CSR: Crime Scene Representative

Was watching an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, wearing a LifeChat LX-3000 headset. Got me thinking about a CSI spoof using Customer Service Representatives as characters.
Sure. Like a skit in a humor show. But it could even be part of a campaign to make customer service jobs trendy, like they do in Quebec with CAs/CPAs (complete with flashy site in French). Not that I ever was a CSR myself but I did do surveys about CSRs. Given the number of people with CSR jobs, I'm pretty sure it'd be quite popular for watercooler chat. Perfect material for YouTube.
Of course, other people have been thinking about CSI spoofs with CSRs. For instance, here's a funny scenario for a skit having fun with David Caruso's rather overacted Horatio Caine one-liners (which Jim Carrey spoofed on David Letterman's show).
Grazing Rites: CSR: Miami
To play with people's stereotypes (which humor shows are wont to do), it could easily involve South Asian CSRs. An obvious choice would then be Canadian comedian Shaun Majumder, well-known for his ethnic spoofs on This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Cedric the Entertainer Presents.


Google Maps

Been thinking about our upcoming move to Austin, TX. We'll be there by mid-December.

Looks like our neighborhood, Bouldin Creek, will be an interesting one. It's close to the (apparently trendy) SoCo area as well as downtown.

Been putting dots on a map for places of potential interest.

Google Maps

Resize map

Of course, much of my interest focuses on coffee and beer, at this point. But I often find out that this type of focus is a great way to learn a new place.


Feeling Good

Sometimes, my love for humanity is reaffirmed. One person who's helpful for this is ze frank.
He recently posted a simple video on a simple song he made:
ze's page :: zefrank.com: songs you already know : scared

And it was made into a fun video, which really captures a lot of what many of us need.


Exploring Online Tools for Teaching

Presentation (Slideshare)

Presentation file for Alexandre Enkerli's workshop on exploring online tools for teaching. Concordia University's Centre for Teaching and Learning Services (CTLS), November 12, 2007.


Other notes

    • Moodle Tools
      • "Content" (syllabus, slides, references, media)
      • Assignments
      • Grades
      • Journals
      • Forums
      • Podcast
    • Moodle Attempts
      • RSS Feeds
      • Wikis
      • Glossaries
      • Blogs
    • Blogging
      • Blogging Use
        • Self-publishing
        • Blogging as low-stakes writing
        • Blogging as sharing
        • Bridge with life, examples
      • Blogging Issues
        • Author-based
        • Less than thoughtful comments
        • Keeping up?
        • Writing style?
      • YouTube

        Broadcast Yourself

      • YouTube Use
      • YouTube Issues
        • Image quality
        • Streaming problems
        • Pulled-off content
        • Hater
    • Blog Types
    • Blogging as Publishing
      • Public intellectuals
      • Geeky version of Collège de France, Université populaire
    • Broad issues
      • Getting help for transcription
      • Online textbooks
      • Reusing material
      • Leapfrog
      • Mashup
      • Don Hinkelman on cellphones
        • We use cellphones for students to input a variety of things into their Moodle course...
          • reflections on the class
          • attendence in large lecture classes
          • quizzes after hours or homework
          • periodic email messages with vocabulary practice
    • "Outside" Tools
      • Meant for non-teaching uses
      • Students may already be learning
      • Thinking about use, not tools
      • Focus on personal favourites
    • Sharing Content
      • Quick and easy
      • Public display
      • Viral (share again, comment, blog)
      • Social ("persona" management)
      • Bookmarklets and RSS
    • Sharing Tools in Teaching
      • Peer-teaching
      • Learning environment
      • Self-publishing
      • Transmit information
    • Sharing Tools ("Social Software")
      • Flickr "almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world"
      • Del.icio.us "Social bookmarking"
      • Twitter "What are your friends doing?"
    • We live in fascinating times



    Veronic Belmont's Mahalo Prequel

    Mahalo Daily: Hello world!

    Nice pastiche (in both senses of the term). A hodge-podge imitation/parody of some of the most prominent video podcasts of the last few years.


