Saturday, November 28, 2009

Un autre commentaire sur l'affaire Frotey

Le site du groupe Du 109 au 429 nous offre un autre commentaire sur l'affaire Frotey, cette fois un peu plus cinglant et... anonyme. Je n'aime guère les commentaires anonymes, mais faut avouer que dans les circonstances c'est compréhensible.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Inoculated at last!

Today my wife and I went to the Palais des Congrès to get vaccinated for the influenza A(H1N1). We each received a 0.50 mL dose of Arepanrix H1N1 with adjuvant (the vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline). Everything went well and we were out the doors in less than an hour and half (including the fifteen or twenty minute wait after the injection to make sure that there was no adverse reaction). It was well organized and the crowd was moving relatively fluidly. Now we only have to wait for the immunization process to take place in our bodies.

My only complain is that this should have happened at least a month or two ago. Only now the vaccination campaign is extended to the general population. Only now we start seeing hand-sanitizing stations in every public places (although there's still some public libraries without any). As usual all level of government were quite slow to respond to the potential crisis. That's the key word: potential. A pandemic is impossible to predict accurately and the adequate response is hard to formulate. If you prepare too forcefully you are an alarmist and if you do too little you are an uncaring bastard. For example, people feel that the Y2K bug (okay, it was a computer glitch not a virus, but the analogy is nevertheless valid) was much ado about nothing. There was no catastrophy so they feel they were lied to about the risk. They never saw the army of programmers that worked days and nights to rewrite computer codes and therefore making sure no catastrophy would happen. Such nuance is difficult to understand for the people, so lets use another allegory (like Jesus did). A pandemic is like a hurricane: it might hit a populated area or not; it might gain some strenght and hit as a full category five, causing a devastating disaster like Katrina or fizzle and just pass as a drenching tropical storm. It's unpredictable, but we must get ready nevertheless. If you evacuate a multi-million-inhabitant city and nothing happens you might incur the ire of the population, but the alternative -- doing nothing -- is far worse! We've been lucky so far. The H1N1 didn't spread as fast or wasn't as virulent as the specialists feared. However we've already detected here and there signs of mutation in the virus and there's no way to predict if it won't get more lethal like its Spanish flu predecessor was. We can only make sure we're ready and hope it won't get worse.

On this subject in the news (in French, sorry):

Batman vs Turkey

Yesterday my wife was reading a year-old issue of Kinema Junpo and she stumbled upon an article mentionning an incredible anecdote about the mayor of a Turkish town suing Warner Bros. and Batman's director Christopher Nolan for using the name of his town without his permission!

I missed the story when it was first talked about in Variety or the Huffington Post, but, even a year later, you have to admit that it is pretty funny. And there's nothing like a good turkey story for Thanksgiving!

Intéressant commentaire sur le cas Frotey

L'équipe du Colvert nous fait découvrir (une fois de plus) un intéressant commentaire portant sur “le cas Frotey” et publié sur un blog de bibliothécaire: Pirathécaire. Cela nous donne le point de vue d'un bibliothécaire.

Qu'on soit d'accord ou pas avec l'opinion de M. Frotey ou avec le commentaire du Pirathécaire, cela représente une bonne lecture et un intéressant débat. A suivre sans doute.

Update (2009-12-08): Ça vaut la peine de lire les commentaires qui suivent le billet du Pirathécaire. En effet, qu'on partage ou pas l'opinion des commentateurs, cela offre un intéressant débat. Sur ce sujet j'aurais probablement beaucoup à ajouter mais malheureusement le temps me manque. Plus tard sans doute.

Update (2009-12-14): C'est au tour du site Du 109 au 429 de renvoyer au commentaire du Pirathécaire. Ils titrent “Délire sur le cas Frotey”!

Update (2009-12-16): J'ai finalement eu le temps de mettre mes réflexions sur papier (ou en électrons, selon). Voir le billet “Commenthécaire”...

Five years already

I just realized that I am in my fifth years of blogging. I am not a big blogger (I posted less than two hundred entries -- however I am picking up the pace lately) but it is still a reason to rejoice!

I only wish more people would comment and interact on my blog (well, I mean beside the stupid or crazy sh*t that I got lately). But I am content that at least some people read it (according to the counter anyway). I am gladly thanking my few readers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Revue de Presse / Press Review (2009/11/23)

Digital Edition & Library
Influenza A(H1N1)
Media & Culture
Science & Techology

When it rains it pours

That's what people could say in England, but I was rather alluding to my schedule -- which suddenly got quite busier.

I am already rather busy with the layout of the magazine's thematic issue I am currently working on (which is incredibly late due to the fact that we grossly underestimated the time of production with an extremely bare-minimum staff and that my health forbids me to work crazy hours like before), but in the last few days I was distracted by a complicated administrative inquiry at work (trying to determine which borough is my “home” at work and to decide if I really wanted to apply for an union rep position).

