Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I was just opening up a socket

Here's an observation about this week's episode of 24 (s05e05):

Every mole in the history of CTU tries to explain away his presence in the server room by claiming he was "just opening up a socket."

I used to think that most CTU staff were developmentally-challenged (except for Jack and Curtis). How many times must you be burned by a mole before waking up and putting a guard in the server room?

But I have now reconsidered. The all-purpose "just opening up a socket" excuse is deviously brilliant because it's so believable. Who among us doesn't need to open a socket from time to time. Sockets qua sockets are items that require opening. And you cannot very well open a socket from your CTU computer. You need get yourself over to the server/socket room.

In fact, I've begun using "Just opening up a socket" as my default answer to "What are your doing?" when someone calls as I'm certain people are tired with "Not much, you?"

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What's that song that goes...

Holy cow, this is neat.

Someone developed way to help you identify a song if you don't remember the words.

Here's how it works: You visit SongTapper.com and tap (with any letter on your keyboard) the lyrical beat of a song. For instance, you don't need to remember the Beatles song goes "Yesterday... All my troubles seemed so far away." You just need to know it goes: "Yesterday... Nah nah nahnah nah nah nah nahhah."

Tap the lyric beat for a line or two and SongTapper will show you a list of possible matches. If it doesn't find a match (and assuming you know the name of the song) SongTapper asks you to enter the information, thus expanding its (ever-expanding) database.

(The SongTapper requires the free Flash player plug-in. If you don't have it, it'll point you in the right direction.)

Give SongTapper a try. It's a pretty neat invention.

The Final Countdown

I was at a video store recently and noticed a DVD-Video copy of The Final Countdown (1980) starring Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen and James Farentino.

The plot: An American nuclear aircraft carrier and its crew are caught in a classic dilemma when a supernatural storm sends them back in time just before the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour.

Sweet Jesus! Is this not the greatest movie plot ever?

The wife was less enthusiastic and we ended up renting some crap. But I didn't forget my movie.

But, finally, yesterday evening I watched The Final Countdown. Some of the dialog read like my grade 6 compositions. The special effects for the time-portal-storm thingy was pretty bad. But the movie had enough kick-ass scenes to make up for it -- including the scene where the F-14s freak out the two Japanese pre-invasion scout pilots in their A6M Zeros.

This dogfight scene is the highlight of the film


Anyone who has used the trainer (cheat) feature in Civilization IV to acquire a few stealth fighters to use against your opponents' Chariot or Cavalry will instantly recognize the awesomeness of this scene.

Like with Captain Picard and his crew, there is a scene where the officers discuss the implications of destroying the entire Japanese fleet heading towards them (and Pearl Harbor). Unlike Picard, Kirk Douglas isn't concerned with polluting the timeline. His job is to protect his country, whatever the year and whoever is Commander in Chief.

But the timeline has a way of protecting itself, we discover.

About three-quarters of the way through, I suddenly remembered the final scene. I guess I'd seen the movie as a kid and forgotten. Or maybe my family watched it and I remembered the final scene through their description of its coolness.

Sorry if I ruined the ending. James Farentino's character gets stuck in the past. So when the rest of the crew return to port, Farentino's character had aged 40 years.

I'm fascinated by how movies never convincingly portray aging. So, in the interest of science, I've made a side-by-side comparison of Farentino in real-life 22 years later and Farentino's character 40 years later.



By the way, in preparing this text, I discovered the alternate history/time travel novel Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham. It builds on the premise of The Final Countdown and looks even cooler.

Finally, here is Roger Ebert's orignial review of The Final Countdown.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

24 heures prints Videotron press release as-is

An item in the daily newspaper 24 heurs caught my eye. It was article on page 8 (see scans below or Web version) reporting on new high speed Internet services from Videotron.

The article -- credited to La Press Canadienne -- struck me as more than a puff piece. It read like a news release from Videotron.

For instance, the first line of the article says: "Vidéotron consolide sa position de chef de file en offrant à ses clients des services Internet encore plus rapides."

Usually news organizations stay neutral and don't dub a company the leader ("chef de file") in a service. But corporate press releases almost always proclaim leadership.

So I checked to see if Videotron sent a news release the day before. It had.