    • Don't we get to vote?

    • Where's Tiki Bar TV???


    Timeline Maps: Empires and Religions

    Noticed the first chronological map (on empires) in a presentation by Juan Enriquez. Either of these animations could be useful to show in many a course. They have not necessarily been created from a neutral point of view but they both bring together interesting data, making it easy to take a broad perspective on such issues as global interactions, cultural contacts, and human diversity.

    Imperial History

    History of Religion


    Le Café d'Oldelaf et Monsieur D

    Pas très réaliste, mais conçu à la Sylvain Chomet (Triplettes de Belleville). Ça me donne soif pour un bon petit espresso bien complexe et pas très caféiné.

    Le Café

    Le Café via Koreus


    VUB and ULB Pillow Fight

    Perhaps the most efficient form of student activism, a pillow fight between French-speaking and Flemish-speaking universities.

    At the end of the fight, the fighter of the both speaking communities reconcile around campfire having a beer and a barbecue. Let's hope the negotiation about Belgian government could end in the same way. (Reuters)


    New Ways to Access Comedy Central Content?

    What's going on, here? We can't access ComedyCentral.com from Canada? Apparently, that same content is available on TheComedyNetwork.ca, thanks to a special agreement between CTV and Viacom. However, the two comedy television networks' sites work quite differently from one another. In fact, Comedy Network's media player seems to be having problems and I personally haven't been able to watch more than a few seconds of anything on that Canadian site. Worse yet, that site makes my computer (H3070 with 1GB of RAM, running XPSP2) while using IE7 and consistently crashes Flock 0.9.1. Pity.
    Meanwhile, Viacom is offering all clips of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart since 1999. That content is now hosted, in a beta version, on TheDailyShow.com (that site is available in Canada). Unfortunately, some features of ComedyCentral's well-known "Motherload" player are absent from the new site's player. For instance, clips can only be viewed in a single format and there's no playlist feature. On the other hand, the new site does make it easy to rate, share, and comment clips, bringing the show closer to the YouTube crowd Viacom might want to woo.

    Funny that TheDailyShow.com should use Google for search... ;-)


    Nomination for Best Title for a Podcast Episode

    Mothers against Windows Vista (Buzz Out Loud 580)
    Literally LOLed!

    Redesign of Concordia University's Website

    Tour of new Concordia University Website - Concordia University - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Though I know there are people out there who are certainly complaining loudly about this new design, I think I like it. Granted, I'm no design expert. In fact, I usually don't react very strongly to page designs. But this one has a nice effect on me. I think it strikes an appropriate balance between simplicity and content. It's also a step in the direction of consistency in design, which seems to be a much more effective approach than what was previously available.
    I also like some of the new features, including microformats and, more relevant for my use of the site, the new map. I used the new map just today to make sure the GM building was the one I thought it was (it is) and found the mapping system quite efficient. I do like Google Maps.

    Vieux média et blogues à Montréal

    J'ai plus tellement l'habitude de visionner du contenu formatté aussi clairement télévision que ça, mais c'est amusant à voir, surtout pour ceux qui étaient présents à cette rencontre.
    montreal.tv - Blog Montreal, les blogueurs de Montr�al se rencontrent mensuellement au bar La Quincaillerie sur la rue Rachel sur le Plateau
    (Piston, piston, piston...)


    Zotero as Webware?

    More as a reminder to myself that it'd be fun to experiment with some use of Zotero as a Google-type Webware reference manager including the actual texts (indexed PDFs, etc.). Kind of an integration of features from RefWorks, Spurl.net, Plum.net, Google Browser Sync, Del.icio.us, Firefox Scrapbook, Facebook, Moodle, GTD, and Windows Live Writer. Sounds like a weird mix but I see a pattern, there. Kind of like the "optimal bookmark manager" I've been thinking about. It'd take a bit too long to flesh it out just right now. Ah, well...


    Dieu du ciel Bottles

    Just passed (around 4:30p) by Délires du terroir. They have three Ddc beers: Fumisterie, Route des épices, Corne du diable. Knew Dieu du ciel was going to release bottled beer soon. Apparently, these beers have been there for about two weeks. My Net connection is down so I'm typing this in OneNote to blog it. Still, I mean to send it to the MontreAlers mailing-list.