In addition to that I have to test out a new print-on-demand system that we will use along with the digital edition of the magazine. However, I've discovered yesterday that the PayPal buttons of our online store doesn't work anymore, so I have to quickly find out what's the problem and solve it. I suspect that PayPal made some changes in the way they handle codes, so the fix will probably mean to reprogram all the damn buttons one by one (which took me several weeks the last time I updated them). I will have to implement the changes little by little, turning off all the buttons that have not been fixed until they are. This will definitively create more delay on all my current projects...

All this while working full time in various libraries!

However, it doesn't matter how busy I am, I intend to keep the eight-hours-of-sleep rule to try to stay healthy. I already know a co-worker who got the H1N1 and I definitely don't want it (or any other bugs) to happen to me.

Update (22:35): I've contacted PayPal, but there's still no news from them. I was nevertheless able to find which part of our button code was causing problem (it works if I create it with their button tool or if I remove all the “%23” (#) from the code -- thanks to the “find & replace” function!). It is (hopefully) working and people can now order again from our website. Phew! Another crisis averted! I can go back to my (still) busy schedule.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Also in the news

It has already been a year since Emru Townsend passed away. The Gazette published a “In Memoriam” yesterday.

Influenza A(H1N1)

Les bibliothèques en déclin?

Comme je lis rarement La Presse papier (je parcours rapidement la Cyberpresse et je suis suis abonné à The Gazette car il y a beaucoup plus de “funnies”), j'ai manqué un intéressant article d'opinion dans la section Forums de La Presse du 2009/11/10. Heureusement, l'équipage du Colvert (i.e. “Le Canard Boiteux”) nous l'a fait découvrir dans une récente édition (distribuée par courriel). Cet article d'opinion n'a malheureusement pas été repris par Cyberpresse, l'édition électronique de La Presse, alors je vous en fournis le scan en format PDF qui accompagnait la note du Colvert (désolé pour la qualité du scan).

L'article est écrit par Laurent Frotey, un aide-bibliothécaire à la Bibliothèque Interculturelle de Côte-des-Neiges. Il constate que “les achats de DVD s'accélèrent au détriment des livres“ et se dit “inquiet des achats faits dans le réseau des bibliothèques de Montréal et y voit un appauvrissement culturel flagrant.” Il poursuit en disant qu'il a “le désagréable sentiment de n'être plus qu'un employé de Blockbuster et de ne plus servir à l'enrichissement culturel de la population.” C'est une opinion qui m'apparait partagée par beaucoup d'aide-bibliothécaires. J'ai moi aussi souvent l'impression d'être un employé de club vidéo et souhaiterais que les bibliothèques achètent moins de films à caractère divertissant et plus de documentaires et de films de répertoire ou d'auteur. Ainsi, les DVDs joueraient au moins un rôle d'enrichissement culturel. Mais cet accroissement de l'aquisition de DVDs n'est pas nécessairement une mauvaise chose.

Cela nous ramène au vieux débat sur le rôle des bibliothèques (sur lequel je n'ai pas l'intention de m'étendre pour l'instant). Chose amusante, le lendemain (2009/11/11) La Presse faisait suite avec un article qui, somme toute, donnait la réplique de la direction des Bibliothèques de Montréal et des responsables de l'arrondissement. On y jure que la politique des bibliothèques n'a pas changé et que le réseau ne s'éloigne pas de son mandat, ni de son objectif de trois livres par habitant.

Personnellement, je crois qu'il s'agit simplement d'une question d'argent. D'une part, pour justifier leur budget et leurs subventions, les bibliothèques veulent accroitre leur fréquentation en usant de démagogie (par opposition à une politique éducatrice qui viserait à offrir aux usagers des documents qu'ils ne connaissent pas et ainsi accroitre leur horizon culturel) et ainsi donnent aux usagers ce qu'ils désirent: des DVDs? et pourquoi pas des jeux videos tant qu'à y être? D'autre part, dans une économie difficile, les gens préfèrent ne pas payer pour la location de DVDs et plutôt les obtenir gratuitement à la bibliothèque. Cela fonctionne bien puisque selon un sondage plus de 80 % des Québécois se disent satisfaits de leurs bibliothèques.