I discovered that the article was lifted in its entirety from a Videotron news release. There was no paraphrasing. It was a copy-and-paste job.

Oh, and I looked to see if La Presse Canadienne (PC) really wrote the story used in 24 heures. I checked the news archive at Yahoo News Canada (in English and French). The PC article is not listed. My suspicion is that PC never wrote that story. Which would make sense because I doubt PC articles are lifted word-for-word from corporate news releases.

Bottom line: 24 heures reported on a non-story, copied a corporate news release word-for-word and (possibly) incorrectly credited a major news service to help give the story the appearance of credibility.

By the way, 24 heures newspaper and Videotron are both owned by Quebecor.

Here is the article in 24 heures:




Here is the Videtron news release (stuff in bold is copied word-for-word):

Monday 16 January, 2h55 HNE

Communiqué de presse

Jusqu'à 10 Mbit/s: Internet intermédiaire et Internet haute vitesse Extrême de Vidéotron : encore plus rapides!

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - 16 jan. 2006) - Vidéotron consolide sa position de chef de file en offrant à ses clients des services Internet encore plus rapides. Graduellement à travers le territoire de desserte de Vidéotron, à compter d'aujourd'hui et d'ici la fin du mois de mars, les clients résidentiels et affaires pourront bénéficier d'une vitesse accrue de leurs services Internet Intermédiaire, de 300 Kbit/s à 600 Kbit/s, et Internet haute vitesse Extrême, de 6,5 Mbit/s à 10 Mbit/s.

Fait connu, Internet a bouleversé l'industrie du divertissement et a révolutionné le monde des affaires. Pionnière dans l'offre des services Internet haute vitesse, Vidéotron continue d'innover en offrant des solutions adaptées aux exigences particulières de sa clientèle.

Le service Affaires : une rapidité inégalée

La clientèle de Vidéotron pourra désormais compter sur un service Internet Intermédiaire à 600 Kbit/s et haute vitesse Extrême à 10 Mbit/s. Dans le premier cas, il s'agit d'une vitesse symétrique, c'est-à-dire de 600 Kbit/s en amont et en aval. Pour le service Extrême, la vitesse en amont s'élève à 900 Kbit/s. Peu importe le service, les clients affaires de Vidéotron ont un accès illimité à la bande passante. Vidéotron Service Affaires met son expertise au service des petites et moyennes entreprises en proposant une gamme étendue de services de télécommunications, dont des accès Internet fiables, sécuritaires et performants.

Des services résidentiels sur mesure

Internet Intermédiaire de Vidéotron permet aux usagers de naviguer dorénavant 10 fois plus rapidement qu'avec une connexion par modem téléphonique en plus de libérer la ligne en tout temps. Le service "Rapidité sur demande" donne accès, sur demande, à une vitesse supérieure (5,1 ou 10 Mbit/s) pour une période de 48 heures. Les abonnés peuvent facilement accéder à ce service en se rendant sur www.videotron.com sans avoir à faire appel à un conseiller du service à la clientèle. Pour les grands utilisateurs, le service haute vitesse Extrême est sans contredit le choix idéal et de loin l'accès résidentiel le plus rapide : plus de trois fois plus rapide que la haute vitesse téléphonique (DSL) à 3 Mbit/s. Il permet aussi une utilisation illimitée de la bande passante. Ce service donne également accès à la Zone haute vitesse, un portail de divertissement exclusif destiné aux abonnés Internet haute vitesse de Vidéotron.

En exclusivité sur la Zone haute vitesse

Sur www.zonehautevitesse.com, les internautes peuvent visionner des clips, découvrir des artistes, avoir accès à des contenus exclusifs gratuits et des événements en direct. A cet égard, le 17 janvier à 19 h, les amateurs de boxe pourront vidéoclavarder avec Eric Lucas suite à son combat au Danemark.

"L'annonce d'aujourd'hui confirme notre engagement envers nos clients à offrir non seulement les services Internet les plus rapides sur le marché, mais aussi, à proposer des produits adaptés. Le service "Rapidité sur demande" est un bon exemple des services à valeur ajoutée développés pour les besoins variables des internautes, indique M. Robert Dépatie, président et chef de la direction de Vidéotron. Notre offre améliorée s'inscrit dans notre volonté de faire vivre la meilleure expérience possible à notre clientèle."