    As you can guess, I'm not thinking of styles and some of my taste associations may seem off. Perception, by definition, is subjective.



    Surprisingly big bubbles in bottle.

    Clear, pumpkin ale orange, in the 11-13 SRM range (comparing to Beer Tools Pro), good head.

    Overall profile: regular Qc micro, rather clean.

    Normal carbonation in glass, decent to good head retention.

    Aromas not overpowering, blended hops/malt/hemp.

    Medium-level but somewhat harsh bitterness, probably from hemp combination, lingering

    Quite earthy, a bit piney in hops.

    Malt backbone, graininess, some chewiness. Not that dissimilar from l'Amère à boire's typical malt profiles. Can even understand the comparison with German ales, though that's pushing it.

    Even Scotch ale-ish kind of thing, somewhat caramelly

    Some oxidation? If so, less than many other beers. Probably just impression from hops.

    Goes well with food. Tried with bagel but would clearly go well with many other things. Good reason to have it in bottles (or growlers). Ddc isn't the best place for food and beer pairings.

    Warming improves maltiness, getting closer to Scotch ale.

    Route des épices

    Copper with red highlights (15-16 SRM?), decent to good head.

    Low aroma, vague graininess, subdued spiciness, more hop-like than peppercorn, something of a vague metallic aroma

    Explosion of flavours, floral part of pepper, almost vegetable-like, light plum-like fruit, then pepper all of a sudden.

    Prickly carbonation intensified by pepper.

    Lingering pepperiness.

    Malt settles in. Crystal malt, not much rye. Some residual sweetness.

    Almost hot pepper with some smoke and roastiness. Chipotle!

    Some fruitiness coming back. Not exactly apricot-like but… What's that fruit? Nectarine? Passion fruit??

    Every sip, the pepper comes late in the taste but lingers.

    As it warms up, more of a syrupy malt aroma. Similar to the Fumisterie profile earlier. Caramelly as in long wort boil (more than decoction or specialty malts). It probably does come from specialty malts but it tastes more like what wort smells like when you caramelise it.

    Corne du diable

    A bit lighter in colour than Fumisterie, maybe closer to 10-11 SRM. Thick pillowy head, some big bubbles, average head retention.

    Prominent hop aroma, earthy, minty, something reminiscent of old or high alpha hops?

    Balanced flavours, some maltiness, not that much bitterness, some residual sweetness.

    Hop profile more prominent in aroma than flavour, still present. A bit less earthy, a bit more piney.

    Vague notion of candied pineapple.

    Surprisingly low body, something almost watery/aqueous.

    Sharply dropping flavours, not really lingering. Maybe some candied lemon zest.

    As it warms up, some flavours are separating, blending less. Maltiness similar to others but hop earthiness more prominent. Maybe a bit of alcohol taste. Rounder aroma. Bit more malt in the aroma, hop profile closer to floral. Increasing caramel. Something sweet but balanced by the earthy hops. Malts fused in a way similar to several Benelux British ales.

    Lost mint aroma and older hops, gaining slight spicy.

    The earthiness is about as strong as Aaron's Plywood the Adler overhopped beer but the bitterness level is surprisingly low.

    Got a fruit in there again that is difficult to pinpoint. Something sweet but subtle. Dried out grapefruit?

    That's not grapefruit: it's grapefruit skin! Pithy!

    There might be some Cascade-like grapefruit hops but the hop profile is really focused on the earthiness. Almost mossy.

    Medium mineral content. Think slick granite (not really dissolving in the beer, just an impression of mineralness).

    Eventually something vaguely soapy.


    I've tried them all at the pub in the past but I can't really compare the bottled versions with what I remember from the pub. They all feel similar to yet quite different from the pub originals. As enjoyable if not more. Of course, the pepper in Route and the Corne's hops are unmistakable and directly reminiscent of the tap versions. But there are things in these beers that I don't remember from the pub's batches. Maybe I was never careful enough to think about differences as the beers warm up but the effect is quite striking, in all three cases. They seem to merge on a kind of flavour which reminds me of a scotch ale, a smoked porter, or an oak-aged barleywine. Something in the malty-caramelly range.

