Monthly Archives: July 2007

Silly Minds Think Alike

One of the things I love about the ‘Net is that it makes you realize that just about anything you can think has been discussed by someone else before.

Case in point. Some of my friends have started playing Scrabble within Facebook using the Scrabulous.com application. So I eventually decided to play with one of those friends. This game is almost over (we take our turns whenever we’re on Facebook) and my friend is clearly winning, but playing Scrabble has made me think about quite a few things.

I used to love playing Scrabble (in French) when I was younger but pretty much didn’t play at all in the last seventeen years. I had never played in English before. After trying the Scrabulous version on Facebook, I tried a few games on the Scrabulous.com website itself, and started looking for different ways to play Scrabble on- or offline. Luckily enough, the Open Source Quackle does have support for French games. But I’m still nowhere as good as the computer player.

I don’t typically find fun in any kind of competition. I don’t want to be the best at anything. I just want to be happy.

Things I find fun can be quite silly.

And I do find Scrabble fun. As per an overly simplified version of Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory, things are fun when they’re doable yet challenging. Playing Scrabble against a bot which has access to the complete dictionary isn’t that much fun. Many of the words played by computer players (or highly competitive players) are extremely obscure. Now, it can be interesting to learn about all about qat and cwm, but this type of Scrabble becomes overbearing after a while.

So my favourite plays at Scrabble were with people who were not totally crazy at playing Scrabble. I remember one play where adding two letters made me score a rather amazing number of points because a high value tile was played on a high value square and was used for two different words. I don’t remember the exact score of any of this but it was quite high and satisfying for the mere rarity of the event. In fact, it’s quite possible that this play I remember so vividly was made by one of the other two player. Yet I only remember the glory of the moment.

Actually, it seems that players who are of a somewhat lower calibre than expert players may end up breaking records because they’re less competitive. But I digress even more than I should.

Point is, I find beauty in Scrabble when it’s not just about strategies for putting the largest number of obscure words on the board and blocking other players. In fact, I’d rather play something that I find neat even if it scores lower. For instance, I enjoyed adding “queen” to “ship” for the mere fact that “queenship” is a neat word (I wasn’t even sure it existed). Also, I like the ability to string two words together to make a new one. Call me crazy. Must come from my language science background.

So… I started thinking about variants. In one variant I had in mind, a player can invent one new word every game as long as s/he can provide a definition for it. This word would then be added to the working dictionary to be used in future games. In another variant, words from multiple languages could be used. In yet another variant, proper names could be used. In perhaps my favourite variant, words which relate to another word on the board would gain the points from that other word (all players would need to agree on the connection).

Possibilities are endless. And many of these variants would be rather easy to implement on a computer-based platform. For instance, all variants which relate to dictionaries could be implemented through the use of custom dictionaries. And alternative scoring rules could be added to a Scrabble program through the use of bonus points or some such.

One variant I thought about which could be quite interesting for language scientists would be IPA Scrabble or Scrabble using the International Phonetic Alphabet. Players could use IPA characters to “spell out” valid words using either narrow or broad phonetic transcription strategies. So, in some cases, ˈlɪtl̩ or ˈlɪtɫ̩ could be allowed. Personally, I’d be one to accept a rather broad range of even impressionistic variants, including “litl” and “lidl” even though they miss some transcription details.

Such a game could be quite fun for people who have working knowledge of IPA and it doesn’t sound so hard to implement. What’s more, it could help people get used to IPA transcription, which is often a good thing in language sciences.

Well, as it turns out, I’m not the only one who thought about IPA Scrabble. A simple Google search for these two turns returns several relevant hits including: a wishlist for fun language things in which IPA Scrabble is assumed to exist; a page for a linguistics club which lists IPA Scrabble as one of their activities; and a page citing Scrabble variants which lists the IPA magnets as a Scrabble-like game. As my wife happens to have these IPA magnets, I was thinking about the same exact thing.