Un service de messagerie plus convivial

Le service de messagerie électronique gratuit pour tous les abonnés Internet de Vidéotron a fait peau neuve. De nouvelles possibilités sont offertes aux utilisateurs du CourrielWeb. On y a ajouté un carnet d'adresses ainsi qu'un agenda personnel et il est maintenant possible de configurer l'interface de la boîte de réception selon ses préférences. Les usagers peuvent aussi, par exemple, activer une réponse automatisée ou un message d'absence et ajouter une signature personnalisée à toutes leurs correspondances.

En outre, les clients des services Internet par câble de Vidéotron qui sont aussi abonnés à la téléphonie par câble peuvent maintenant avoir accès à leurs messages téléphoniques par courriel, via des fichiers joints en format audio, grâce au service "Messages vocaux par courriel" lancé en décembre dernier.

Vidéotron ltée (www.videotron.com), filiale à part entière de Quebecor Média inc., est une société intégrée de communications oeuvrant dans les domaines de la télédistribution, du développement multimédia interactif, des services d'accès Internet et de la téléphonie résidentielle. Vidéotron est un chef de file en nouvelles technologies, grâce notamment à son système de télévision interactive illico et à son réseau à large bande lui permettant d'offrir, entre autres services, l'accès Internet haute vitesse par modem câble et la télévision en modes analogique et numérique. Au 31 décembre 2005, Vidéotron comptait au Québec 1 506 000 clients à son service de télédistribution, dont 475 000 clients à illico. Vidéotron est également le numéro un de l'accès à Internet haute vitesse au Québec avec 656 000 clients à ses services par modem câble et téléphonique. L'entreprise assure en outre le service de téléphonie résidentielle à plus de 163 000 abonnés de Montréal, la Rive-Sud et la Rive-Nord de Montréal, Laval et de la région de Québec.
Renseignements:

Isabelle Dessureault
Vidéotron Ltée
Directrice générale, Communications
(514) 380-7501




Gmail goes POP

I guess I missed this news when it was released in November 2005, but I just learned that one can access Gmail with POP in your favorite e-mail app. Here are instructions on how to set your new account in Outlook (Express).

You will also need to login to your Gmail account on the Web and select POP access on one of the option screens. Very important.

I'm quite happy about this as my main e-mail account is at Sympatico and the e-mail service there sucks. Messages sent to me bounce back to friends with the following message:
When trying to deliver your message, the mail server at mx-5.vancouver.ipapp.com encountered permanent problems with the following address: For [my_email_address@sympatico.ca>, the destination server said: Too many recipients received this hour (from sympatico.ca:209.226.175.87)
This problem only started when I migrated from their proprietary e-mail system to a Sympatico-branded Hotmail system. (Go figure.) Leave it to Canada's largest ISP to develop a way to mess up delivery of e-mail.

I'm now using Gmail.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ice day in Montreal


Ice covered sidewalk in Old Montreal

Monday, January 16, 2006

New Gazette redesign

Here are some redesign ideas The Gazette is doing customer research on. Each pair of images includes the current design and the new proposed design.


Current sports page cover
Gazette
Proposed new sports page cover
Gazette



Old books section cover

Gazette

New books section cover

Gazette


New weekend section tentatively named Section B
Gazette

Gazette

Gazette

New technology section called Time Out!
Gazette

Gazette


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Employment wanted

This is an old item and it appears to have been posted on the Web before. But I saw it today for the first time.

I checked Snopes but couldn't find anything on this newspaper ad. (Screen text follows image below.)

CV
The Financial Post, Toronto, February 23rd 2001

Emplyment Wanted: Former Marijuana Smuggler

Having Successfully completed a ten year sentence, incident-free, for importing 75 tons of marijuana into the United States. I am now seeking a legal and legitimate means to support myself and my family.

Business Experience: Owned and operated a successful fishing business - multi vessel, one airplane, one island and one processing facility. Simultaneously owned and operated a fleet of tractor-trailor trucks conducting business in the western United States. During this time I also co-owned and participated in the executive level management of 120 people worldwide in a successful pot smuggling venture with revenues in excess of US$100 million annually.
I took responsibility for my actions, and received a ten year sentence in the untied states while others walked free for their cooperation.