Cela n'empèche pas que nos bibliothèques soient tout de même menacée d'un grave déclin. La conjoncture d'une économie en difficulté crée des pressions en faveur de coupures dans la culture. Et, dans le cas particulier de Montréal, l'éclatement de la ville en plusieurs arrondissements administratifs génère une sur-bureaucratie qui est couteuse en ressources et en argent. De plus, la situation des bibliothèques est envenimée par le fait que les employés sont stressé par la dégradation de leur conditions de travail (particulièrement par l'accroissement de la charge) et le fait qu'ils sont très mal servis par leur syndicat. La preuve nous en a encore une fois été faites par l'équipe du Colvert qui nous faisait parvenir l'édifiente lettre d'entente entre l'arrondissement de Ville-Marie et ses employés et nous en faisait l'analyse des conséquences (Conf(l)it de Canard #4). (Sur ce sujet vous pouvez également consulter le billet “Un peu de sang neuf?”)

[Updated 2009/11/16]

Update (2009-11-25): voir billet “Délit d'opinion

Update (2009-11-27): voir billet “Intéressant commentaire sur le cas Frotey

Update (2009-11-28): voir billet “Un autre commentaire sur l'affaire Frotey

Update (2009-12-16): voir aussi le billet “Commenthécaire”...

Update (2010-01-27): voir aussi le billet “Développements dans l'affaire Frotey”...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Life at the bottom sucks

Today I had a particularly tiring day at the library as we were rushing more than usual (is there something like a library all-day rush hour?). It is not always fun to be a library grunt with grumpy coworkers and unhappy customers. I felt more than ever like the ball in a pinball game rebounding on every sides of the counter and not scoring any points. I also spent all my free time (lunch, break) working on the research and layout for one of the other projects I am doing. This was the second day of a seven days stretch without any days off (hey, a guy need to pay the rent; I just hope I won't exhaust myself too much and get vulnerable to the flu).

On top of that I came back home to yet another water damage incident. The washing machine on the third floor overflowed. Again. If I was the landlord I would ban washing machine on the second and third floors. Is it that complicated a machine to operate? The water came gushing two floor bellow through the light fixture hole in the stairwell leading to the basement and... into my research library (aka the guestroom). Luckily the book shelves were unarmed, but the videocassette storage was hit, wetting cassette recordings of precious anime series! No real damage though, it should all dry quickly (anyway I was considering reusing or giving away most of those tapes -- who use VHS tapes anymore?). However I am really tired of those baths, hotwater tanks, washing machines and whatnot breaking, leaking or overflowing on my stuff. It is not always fun to live on a first floor...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

How to make a Cat House for winter

If a nice stray cat is roaming your backstreet and squatting your flower boxes you might be worried, like my wife, about how he would fare in the very cold nights of winter. If, like us, you cannot take those strays inside because you already have cats you can always build them a little cat house to keep them warm.

I used to make a cardboard cat house for them. I would take the biggest shipping box I could find, cover it with packaging tape (or a garbage bag) to protect it against water, cut a little door with a utility cutter and put a bunch of old clothings inside to make a cat bed. Unfortunately, those cardboard cat houses last only a year — two if your lucky or three if you made a very sturdy one (using waxed double-sided cardboard and lots of tape). The humidity always rots the cardboard and the clothings become quite smelly.

This fall I decided that the fourth cat house that I would build would last a lot longer (if not forever). Here's how I did it:

I took a 53L “Rubbermaid Roughneck Tote” container ($7.59 at Canadian Tire, but in my case I simply used an empty one I already had in the basement), cut a little door with a heavy-duty utility cutter, (if you don't have one, it's $6.26 at Staples) and lined the inside (optionally the outside too) with an old piece of carpet for insulation.

And voilà: an instant mobile cat hotel!

This year's stray, named Marmelade-boy (there's a different one almost every year) adopted it within minutes. He really loves it. That gives the lovely fellow a warm lair to spend winter protected from the wind and snow while my own cats (in the picture: Spotty) are protected from the fleas and diseases he surely carries. I love my cats, but feeding and caring for two of them is quite enough.

However, be careful (or prepared) because, if one of the strays using the cat house is a female, you might very well find a litter of kittens in it when spring comes! It happened to me twice. The first time I gave them all to nice foster-parents, petshops or shelters, but the second time I kept one for myself: Saya (pictured). See my MobileMe Gallery for more cats pictures.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Today in the news

Well, Montreal's mayor has been re-elected. I would have wished for some change, but I guess it might be better that way. The Gazette was probably right in endorsing him (see last Tuesday editorial). And I agree again with today's editorial: now the change is up to him... Let's hope he's up to the task.