    All of these would compare favourably to a lot of bottled beers available in Qc. In fact, they would fit in U.S. flavour ranges, especially in the Northeast. Of course, these three are pretty much in the British palette (especially in Corne's earthiness but also in the other two's overall profiles). Not really estery or heavy in diacetyl, but kind of like clean yet tasty versions of British Ales. AFAICT, the next bottled beers will tap Ddc's Belgian expertise.


    Though elaborate and wordy, my descriptions are probably way off if compared with standards. But that's the beauty of a complex creation: it can have different effects on different people!

    In this case, I'm guessing I'm hungry for a thick grilled steak because I keep thinking steak would go well with any of these. Very obvious with Route.


    I'd encourage anyone to try these beers. I'd say my favourite is Route with Corne a close second and Fumiste a not too distant third.


    Beer Ecology: Getting It Right

    A nice thing about today's world is that comments to newspaper articles are often more insightful than those articles themselves.

    globeandmail.com: Will going for a cold one give the planet a hangover? - Comments


    Genetics and (National) Culture

    A look at the interaction between genetics and social environment in the gregariousness associated with Williams Syndrome. It could be useful to define the concept of culture more carefully.

    read more | digg story

    The Future Is In The Past

    Saw this one on Sivacracy. I like the fact that most of the computers we saw are Macs.

    Embedded Video

    Blogged with Flock



    Je suis déjà nostalgique. Pas tant du grand Boris que d'une certaine femme qui me hante et qui quitte pour une aventure catalane...

    free music


    The Slashdot Model (Spoof)

    College Humor is achieving Onion-like insight with some of their videos. (A bit vulgar, though.)
    This one is about business meetings using the Slashdot/Digg model for interactions.


    Schools and Social Networking

    The news item itself is somewhat confusing, seems rather one-sided, and over-uses statistical frequencies. But the issue at stake is quite interesting. It seems that, in the United States, many school administrations are greatly restricting the use of social networking and other online tools out of unfounded fears about the dangers of online communication. At the same time, educators and technology enthusiasts alike are finding ways to integrate social networking and other online tools in learning or teaching strategies.

    read more | digg story


    Anthropological Convenience

    Hugh Laurie - Biography
    On Cambridge: 'I went there to row. I'll be blunt with it. It's been ten years, and I think the admissions tutor can take it now...but that's really what I went for, and anthropology was the most convenient subject to read while spending eight hours a day on the river.'


    Openness and Research

    To avoid confusion related to "Open Source" in the memetic marketplace, Jean-Claude Bradley proposes "Open Notebook Science" to describe the process of making data available during experimental research (in Bradley's case, a chemistry laboratory's preliminary data).
    Drexel CoAS E-Learning: Open Notebook Science
    Interesting approach. As the fields in which I spend most of my time are often said not to be scientific in the strongest sense, I'd probably prefer "Open Notebook Research" to Bradley's "Open Notebook Science," but the "open notebook" idea seems to apply equally well to Wet Sciences, Soft Sciences, Hard Sciences, and Humanities.

    Blogged with Flock



    Ça y est!
    La version «sociale» du navigateur de Mozilla, Flock, supporte maintenant la vérification orthographique en continu.
    Honnêtement, sans cette fonction d'apparence si simple, je n'avais pas vraiment l'intention d'utiliser Flock. L'idée, c'est que je passe pas mal de temps à écrire, quand je suis dans un navigateur. Que ce soit un billet de blogue (comme celui-ci) ou un message électronique dans Gmail, j'écris plus que je ne lis. Et j'ai vraiment besoin d'une vérification orthographique quand j'écris.
    La version 0.9 de Flock, qui ajoute cette fonction, semble très différente de la version 0.7 que j'avais utilisée pendant un certain temps. J'ai pas encore fait le tour des nouveautés mais on dirait que les développeurs de ce logiciel ont beaucoup réfléchi avant de rendre cette version publique. D'ailleurs, je crois saveur que cette nouvelle version s'est fait attendre un certain temps puisqu'il me semble me rappeler qu'elle devait être mise à la disposition de tout un chacun il y a déjà plusieurs mois.
    C'est en fait grâce à un commentaire d'un poditeur de la balado-diffusion Buzz Out Loud que j'ai appris la sortie de cette nouvelle version.

