Back From The East | Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Most of my notes and photos from the World Science Forum are up on the World Academy of Young Scientists website, so if you're looking for those you can find them all on the WAYS site.

I already wrote about my initial second impressions of the World Science Forum, and not much has changed about that, though I did finally meet Hugues Lantuit, President of the Permafrost Young Researchers Network, in person, and we hung out for lots of the conference. Like most of the people at WAYS, he's a total overachiever with a sharp wit and a wicked sense of humor. He also curses like a sailor, as I would soon find out. During the conference, I didn't have time to show the visitors much of the city, but the WSF receptions on Thursday and Friday were pretty great.

Thursday morning, during the incredible breakfast at the hotel – the Hungarians know how to fry a sausage, let me tell you – I met up with Hugues and we walked up Vaci Utca (a beautiful, beautiful pedestrian walking street along the Danube lined with trendy shops) to the Hungarian Academy of Science, just before the Parliament. Security was rather tight with the presidents of four countries there, but we got in without incident, checked our coats, and met up with some other WAYS members in the main hall. With the 'Heads of State' sessions starting, Daniel Mietchen (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences), his girlfriend Ji Hyun, Mande Holford, Michael Fischer (founder of the World Lecture Project, and of course Gaell Mainguy, President of WAYS, joined us. The heads of state panel was, well, everything I had hoped for, and let's leave it at that. The president of the Hellenic Republic, though, gave a passionate and relevant speech about serious need for change in our attitudes on the environment.

Welcome to Budapest | Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, Montreal, Tuesday November 6th 13:30

Are plane seats getting smaller and smaller, or am I get bigger? I mean, I'm not a big person, but the width of my shoulders spills out past both edges of my seat. Sitting on a Delta Airlines flight from Montreal to New York - the first half of a trip to Budapest for the World Science Forum, thanks to of UNESCO and the World Academy of Young Scientists - I'm in a aisle seat (utterly necessary, as I get up as often as prescribed by my claustrophobia and small bladder), near the middle of the plane. Oddly, I'm in a very good mood, though I'm uncertain as to why exactly. I found a great power suit foraging through my Dad's old closet that turned out to be a perfect fit, the weather was beautiful, I'm looking rather dapper if I don't say so myself, and the very cute, latin-looking flight attendant keeps smiling at me. Preparing for takeoff, she approaches the people sitting a couple rows in front of me...

Concordia University's new website | Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

I'm feeling it's not much of a step up from what they had before.

First of all, no one uses "text size selectors" anymore.

Second of all, if you're going to use one anyways, the least you could do is make sure sure that it doesn't completely break your design when a user selects a larger font:

Podcast: Guitar Hero II mix I | Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Now that Guitar Hero III is out - and my friend got it even before it was officially released, somehow - we've been playing that (and the obligatory Halo 3).

Guitar Hero II was the first one that I played and bought. For those who don't know it, it's a musical rhythm game that has you "playing" a toy guitar to match the music / frets going by on the screen. It's an awesome party game, and the soundtrack and art are great.

It also introduced me to / reminded me of some bands and genres that I hadn't listened to in a while. Classic American and British Rock and Metal are up there as some of my favorite kinds of music to listen to these days. In this mixtape, you'll find:

- Motorhead: Ace of Spades
- Danzig: Mother
- Kiss: Strutter
Lynyrd Skynyrd: Free Bird

Microsoft buys small share of Facebook | Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Microsoft acquires chapter of Facebook

Microsoft Corp. found a friend in Facebook on Wednesday, paying $240 million for a small slice of the rapidly growing social networking Web site.

The deal, for which Microsoft reportedly beat archrival Google, expands the Redmond company's advertising relationship with Facebook and gives it an ownership stake in one of the hottest online properties.

But the companies were immediately questioned about the $15 billion value that the deal places on Facebook, which puts Microsoft's ownership interest at 1.6 percent. Earlier reports of that figure raised concerns about possible overvaluation of Facebook and other "Web 2.0" sites.

"Obviously, $15 billion is a pretty big number for Facebook," said analyst Brad Reback of CIBC World Markets, in the first question of a conference call in which the companies discussed the agreement. He noted that Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer was recently quoted commenting on the "faddish nature" of social networking Web sites.


"You can sit back and watch how this partnership is going to develop," the Microsoft executive said during the conference call. "There's a lot more we're going to be doing together."

Emphasis mine. Not incredibly newsworthy, but an interesting move and play out (Microsoft beating out Google). The idea that there will be further cooperation between the Redmond giant and Facebook is intriguing as well.

NITWISPS, 23-10-07 | Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Now that I got my camera back, I'm going to start posting more photos, and one neat way I've found to encourage myself to do so is by committing to a weekly-ish posting schedule.

I give you the first edition of NITWISPS - New Images This Week In Superb Photos by Steven!

My dad and my nephew Matthew, Matthew, Matthew, My Sisters, Marianne and Matthew, Marianne's apt., Marianne and Joseph, Joseph and Donut, Dominic and Donut, Kids, Vahe and his Mom, Vahe's sister and her friend, Rose's cake, playing Halo 3, I'm owning as usual.

Portal - Best End Credit Song Ever | Saturday, October 20th, 2007

/*Spoiler Disclaimer

If you are planning to buy / play portal on either the PC or the Xbox 360, then don't play the audio file or follow the link to the lyrics.

Spoiler Disclaimer*/

Valve's latest offering in The Orange Box has been hailed as one of the most innovative ever. But perhaps the most innovative thing about it is Portal, a devious - and devilishly hilarious - mind-twister puzzle / 3D platform game that is probably the first game I'd recommend to my non-gamer friends. The premise is simple, the graphics are attractive, the game is [somewhat...] non-violent, and it poses some fascinating questions. Any game that tests your understanding of physics, geometry, momentum and puzzle-solving while being taunted by a deranged AI entity is a winner in my book.

From Wikipedia:

The game consists primarily of a series of puzzles which must be solved by teleporting the player's character and other simple objects using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. The goal of each puzzle is to reach an exit point. The "portal gun" and the unusual physics it creates are the emphasis of this game.

The song attached to this post is the credit song that plays at the end of the game, and like the rest of the game, the tone is completely deadpan. The song's so much funnier when you understand the references in it after playing the game, but even without them, it's a riot. Lyrics are here.

Whether you're into PC games or not, I wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy of The Orange Box even if it's just for Portal and not the other 4 games that are included in the package. The puzzles are thorny, the gameplay is addictive, and the comedy alone is worth the price of admission.

We do what me must
because we can.

I'd like to end by saying that I will never forgive myself for what they made me do to you, weighted companion cube. :(