What’s funny about this last page I mentioned as a result for my “IPA Scrabble” Google search is that author Jed Hartman spoke my mind, back in 1998:

I like playing word games for fun rather than competitively. So I like the general idea of Scrabble®, but I don’t much enjoy playing it with devotees of the game; they tend to score lots of points by playing dozens of two-letter words that nobody except The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary has ever used. vv is for vvariants

Three of the six variants he lists are quite close to what I had in mind

  • Multidirectional Scrabble
  • Wraparound Scrabble
  • Multi-Source Scrabble (similar to my multi-language version)
  • Stackable Scrabble
  • Plausible Scrabble (similar to my word-addition version)
  • IPA Crossword (similar to my IPA Scrabble)

So, I don’t score for originality on this one. Ah, well.

I do wonder if Hartman himself has played all of these variants. And I wonder how implementable they all are through computer versions. My hunch is that any competent program could easily implement most of them within certain limits. For instance, the multi-source variant would only need dictionary files to be implemented but such dictionary files may be hard to come by. Although, with initiatives like Wiktionary and Urban Dictionary, it may be relatively trivial to get wordlists for use in dictionary files.

One thing this all made me think of is the fact that there’s indeed a lot of data available out there and that uses of data may not be entirely predicted by the type of data used. Ok, sure, the leaps from online dictionaries to wordlists to dictionary files to multi-source Scrabble are rather obvious. But chances are that most contributors to Wiktionary and Urban Dictionary weren’t thinking of multi-source Scrabble when they added most of those entries. There’s a whole thing about human-readable vs. machine-readable data involved here. And it all makes me think about newish approaches to data management, such as Freebase (results for “Scrabble”) and Mahalo (results for “Scrabble”).


Faceblogging

[Updated 06/02/08 10:41:11 AM, added link to app.]A WordPress.com application in Facebook? My predictions weren’t that far off!

Tomorrow’s blogging platforms are likely to get increasingly like, say, Facebook.

Almost 30k (December 20, 2006)


One Cellphone Per Child? Ethnographic Insight and Individualism

Lots to mull over.

Haven’t read this report by Daniel Miller and Heather Horst (PDF) yet, but it does sound quite insightful:

The whole report is full of examples for ethnography’s ability to check (and often disprove) common-sense beliefs concerning the benefits of new technologies

Rich ethnographic reports about the uses of ICT in low-income communities « Culture Matters

Especially interesting to me is the discussion of the potential implications of cellphone use in “highly individualistic” Jamaica:

One promising way would be to provide limited internet access through the (highly popular) cell phone.

Rich ethnographic reports about the uses of ICT in low-income communities « Culture Matters

In some cases, Internet access through cellphones sounds more appropriate than Nicholas Negroponte‘s well-publicized brainchild, the One Laptop Per Child project. Like many others, I have been thinking about the implications of the OLPC project. And about the fact that cellphones might be a better tool than laptops in several of those contexts in which Euro-American technocrats try to empower others through technology.

On a Radio Open Source episode on the OLPC, cellphones were very briefly mentioned as an alternative to laptops. I really wish they had discussed the issue a tiny bit more.

After all, cellphones may be The Globalisation technology. And it can be very local. So “glocal” is the ugly but appropriate name.

One thing which makes me think cellphones may be more appropriate than laptops is the rate of penetration for cellphones in many parts of the world. Even in West Africa, where computer networks tend to be rather slow, cellphones seem quite appropriate.

A few months ago, I was discussing cellphone use in Africa with a Ghanaian professor of economics who made me realise that, contrary to what I thought, cellphones are quite compatible with African sociability. Yes, a cellphone can be the prototypical “individualistic device” but it can also be a way to integrate technology in social networks.

One problem with cellphones is the perception people may have of the technology, especially in educational contexts. Some school districts have banned the use of cellphones and such bans have led to intriguing discussions. Some people see cellphones as disruptive in learning environments but at least one teacher, Don Hinkelman, has found ways to use cellphones in the classroom. It seems relevant to point out that Don teaches in Japan, where cellphone technology seems to be “embedded in the social fabric” in ways which are quite distinct from the ways cellphones are used in North America.

Fellow anthropologist Mizuko Ito and others have published on cellphone use in Japan (see Savage Minds). Haven’t read the book but it sounds fascinating. Also interesting to note is the fact that books recommended by Amazon.com in relation to Ito’s Personal, Portable, Pedestrian mostly have to do with cellphone technology’s impact on social life. Yet anthropologists are typically anti-determinists, contrary to McLuhan followers.