Atributes: I am an expert in all levels of security; I have extensive computer skills, am personable, outgoing, well-educated, reliable, clean and sober. I have spoken in schools to thousands of kids and parent groups over the past ten years on "the consequences of choice", and received public recognition from the RCMP for community service. I am well-traveled and speak English, French and Spanish.

References available from friends, family and the U.S. District Attorney, etc.


(Hat tip: Mike)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Mugging victim says metro worker refused to help

Helping victims of violence in the Montreal metro must violate union rules requiring metro staff to not giving a damn.

Mugging victim says metro worker refused to help
Last updated Jan 12 2006 08:49 AM EST
CBC News

A Montreal woman says a transit corporation employee ignored her pleas for help after she was attacked and robbed in a metro station a week ago.

Haiying Song, 40, says four teenagers girl cornered her at the bottom of the stairwell, hit her in the back, pulled her hair and knocked her over. She says the young girls kicked her in the ribs before running away with her purse. Song says was afraid to leave the Monk metro station in Ville Émard, where the attack took place. She went to the ticket booth inside the metro station to get the attendant to call 911. But she says he refused and told her to either use her cellphone or go outside to use the pay phone to contact police.

Song filed a complaint against the Montreal Transit Corporation and MTC official Odile Paradis says the complaint is being taken very seriously. Paradis would not make any official comment, saying the incident is under investigation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Best dog-speech-bubble- on-a-restaurant-placemat

One of the joys of eating at a mom-and-pop restaurant in small-town Quebec are the ad-decorated placemats.

The ads give me somewhere to look when I avoid eye contact with the regulars.

If there was an award for Best dog-cartoon-bubble-on -a-restaurant-placemat, the ad for Salon de toilettage Idée fixe in St-Alexis de Montcalm would surely win.

I'm not sure who Nadine is, or why the dog is speaking to her. Maybe he hasn't seen her in a while. Maybe he's hungry. I guess we'll never know. But that is one smart dog.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hazard lights mean "go around", moron

I'm a pretty good driver, I think. Very defensive. I always signal before turning at an intersection to give cars behind me time to slow down or change lanes. I also use hazard lights (aka flickers or flashers) when I'm slowing down to parallel park. This is my way of saying, "Hey, dude. Better go around me. Have a nice day."

During the last few months, several drivers have honked (at night!) as I was slowing down to grab a parking spot. The best was the older lady who honked and drove past me with a pained and angry look on her face. It could have been gas. But I think it was mostly chronic stupidity.

It's true that I graduated from Morty's driving school on Décarie. It's true that Morty was a pro with the white board and toy car. It's true Uli was a pleasure to drive with.

Yet I'm pretty sure the meaning of those flashy thingies at the back of the car was taught right across Quebec.

Why so many dumb ones?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

By the time I clued into the Vote for Pedro phenomena, the t-shirts were already on sale at Wal-Mart. But a new year brings new opportunities.

When I read about Snakes on a Plane, I acted quickly and ordered a t-shirt.


The unofficial movie poster




The unofficial birthday cake


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Dorval train station

Every few years, I have to pick someone up from the Dorval train station, in western Montreal. And every few years, I get lost in the attempt.

I'm an educated guy, but I'm convinced that if we dug Einstein up, dusted him off, and asked him to find Dorval train station, he would fail. Why? There is an inter-city train station and a commuter train station in Dorval with the same name.

As always, I followed the prominent green signs with a pictogram of a train at a train platform and the words DORVAL underneath. I drove from Sources Rd., so following these signs took me on a circuitous route. But I stayed the course and made it. To the commuter train station.

With only minutes to find the other Dorval train the station, I sped through bad streets and bumpy roads. I backtracked several times. Finally, someone noticed the green highway sign that said VIA (which is the name of the train company that uses the Dorval train station).

Following this elusive VIA sign got us to the correct station -- but only after an intricate series of maneuvers around the Dorval circle.

I have bitter contempt for the city and/or provincial officials who created this confusing mess and have allowed it to fester. We need clearer signage to indicate which is the commuter train station and which is the inter-city train station.

I fully expect this confusing mess to be resolved sometime after never.

Oh, and happy new year.
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