    Blogged with Flock

    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


    Women Change

    Quite convincing on the changes in visual appearance and woman beauty.


    Systèmes de parenté

    Envoyé par la soeur de ma mère. Auteur inconnu. Qui veut faire le diagramme?


    Il y a bien des années
    Quand j'avais 23 ans,
    J'ai marié une veuve aussi belle qu'on puisse l'imaginer.
    Elle avait une grande fille aux cheveux roux
    Et mon père en est tombé amoureux fou.
    Peu de temps après, ils se sont mariés
    Faisant ainsi de mon père, mon gendre,
    Ce qui changea énormément ma vie.
    Ma fille était alors ma mère
    Puisqu'elle était la femme de mon père.
    Pour compliquer les choses encore plus,
    Malgré que cela me remplit de joie,
    Je devins papa d'un beau petit garçon.
    Mon petit bébé devint donc le beau-frère de mon père
    Et, par le fait-même, mon oncle,
    Et cela m'attristait beaucoup.
    S'il était mon oncle, il était aussi le frère de la grande fille
    De la veuve qui, bien sur, était ma belle-mère.
    La femme de mon père eut un garçon
    Et celui-ci devint alors mon petit-fils
    Puisqu'il était le garçon de ma fille.
    Ma femme est maintenant la mère de ma mère
    Et cela me rend dingue.
    Parce que même si elle est ma femme,
    Elle est aussi ma grand-mère.
    Si ma femme est ma grand-mère,
    Je suis alors son petit-fils.
    Et à chaque fois que j'y pense
    Ça me faiti monter sur mes grands chevaux.
    Parce que maintenant, je suis devenu
    Un des cas les plus étranges :
    En tant que mari de ma grand-mère,
    Je suis mon propre grand-père.


    Learning Styles

    Just filled in a questionnaire about learning styles after reading about it on a secondary school forum which mentioned on a Moodle forum.

    Though there are some issues with the way learning styles are theorised, I find quite appealing the notion that flexibility/diversity in teaching methods relates to flexibility/diversity in learning styles.

    One problem with such questionnaires has to do with introspection which, as many cognitive scientists would argue, is unreliable as a way to learn about thinking. Of course, reliability and accuracy might not be the only features of the answers we get. But since such questionnaires are used to reveal patterns, the unreliability of introspection can be an important issue to discuss.

    Filled in the questionnaire twice. The first time, I was probably trying to get a specific result, even without noticing. The second time, I tried to be as much of a realist as I could be and I think it worked. (Although, I may have tried even harder to get a different result.)
    My results (on the second pass):
    • Visual: 3
    • Aural: 13
    • Read/Write: 12
    • Kinesthetic: 7
    Those results make me multimodal aural and read/write, in the model used for this questionnaire. I think it's pretty accurate. Not that it draws a complete picture of my learning (and teaching) habits, but it does summarise some of my broad tendencies.
    What hides behind such numbers is context. Though "learning by doing" isn't my forte, there are many situations in which it's my main learning mode. In fact, I really enjoy the playfulness of this "kinesthetic" mode of learning. Though I'm almost not visual at all, my visual memory really isn't that bad and I do rely on visual memory in several contexts. Websites and presentations with a lot of audio tend to annoy me. Part of the reason the read/write mode is almost as important for me as the aural mode is that most academic activities are associated with reading and writing.
    Not that any of those issues are contradicting the model. Those who use the VARK (visual, aural, read/write, kinesthetic) model clearly take context into account (especially since multimodality is the most common pattern). My own emphasis on context is certainly linked to my ethnographic approach. And habits of connected learning.