Now, to loop this all back… Another book recommended for readers of Ito et al. is The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication, written by Heather Horst and Daniel Miller. Yes, the authors of the article which sparked my interest.

Turns out, I should really learn more about what fellow anthropologists are saying about cellphones.

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Wishlists and Dreaming

I like how the OpenMoko people think.

Alcohol meter

Give the phone some info about your body (gender, size, weigth) and when/what you drink and it will compute an approximation of the amount of alcohol in your blood. Updates automatically, could have an alarm, when you are probably sober again. See, for example (German text) http://www.misterio-online.de/promille.htm

Wish List – OpenMoko

OpenMoko is an Open Source project for cellular phone software. It seems quite active and they have a current version of the software running on an actual phone. So it’s not just vapourware, AFAICT.

The whole wishlist is certainly worth a read. Full of neat ideas, some of which are trivial to implement, others are much more ambitious. For those who care about creativity, innovation, and technological sophistication, this is exactly the kind of project which shows the power of dreaming.

Or maybe I’m just recognising other “benevolent inventors.” 😉

Whatever this feeling is, OpenMoko might drive my dream phone in the not-so-distant future!

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Joe the Ninja

He’s been called a rogue ninja. And I think he deserves a raise. Whatever he’s getting.

“Rogue ninjas”… I wonder if we can get that on our business cards.

Best compliment ever « whateverblog.

Well, these days, I’m doing “evaluation of quality” surveys over the phone so I often hear about people who apparently deserve praises and raises. Joe Cheng is probably one such person. Chances are that so do other people on the WLW team.

What’s WLW? Windows Live Writer, a blog editor developed as a Microsoft project. Mentioned it in previous entries about blog editors. It’s become the most popular standalone blog editor for WordPress.com:

Obviously some of you have already discovered the coolness that is Windows Live Writer because we found it was our most used blogging client,

Windows Live Writer FTW « WordPress.com

It’s in fact the app I’m using right now to post this entry. It has plenty of neat features including a nicer link management than I imagined.

So, a nice little app that can be useful. World-changing? Maybe not.

Now, why would I want Joe to get a raise? Simple: responsiveness. The keyword that I would associate with getting a clue.

This Joe Cheng character actually posted three (count them) comments on my blog about WLW. True, I had mentioned a bug I got and a report was sent somewhere. But, man, talk about dedication! Not only did he post three separate comments on my lowly blog but those comments were actually useful, straightforward, and at exactly the right tone

Added to this is the transparency of Joe’s own blog. Microsoft seems to have learned something from the Scoble era. Now, I’m clearly not a Microsoft fanboy and some of my comments about the company might have been a bit harsh, on occasion. In fact, I still think that some of Microsoft’s practises were, erm, beyond the pale. Not that Joe and the rest of the WLW team really change anything about this but, you know, I like to give credit where credit is due and I like quality work enough to reassess my opinion of a company based on some things that are done well.

So, for the record: WLW actually comes close to my dream blog editor in terms of accessing a browser history when adding links. If it could actually access my cross-browser history through Google Web History and social bookmarks (including links added to previous blog entries), I might really start singing the praises of that development team.

Until then, I may merely say that Joe deserves praises.

Hey, it’s something!

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Blog Editors, Yet Again

Not that these things matter so much to me. I’m perfectly ok with writing posts directly in a browser. But I like it when there are better solutions.

As it took me almost an hour to refresh WordPress categories in Flock, I’ve taken this, my main blog, out of Flock. Too bad, though, as I have a kind of investment in this blog. Not that it’s likely that Flock will become my main editor but I did notice that I have a tendency to use my personal Blogspot blog more while I’m giving Flock a whirl.

I’m writing this in Windows Live Writer. Yesterday, it crashed miserably while I was simply switching blogs. As WLW is in beta, I wasn’t that surprised and I should have used this as an opportunity to help out the developers. But I kind of lost my patience with beta software. I used to love beta software and didn’t mind the occasional crash. But I need to improve my workflow and not be bogged down with bugged down software.

WLW does seem like a well-planned editor but I already see a few quirks. Like the fact that there’s no easy way to activate a “spell as you type” feature. I’m guessing the feature is there but it’s not very easy to find.