As usual, the government does too little, too late. Now, the level of preparedness to face the influenza A(H1N1) is not what it should be (see all the news links that I posted recently). They could have been ready sooner; we knew this second wave was coming since the beginning of the summer. Of course, there's a fine line between talking too much about it and cause a panic or talking too little and be caught unprepared. I guess they did the best they could: we end up both unprepared and in a state of panic! However they should have ordered the vaccine sooner and everybody should have been vaccinated in September or October at the latest. Considering how long it takes and how difficult it is when you get just a fraction of the needed vaccine at a time, many people might get their vaccine too late. I surely wish I could be vaccinated this week, but according to the government schedule I won't get the shot until early December. I am a government employee and I work every day with the public (worse: with caughing, sneezing and drooling kids!). I think I would deserve to be vaccinated early. But there's hope: it seems that Montreal's H1N1 vaccination schedule might be moved up.

Also in the news today (oops, in French):

- Japon: À Tokyo avec Virginie Coossa
- Monde: Karzaï déclaré vainqueur de la présidentielle afghane
- Technologie: Les ordinateurs personnels évoluent, s'amincissent et s'allègent

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Revue de Presse / Press Review (2009/11/01)

Influenza A (H1N1)

A Magic Mouse !

I liked my Mighty Mouse a lot (but it's not mighty anymore due to some copyright issues with the name: just the Apple Mouse now). I don't think it was my first wireless mouse (I don't remember well, but I think I had a standard wireless mouse that I gave to my sister later), but it was the first one with a trackball. I bought it not long after it was released, along with the short Apple aluminum wireless keyboard (I ordered them a little after I got my 20-inch 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac -- the Mid 2007 model). The freedom of having a wireless mouse is difficult to express, but adding a trackball to it was really making it easier to move on the screen. Particularly when doing a lot of internet browsing or even graphic layouts like I do. After a couple of weeks of using it, I was easily getting annoyed whenever I had to use a trackball-less mouse at work. And its round, oval shape was quite confortable to work with, even for long hours.

Unfortunately, the Mighty Mouse had two major drawbacks: poor battery life and the trackball mecanism getting dirty and difficult to clean up. Holding the mouse upside down and rolling the ball on a clean sheet of paper was the best trick I had found to clean the mecanism, but after a while it simply stopped working properly and it was getting difficult to move through the screen even for simple task. I didn't want to spend money on another Might Mouse, so I was quite happy to learn that Apple had come out with the most clever solution to solve the trackball problem for its newest wireless mouse, known as the Magic Mouse.

Unsurprisingly, Apple succeeded to build a better mouse. They gave it a new sleek design, a more sensitive laser tracking, an improved battery life and (that's where their genius came to work) they replaced the trackball with a Multi-touch surface similar to what we find on their MacBook Pro. They created the first multi-touch mouse! Not only you can move the cursor on the screen by moving the mouse (on any surface, no need of a mousepad anymore) and click or double-click like any mouse, but you can also control the screen using gesture on the multi-touch surface. There are no buttons as the mouse itself functions as a left and right two-button mouse. By brushing your finger on the seamless multi-touch surface you can scroll in any direction (up and down, left and right, and even pan a full 360 degrees). Scrolling with one finger while holding down the keyboard's control key will perform screen zoom. With a two-finger swipe you can also advance through pages in Safari or browse photos in iPhoto. It's really amazing.

I was afraid that it would take me some time to get used to its “sleek and dramatically different low-profile design” or to using the multi-touch surface instead of a trackball, but, in the contrary, it was quite easy. It's very confortable to use and I got the hang of the touch thing within minutes. It was a well spent $70. I heartily recommend it. It's simply... magic!

Unfortunately, the widget Mighty Monitor (to check the battery level of the Mighty Mouse and Wireless keyboard) doesn't work for the Magic Mouse. I hope that the widget will be updated or someone will create a similar one for the Magic Mouse. Although we can always check battery levels through the bluetooth icon in the menubar... but it's not as cool as the widget.

Update (2009-11-08): Apparently some people are experiencing problems with their Magic Mouse... No problems so far for me.

Update (2009-11-11): Still no “real” problem with my Magic Mouse but the more I use it the more I see its limitation. No complain with the laser tracking, but the scrolling with the multi-touch surface can often be difficult to control precisely. Sometime when I moved the mouse just by holding it on its sides it induce involuntary scrolling. Sometimes it scrolls too fast. It is particularly annoying when you are doing precise tasks like layout. I guess nothing is perfect. However, I still like the Magic Mouse.

Update (2009-12-08): Apparently the Magic Mouse is causing keyboard battery drain... I've been plagued by this problem since I've installed the Magic Mouse and was wondering what was happening. Hopefully Apple will acknowledge the problem soon and quickly provide a fix. Also an anonymous tipster told me that the Mighty Monitor has been updated to support the Magic Mouse. I've downloaded the update and it works great.

Update (2010-01-26): An Aluminum Wireless Keyboard Firmware Update is supposed to solve the battery drain problem...

Update (2010-06-03): Yup, I haven't had any problem since...