter-writer who, he says, "states uncorroborated claims and passes them off as facts" - referring to the claim that Hamas stores weapons and ammunition in schools and mosques.

Bakali asks how the earlier writer could "know that Hamas stores weapons in schools?" He implies you have to live in the area to have an informed perception.

It only takes a miniscule effort to find your proof. It's so painless even I could do it.

This YouTube video shows Hamas soldiers launching mortar bombs beside a school and storing the mortar inside that building when done. Granted, it's more than a year old, but I don't think Hamas tactics could have changed too much since this was recorded.

Blow a bit of virtual dust away and you can also find these, which are from this most recent conflict. They show mosques hit by a bomb or missile and the subsequent secondary explosions as ammunition stored inside the buildings explodes.

Whether or not you agree with the tactics and strategies on either side, the facts are plain to see - unless you're either willfully ignorant, or incompetent.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Midweek limericks

Some of my favourites:

There once was a man from Nantucket
whose walrus oh so luved its bukket.
One day walrus groaned,
it had just gotten pwned;
Said the lolcat "O HAI, I JUST TUK IT".

There once was a [person] from [place]
Whose [body part] was [special case].
When [event] would occur,
It would cause [him or her]
To violate [law of time/space].

There once was a man named Bertold
Who drank beer when the weather grew cold
As he reached for his cup...
Oh, snap! You just got limerickrolled!

All these and more at LimerickDB: Top 150.

Bonus recommendation:

After reading all the acclaim poured over World of Goo, I downloaded the demo on my Mac. It's a series of physics puzzles that reminds me a lot of Fantastic Contraption.

I wound up buying the game, as WiiWare instead of as a computer game. It sits in your Wii menu looking like a channel. The WiiWare version costs $15 (the computer versions are $20) but you can only buy Wii points in multiples of $10. The WiiWare game won't allow to play player-built new levels, which sucks and isn't mentioned on the game's home page. The FAQ states: "The WiiWare supports up to 4 players in a 'pick up 'n' play' co-op mode. The PC version has online leaderboards for each individual level. Other than that, they're the same."

No, they're not.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Pricier than expected

Back in September, I parked on a street near Concordia before one of my classes. A month or so later, a letter from the City of Montreal informed me that I'd parked next to a construction zone and had received a taicket, and that it was time to pay the $42 or go to court over it.

I hadn't found a ticket on my car, and I didn't recall any signage indicating a construction zone, although I vaguely remembered some of that flexible, soft-plastic, orange fencing set up on a nearby lawn. Maybe that was it. Regardless, I had no evidence with which to fight this ticket, so I had to pay. I couldn't fight the man over this and expect to win, unlike last time.

I asked Elvi to pay it online for me, which she did promptly.

Last week, we received another letter from the city, telling us that we lost our court case and now had to pay $95. Say what?

Our credit card shows our payment, but Elvi never received a confirmation e-mail. She called the city agents and they said that without the case number of the e-mail we did not get, they have no way of connecting our payment to our ticket, despite the fact that we got no other tickets last fall (as far as I know).

So we're screwed. We paid the $42 ticket in October and while the city has the cash, the authorities say there's no evidence for why they have the money. Now, we have to send them another $95.

I'm going to call VISA tomorrow and try to straighten this out. It's freaking theft.

Bonus ticket:

Friday night, the Montreal Juniors held a promotion for NDG hockey in which kids wearing their hockey sweaters got in free. My ticket cost $15. That's not a bad deal, and when you factor in the loss of Child Three's gloves (well, one of them) and the parking ticket I got for parking in a long, long line of other cars that also got tickets (there was a single sign at the end of the block), it's still less expensive than a Habs game.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Keeping tabs

We spent New Year's Eve and most of New Year's Day on the outskirts of Cornwall, Ont. Most of our time was spent watching kids play Wii or eating.

It's nice to do something special.

I found a job posting that fits me perfectly and I would absolutely love to do it, so I applied. I'm bound to never hear from them.

And now, to complete this random assortment of minor notes, allow me to present you with a copy of one of the very first five images to appear on the World Wide Web.

From Wikipedia:
Back in 1992, after their show at the CERN Hardronic Festival, my colleague Tim Berners-Lee asked me for a few scanned photos of "the CERN girls" to publish them on some sort of information system he had just invented, called the "World Wide Web". I had only a vague idea of what that was, but I scanned some photos on my Mac and FTPed them to Tim's now famous "". How was I to know that I was passing an historical milestone, as the one above was the first picture ever to be clicked on in a web browser!