The categories menu for this blog doesn’t allow for direct addition of categories in the categories field. You can add categories by opening the list and adding categories from there. Makes sense for blogs which have reasonable numbers of categories but since WordPress.com blogs have categories serving as tags, it’d be useful to add categories directly. Of course, it’s easy to add Technorati tags and I’m guessing that commonly used tags are somehow kept in the interface. But I prefer to use WordPress categories as tags because they work as both links from WordPress.com and as actual Technorati tags.

But WLW has some cool features. Like the link glossary which seems to be relatively close to what I was wishful-thinking about yesterday. Actually, I quite like the “Insert Hyperlink” interface as it’s very elegant, it’s just a keystroke away (ctrl-k), it’s fully keyboard-operatable, it has access to previous posts on the author’s blogs (including entries posted by other authors on collaborative blogs), and it can add some link properties like XFN. Good job! Now, if I can just have access to my complete Web history and favourites using some kind of cross-platform synchronisation mechanism à la Google Browser Sync, I’m happy.

WLW also has some neat features like blog stats and comments. This might explain why so many WordPress.com bloggers use it as their main blog editor.

We’ll see how this goes.


Flock as Blog Editor

Now that Flock has a “spell as you type” feature, I can give it a fair shake as a blog editor.
Flock 0.9 Beta Release Notes | Flock
Thing is, though, it seems to have a problem with my main blog‘s extremely long list of categories. When I tried posting a blog entry with my WordPress.com blog account listed among the others, Flock became unresponsive as it was trying to download all my categories (all 2,751 of them). Maybe I could have waited longer but after a number of minutes without being able to use my computer at all, I decided to let it go.
Still, it made me a bit cranky. So the rest of this post will sound like a rant. It’s more like wishful thinking, though. I like wishful thinking.
I don’t like the way Flock’s blog editor handles link insertion. Sure, like any WYSIWYG editor out there, it has a button on which you can click to add an appropriate URL to text you’ve selected. But there’s no clear shortcut for this button and it could be much more powerful than it currently is.
Qumana has a better way to handle links. For one thing, it automatically inserts the clipboard’s content in the URL section of link insertion dialog box. And since it keeps published blog posts, it makes it easy to copy the “permalink” to another blog entry (for those bloggers, like me, who tend to be self-referential). Can’t remember off the top of my head but I’m pretty sure ecto and Windows Live Writer have similar features.
Ok… Flock does have this drag and drop interface for “media streams” (basically, Flickr or PhotoBucket accounts) and for “Web snippets” (local content, including text and links). Good idea and I guess I could make my “bloggable content” available to me while blogging by adding lots of content to my Flock installation and Flickr account. Makes a lot of sense for those who mostly use blogs as placeholders. But it’s still not the ideal method for blogs which rely on more extensive writing. Or for message writing.

What I want is pretty obvious but I haven’t found it yet, even in dedicated blog editors. I want my blog editor to have access to all of my links (Web history, favourites, social bookmarks…) and make it easy to work with those links while I’m writing. Sure, a “Web Snippets” feature is useful. But it still requires a fair amount of mouse movement to simply insert a link. Call me lazy but I prefer limiting my mouse movement while I’m writing.
My dream editor would integrate all of my social bookmarks, Web histories, and address books in the same interface. I could use a keystroke and start typing to get access to those links and addresses that I use frequently. Why addresses? I want to use the same editor for writing blog posts and email messages. Why not? Messages and posts end up having very similar features anyway. As many sites label it, it’s all about “sharing content.”
(I’m not really into IM but, as logic would have it, the same features should work with IM as well.)

To me, the “killer feature” in modern browsers is that auto-complete in the URL bar. I want to go back to a site I’ve visited recently, I just start typing the URL in the URL bar and the browser shows all related URLs. Same thing in Gmail: start typing an address and Gmail auto-completes it. So simple that nobody ever talks about it. But this simple feature is yet completely absent from blog editors, AFAICT.
Oh, sure, Flock does auto-complete in the search field. In fact, it supports incremental searches, which is really nice. But I need auto-complete for links and addresses.
What makes auto-complete even nicer is that it’s now possible to synchronise browsers through Google’s Browser Sync extension for Firefox (it might work with Flock too). Google also saves a Web History. And Gmail users get easy access to their address books from Google applications like Google Docs. And Google has toolbars for most browsers. So I guess Google could easily implement my dream editor.

