Friday, June 23, 2006

Are we wireless yet?

I went to the ja-sig conference in Vancouver at the start of June. Very interesting. Lots of high thinkers and good coders all in the same place. A little bit on the techie side, not really a 'users' conference (ja-sig is the host of uPortal, an Open Source portal written and used by a number of universities), but still a very intriguing event. After all, it's not every day you get to have lunch with someone from Sweden.

Tim Bray gave an interesting if rambling talk on 'stuff'. One of his topics was Wikipedia. Is it the best thing since sliced bread, or devil's spawn? He basically said it's up to us to decide, and we'll decide by using it(or not) and by supporting it (or not).

I've been to a number of conferences, and there are usually rows of public access computers for attendees to check their email, but that was not the case here. The conference centre where it was held had wireless. And, of course, everyone (except me) brought their laptops.

So all those with laptops where checking their emails whenever and wherever they wanted. There are two interesting things to note about this:

1) People were checking their email anywhere, anytime, including during sessions. In the past people have always opened laptops in sessions, mostly to take notes (me, I still write it down by hand, then type the notes in back at the office), but now they're checking their email, IM-ing, playing Sudoko online (I sat behind a guy doing this). Maybe I'm old fashioned, but why go to a conference and then sit in front of your computer the whole time? Not to mention the fact that it's just plain rude to the presenters.

2) Session layout. ALL the session had tables. The keynote was in a room with narrow straight tables. Other sessions had this same setup or round tables, but every room had tables. I had never been to a conference with this setup before. Of course, these tables were very handy to put your laptop on (I surmised after a day that this was the purpose of the tables).

Not only did the rooms have tables, but all the table were wired, not for IP, but for power! For the long straight tables, the prime spots were in the centre where the extension cords ended in power bars. All the laptops users got those spots early.

So, all the rooms had a separate extension cord running from the back (or front) of the room to each table. Fifteen to twenty extension cords, all different colours, plugged into power bars and ending in power bars, gaffer taped to the floor so no-one would trip. Does anyone other me think this is odd? (Kevin might appreciate it).

I suppose one of my conclusions from the conference (and not the kind that I expected to get) is that the wireless problem was easier to solve than the power consumption/battery life problem.

So I guess I'm still waiting for my first truely wireless conference.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

June is bike month.

I was stopped at Main and 10th on my bike ride home the other day (There's a cool trick you can do on the 10th ave bike route at Main going east. If you go like stink as soon as the light changes, you can make the Kingsway light too. They're always synchronized). Someone at the corner was handing out city bike maps to all the cyclists that stopped there (because June is bike month I suppose), kind of preaching to the converted, but oh well. I couldn't hear what she was saying because the convertible next to me was pumping out music big time (cars like to use the bike paths because they know they'll get through an intersection).

There's a new threat out there on the bike paths now that spring is here: other bikes. I've had two close calls the past two days. Both probably novice or seasonal cyclists.

The first one I could see from a ways back: a slow arc, barely making the turn, concentrating so hard on willing the underused old thing onto the side walk ramp opposite the she had no idea she was crossing the cruising lane where cyclists take advantage of the downward slope between Fraser and Clark to make some time.

The second one was a junkyard dog (old bike, creaking fenders, squealing chain, wire basket on the front) with an AM radio strapped on and playing. He was oblivious and pulled right into the cycling lane until I yelled 'Heads up'. But this came just after a more serious event from the ongoing threat.

Cyclist down at 18th and Ontario, where there's a traffic circle and a bend in the street. I stopped and looked. The cyclist was on the grass with two people beside him. He was lying on his side, just as I had been taught in the CPR class I took a few weeks ago, so he looked to be in good hands. The driver was standing a respectful distance away, in front of his dented SUV, talking on his cel phone. 'Put me through to Donna'. Probably telling them he was going to be late for work. Seeing this, the thought that came unbidden was: I wonder if he was talking on his cel when he hit him. I picked up the water bottle and tossed it on the grass beside the bike ( Another bystander reminded me that I might have just interfered with 'evidence'. Are we watching too much CSI?). I've been hit twice by cars, nothing as serious as this, and have actually been on the driver's side of the story as well. It was a strange feeling standing there.

I watched for a bit more, heard the siren of the approaching ambulance, and decided to carry on. Happy bike month.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rex vs Madonna

Rex Murphy, in his weekly column in the Globe and Mail (a paid blogger as far as I'm concerned), goes on an on about Madonna's latest creation of herself and the insult to Christianity that it brings.

Fine. Rex gets to rant (although I love to listen to Rex, I sometimes have a hard time reading him. The trick I've learned is to read him out loud trying to sound like Rex. It's the only way I've found that works). Everyone seems to have an opinion whenever Madonna comes out with a new look/tour/image/self/album (all basically the same). She's a master of pop sensibilities. Her music is boring and trite, but that's not her point.

Where poor old Rex goes seriously off track, is trying to persuade Madonna, and others of her ilk, to have a little more sensitivity when trashing the western worlds' largest religion.

Rex says Madonna should adopt the same attitude towards Christianity (although Madonna primarily targets Catholicism) as the rest of the world has adopted towards Islam: Tread carefully and don't say anything that could in the least inflame (especially true after those Danish cartoons).

Wrong, and so surprising coming from an august member of the fifth estate. What Rex should have said, and I guess I'll have to say it for him is:

Good for you girl, go for it, and note that your use of Christian symbols in your 'art' in no way endangers you or anyone else, and doesn't cause demonstrations or riots.

Isn't this the way it should be? We in the west should be proud of our tradition of use of the Christian story in pop culture: Madonna, DaVinci Code, Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus of Suburbia, Life of Brian, and it goes on. What a healthy approach. Maybe we could export this tolerance to the rest of the world. Oh I forgot, that's what Georgie is doing.

And last but not least, let's not forget that after all, it's only religion.
It's not as if it's something real, with substance.
It's not as if Madonna is making fun of the Toronto Maple Leafs or Tim Hortons.

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