Thing with my wishful thinking is that it’s often obvious enough that it becomes concrete very quickly after I say it. For all I know, this feature may exist somewhere and everybody else knows about it. But I’ve been missing it for a while now.
Ah, well.

Blogged with Flock

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Expérience du goût

Viens de finir une tasse d’un des cafés les plus complexes que j’aie bus jusqu’à maintenant. Pas parmi les meilleurs. Mais, vraiment, une expérience gustative particulière.

L’ai fait dans ma cafetière Brikka. Le mélange de café («Kamikaze») provenait de l’épicerie vrac du Marché Jean-Talon où ils vendent leurs cafés à 5$ la livre entre 9h et 10h. J’ai ajouté quelques grains qui me restaient d’un mélange italien que j’avais acheté au même endroit un peu plus tôt, histoire d’ajouter à la complexité. Ça semble avoir fonctionné.

La première gorgée de ce café était une explosion de saveurs. Pas toutes extrêmement agréables, mais assez impressionnantes dans le tableau d’ensemble. Diverses saveurs de caramel, depuis le dulce de leche jusqu’au sucre candi en passant par le “butterscotch” et le caramel mou. Un peu de saveur de brûlé. Une rondeur qu’on monterait aux nues dans un expresso mais qui est fréquente dans une cafetière moka. Du rôti, de l’amaretto, un arrière-goût de sécheresse. Une palette très foncée dans l’ensemble, mais une telle variété de saveurs que chaque gorgée se déroulait comme un histoire complète.

C’est ce genre d’expérience que je recherche. Pas «le meilleur café au monde». Mais le café qui vient me dire quelque-chose. C’est la même chose pour la musique ou pour les gens. Je ne cherche pas «le meilleur de chaque chose». J’aime la diversité, la variété, la complexité.


Amitié, fierté

Mes amis, je suis fier de vous! Vous êtes tous fascinants et vous provenez de milieux très différents. On ne peut demander mieux.

Samedi dernier, Catherine et moi avons fêté notre septième anniversaire de mariage. Oui, oui. C’était bien le 7 juillet 2007. Officiellement, nous nous sommes mariés le 4 juillet 2000 à Moncton, au Nouveau-Brunswick. Nous avons célébré la fête de notre mariage à Laval, au Québec, le 8 juillet 2000. L’anniversaire de Catherine est le 2 juillet. Le mien le 10. Donc, ce samedi, 7 juillet 2007, était la journée idéale pour célébrer.

Et nous avons célébré. L’amitié, surtout.

Dans ma famille, nous nous amusons parfois à annoncer, d’un ton sentencieux que «dans la vie, virgule…». Eh bien: «dans la vie, virgule, il est important de bien s’entourer». Je ne saurais être plus fier de ceux qui m’entourent. Des gens de toutes sortes. D’âges divers. De milieux différents. D’intérêts variés. Tous plus intéressants les uns que les autres. «Du bon monde», comme on dit. «Dis-moi qui tu hantes et je te dirai qui tu es». Si mes amis sont une indication de qui je suis, je suis fier comme Artaban.

J’ai abandonné l’humilité, il y a quelques temps. Pas que je me considère mieux que d’autres. Je suis simplement content de ce que je vis et même de ce que je suis. Dans ce cas-ci, je suis réellement fier de notre couple quand à notre capacité à réunir les gens. Nous n’avons eu que très peu de choses à faire pour que des gens puissent se rencontrer et, je crois, avoir du plaisir.

Que voulez-vous, je suis un papillon social. Et je crois sincèrement qu’un papillon social peut avoir un effet intéressant sur les groupes sociaux qui l’entourent.

Et c’est pour ça que j’aime Facebook. Pas nécessairement à cause du système lui-même. Mais parce que plusieurs de mes amis sont venus se lier à moi sur ce réseau, ce qui peut éventuellement permettre à certains d’entre eux de se rencontrer à travers ma présence sur le réseau social virtuel. C’est pas le nombre de connexions qui m’importe. C’est le fait que ces connexions soient si diverses.

Notre anniversaire de mariage était moins achalandé que notre fête de mariage. D’après moi, il y a eu une quarantaine de personnes au total, au lieu des quatre-vingt personnes qui sont venues à notre mariage. Mais ce qui était génial ce samedi, c’était la capacité de tout le monde à se mêler aux autres. Pas de petites cliques, pas d’exclusion. Des gens que je n’aurais jamais cru compatibles qui passent la soirée à discuter. Des tas de petites coïncidences qui lient des amis des Catherine aux miens. Des clins d’oeil et peut-être des amitiés durables.

Si vous me connaissez et que vous ne pouviez pas venir à notre anniversaire de mariage, n’hésitez pas à venir vous ajouter à mes amis sur Facebook. Ou LinkedIn. Ou MySpace. Ou MontrealLinkup, Geni, Classmates, Flickr, LiveJournal, Skype, Flixster, Ringo, WAYN, Del.icio.us, Twitter, Jaiku, Spurl, Plum. Ou tout autre réseau virtuel auquel il vous sied d’appartenir.

Dans tout ça, je dois remercier ma chère Catherine. Non seulement je rencontre des tas de gens grâce à elle, mais c’est avec elle que je peux être moi-même.

Merci!


iPhone Wishlist

Yeah, everybody’s been talking about the iPhone. It’s last week’s story but it can still generate a fair bit of coverage. People are already thinking about the next models.

Apple has most of the technology to build what would be my dream handheld device but the iPhone isn’t it. Yet.

My wishful thinking for what could in fact be the coolest handheld ever. Of course, the device should have the most often discussed features which the iPhone currently misses (Flash, MMS, chat…). But I’m going much further, here.

  • Good quality audio recording (as with the recording add-ons for the iPod 5G).
  • Disk space (say, 80GB).
  • VoIP support (Skype or other, but as compatible as possible).
  • Video camera which can face the user (for videoconference).
  • Full voice interface: speech recognition and text-to-speech for dialing, commands, and text.
  • Handwriting recognition.
  • Stylus support.
  • Data transfer over Bluetooth.
  • TextEdit.
  • Adaptive technology for word recognition.
  • Not tied to cellular provider contract.
  • UMA Cell-to-WiFi (unlicensed mobile access).
  • GPS.
  • iLife support.
  • Sync with Mac OS X and Windows.
  • Truly international cellular coverage.
  • Outliner.
  • iWork support.
  • Disk mode.
  • Multilingual support.
  • Use as home account on Mac OS X “host.”
  • FrontRow
  • USB and Bluetooth printing.
  • Battery packs with standard batteries.

The key point here isn’t that the iPhone should be a mix between an iPod and a MacBook. I’m mostly thinking about the fact that the “Personal” part of the “PC” and “PDA” concepts has not come to fruition yet. Sure, your PC account has your preferences and some personal data. Your PDA contains your contacts and to-do lists. But you still end up with personal data in different places. Hence the need for Web apps. As we all know, web apps are quite useful but there’s still room for standalone applications, especially on a handheld. It wouldn’t take much for the iPhone to be the ideal tool to serve as a “universal home” where a user can edit and output files. To a musician or podcaster, it could become the ideal portable studio.

But where the logical step needs to be taken is in “personalization.” Apparently, the iPhone’s predictive keyboard doesn’t even learn from the user’s input. Since the iPhone is meant to be used by a single individual, it seems quite strange that it does not, minimally, adapt to typed input. Yet with a device already containing a headset it seems to me that speech technologies could be ideal. Full-text continuous speech recognition already exists and what it requires is exactly what the iPhone could provide: adaptation to a user’s voice and speech patterns. Though it may be awkward for people to use a voice interface in public, cellphones have created a whole group of people who seem to be talking to themselves. 😉

Though very different from speech recognition, text-to-speech could integrate really well with a voice-driven device. Sharing the same “dictionaries” across all applications on the same device, the TTS and SR features could be trained very specifically to a given user. While screens have been important on computers for quite a while, voice-activated computers have been prominent in science-fiction for probably as long. The most common tasks done on computers (writing messages, making appointments, entering data, querying databases…) could all be done quite effectively through a voice interface. And the iPhone could easily serve as a voice interface for other computers.

Yes, I’m nightdreaming. It’s a good way to get some rest.


Smells Like Geek Spirit

Ok, too easy. But this piece does mention odours:

Take off your suit pants and jacket — It’s Web 2.0 – Blogs – Code Monkey Business – Builder AU

And, as always, I’m fascinated by geek culture. I associate with it, to an extent, even though I am not a coder.

It’s still really funny, all these parallels between the Net boom of the mid-to-late 90’s and the rather recent “Web 2.0” discussions.


Facebook Celebs and Fakes

Intriguing and fun piece on some well-known Brits who may or may not really be on Fb.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Are my online friends for real?

Same can be said about any form of online communication but the notion of a “Facebook bug” which Stephen Fry may have caught is more specific than the Fb-hype we keep reading.


«Que sont mes amis devenus?»

Y’a pas que Rutebeuf qui soit nostalgique… 😉

À travers ma quête, quelques noms de personnes que j’ai de la difficulté à contacter.

  • Chantal Bonenfant (Pontmain) [Trouvée!]
  • Christian Fortier (Pontmain, 19è de la Vérendrye)
  • Mathieu Nelson (19è de la Vérendrye)
  • Éric Dumont (19è de la Vérendrye)
  • Simon Vaillancourt (MDLS) [Un ami commun m’a reparlé de lui.]
  • Isabelle Jutras (MDLS)
  • Jean-Pierre Ross (MDLS)
  • Michel Reed (MDLS, BBSL)
  • Dany Provencher (BBSL)
  • Claude Fortier (Quatuor Connivence)
  • Stéphane Grégoire (Quatuor Connivence)
  • François Tourigny (UdeM)
  • Mél-Anye Côté (Allô-Stop)

Réseaux d’anciens

En préparation pour l’anniversaire de mon mariage avec Catherine (déjà sept belles années!) et fête de départ définitif, j’effectue quelques recherches pour retracer de vieux amis. J’avais des vieux numéros de téléphone qui ne sont plus valides depuis longtemps, des adresses de courriel qui ne sont plus en service, des informations assez vagues sur les allées et venues de l’un ou de l’autre…

Peu de grandes réussites dans mes tentatives. Quoique…

  • Les adresses des «copies conformes» peuvent se révêler utiles pour retracer plusieurs personnes à la fois.
  • Canada411.ca nécessite une localisation relativement générale mais m’a permis de retrouver au moins deux personnes.
  • Les liens d’un ami à l’autre peuvent s’avérer de bonnes pistes si quelques-uns d’entre eux ont gardé des contacts.
  • Quelques personnes sont vraiment très stables.
  • Il y a plusieurs groupes pour les anciens de diverses écoles.

Et c’est ce dernier point qui me pousse à bloguer.

Par exemple, en cherchant des informations sur mon école primaire, je tombe sur Retrouvailles.ca. Il s’agit de ce genre de site qui nécessite un abonnement payant pour être vraiment utile (à la LinkedIn.com) mais c’est amusant d’y voir quelques noms connus, surtout des anciens du «Mont», la célèbre école secondaire Mont-de-La Salle. D’ailleurs, cette même école a deux groupes Facebook pour les anciens. Au premier juillet 2007, le premier groupe d’anciens du Mont a 127 membres et le deuxième en a 35 mais avec une belle photo du Mont. En fait, il y a aussi un groupe pour les immigrants qui étaient au Mont, avec 41 membres.

Ce type de démarche, ça met beaucoup de choses en perspective. Je ne suis encore jamais allé à une réunion d’anciens étudiants (j’étais généralement hors du Québec quand elles se sont produites). Mais l’effet me semble assez similaire.

À la présente étape de ma quête, il vaut mieux pour moi attendre les résultats de quelques tentatives de prise de contact. Peut-être que rien ne va fonctionner, mais c’est amusant d’essayer.

Quoi qu’il en soit, je crois que notre célébration sera très agréable dans l’ensemble. Ce qui sera peut-être le plus amusant, c’est que des gens de différents réseaux vont se croiser à cette occasion et certains vont peut-être entretenir des rapports plus étroits dans le futur.


Pièce d’anthologie blogosphérique

Du grand art!

ZERO SECONDE: Exercices de style (par Martin Lessard)

Faut dire que Lessard est un pro de l’écriture. Très méticuleux. C’est pas la blogorrhée de certains.


Bread and Satisfaction

It’s not humble to say so but, man, is my bread good!

I’m truly impressed with my latest loaf. It ended up tasting pretty much like baguette, although I didn’t shape it as a stick.

As with beer, coffee, and food in general, I tend to make bread on whims. So it’s hard to trace back the “recipe.” Shouldn’t be too hard to reproduce it, though.

I started with the working version of a sourdough culture which was given to me by a friend and former student who works as a professional baker at a Breton bakery in the Eastern part of town. I dare say, this culture does wonders. I really hope I’ll be allowed to bring it to Texas because I’d hate to lose access to it.

Process is simple. I mix in a few tablespoons of sourdough starter with a cup and a half of filtered water. I whip this mixture to be quite frothy. I then mix in a cup of flour in the frothy mixture. I never forget to feed back the jar of starter with some flour and water.

After an hour or so, I prepare the actual bread, adding flour, salt, and occasionally oil and/or other ingredients. This time, I added two tablespoons of olive oil, a few teaspoons of sugar, and half a tablespoon of salt along with a cup and a half of flour. On several occasions, I merely added flour and forgot to add salt. The results were decent enough but not as intensely wonderful as this time.

I then knead the dough, adjusting the amount of flour. This time, I added a good three-quarter cup of flour to the dough. The resulting dough was on the thick side of things but I like to vary in this way. With this sourdough culture, and with only white flour, it’s quite easy to knead the dough and get a good consistency. Usually, I don’t worry too much about the dough being a bit sticky. I kind of play it by ear for the consistency.

After kneading the dough, I placed it in a really large bowl (greased with more olive oil). I expected this particular dough to rise more than it did but after a few hours, I decided to shape this dough. While kneading it in a significant amount of flour, I found this dough to be, erm, stringy. It didn’t ball up really easily. For some reason (probably the amount of oil I put in), it reminded me of pizza dough. So I did with this dough what I tend to do with pizza dough. I split it in smaller portions and put a part of this in the fridge. I kept about one third of the dough in the greased bowl for the second rise, overnight. It probably spent about eight hours in that stage.

When I woke up, I heated my oven to 450°F with the pizza stone on the rack and brewed some moka pot coffee. Once the oven was ready, I dropped the loaf directly from the bowl unto the pizza stone and sprayed the walls of the oven using a very powerful mister from the dollar-store. After about ten minutes, I sprayed a bit more water on the oven’s walls but I could notice that the bread looked pretty good already. I only gave it five more minutes and put it on a plate to cool off a bit.

The resulting bread really is a tasty creation. Complex in its simplicity. Simple in its complexity. A thing of beauty, if I may say so myself.

The crust is very crispy and very fragrant. This crust reminds me of bread I’ve had in Switzerland. While this bread was made only with white flour, it has the crust of those farmhouse breads which have some other flours in them.

The crumb structure is relatively dense but not at all heavy. Moist but well-baked. Elastic yet somewhat tough. Very fragrant. Reminds me of the almost-mythical bread from the Pagé bakery in Saint-Sauveur. At least, the one I remember from my childhood. Contrary to several loaves I’ve done recently, it’s not at all sour. I do like sour breads on occasion but it seems that the main fermentation for this loaf didn’t result in a sour bread. It’s kind of reassuring because I like the possibility of baking both “clean” and sour breads with the same culture. Probably because of the olive oil and sugar, it’s a bit brioche-like in crumb structure but it doesn’t taste sweet at all. It doesn’t taste salty either though the amount of salt in the dough was rather significant (especially when compared to my unsalted batches!).

All in all, this bread almost makes me weep. 🙂

Lessons learnt?

  • Don’t forget the salt!
  • Olive oil and sugar can be your friends.
  • Smaller loaves are easy to bake.
  • Thick doughs are ok.
  • Proofing doesn’t need to be extreme to be effective.
  • Stringy dough after proofing is ok.
  • Even a long rise after proofing may produce a “clean” bread.
  • Bread=good. 🙂

Most of these I knew already. But this is a kind of learning which, for me, requires reinforcement.

The thing which is kind of funny is that I’m quite convinced that some bread experts would criticize this bread for one reason or the other. Not fluffy enough. Too dense. Crumb structure should have bigger holes in it. Too yeasty. Too much sugar. Etc.

But I don’t care. I like it and that’s the only thing which counts.

It’s just sad that I wasn’t able to share it with someone. Next time.

Meanwhile, I’m a happy camper.