    Though the sensory model is appealing and widespread (even outside learning institutions), there are other approaches to the diversity of learning habits. For instance, I got much inspiration from a model described by Olivia Rovinescu, director of Concordia's Centre for Teaching and Learning Services. From what I remember of that model, critical thinking is conceived in connection with stages in cognitive development. As far as I can tell, Rovinescu's model relates to a reevaluation of W.B. Perry's work (which, itself, was based on Piaget's work). As an informal learner of such pedagogical theories, I'm quite taken by several approaches to learning described by the models themselves. For one thing, these models help me describe my own learning habits and strategies.

    Should I now take MBTI tests? ;-)


    Consoled from Life

    They can hurt me, jail my body
    I'll still be free
    I've got the solace of you
    Living Colour - Solace of You Lyrics



    Learning Materials (was: PowerPoint and Teaching Effectiveness?)

    Thinking about teaching, yet again...
    From a post on a Moodle forum.
    This thread almost had the effect of an intervention, on me. Maybe my use of bullet points on slides is not as appropriate as it should be. As a victim of Steve Jobs's RDF, I would prefer doing Jobs-style (or Lessig-style) presentations, instead of following bullet points on slides.
    My main excuse to use slides is that I'm really absent-minded and I tend to go on tangents. Slides help me improvise my lectures as they: remind me of what I want to discuss, are easy to time, are easy to read while lecturing, and are clearly structured.
    Some of my most honest students have told me (in course evaluations) that I should dispense with slides. The reason I still use slides is pretty much because other students react strongly if I go too far on a tangent and they don't know where I'm going. With a slide, they can at least tell where I'm at.

    But lecturing is just one part of the story.
    I just gave my last lecture of the semester. Only lectured for a short period of time as the rest of the course meeting was devoted to preparing students for the exam. The highlight today was that I was able to build up exam questions with a relatively large number of students. Those questions will be on the final exam and I'm convinced that the process helped students way beyond the scope of the exam.

    Slides, lecture notes, textbooks, presentations, lessons, podcasts, wikis, blogs, links, webpages... All of these are pretty much what I would call "learning materials." Been thinking quite a lot about learning materials recently and will be holding a session on learning materials at the Spirit of Inquiry conference organised by McGraw-Hill/Ryerson and Concordia. My main ideas with those learning materials are that they can be free (as in speech and/or as in beer), open (access, -ended), and flexible (customizable). I'd like participants at the conference to have fun with these ideas on learning matetrials. Mashing up on mashups and mash-ups, Lessig's Free Culture and Creative Commons, Wesch's "Web 2.0" video ethnography, Baraniuk's free coursework materials, MIT's OpenCourseWare, Wired Magazine's Radical Transparency, and the Cluetrain legacy.

    There are technical issues and Moodle can help. For instance, with editing and repurposing content.
    I still don't have the perfect workflow which would allow me to use outlines to produce both slides and lecture notes at the same time, post everything on Moodle, link everything with podcasts, collaboratively edit content, etc.
    A friend has been using ProfCast with great success. Another friend recently showed me a neat script that he hacked together which allows for seamless integration of wiki-like markup and slide structure. Previously, I've used OmniOutliner with LaTeX, HTML, Keynote, and other file formats (including PPT). I tried Hans Hagen's ConTeXt with little success. I've even started to think that OneNote 2007 might provide a solution. Zoho Notebook looks promising, especially if it can integrate with Zoho Show.

    Many of us do a lot of things with our "learning materials." From producing self-paced slideshows to collaboratively editing textbooks. The content itself can be fairly simple. File formats abound to make it easy for anybody to work with this type of material. Maybe Moodle can help people understand that it's not just a question of coding in some HTML, Flash, or SCORM.

    Free Show: Dakan at Balattou (April 11)

    The main band in which I play, Madou Diarra and Dakan, is playing tomorrow night, April 11, at Club Balattou on Saint-Laurent. Haitian singer Dre-D will play first, at 8:30 p.m. and Dakan will be the second act.
    Free as in "free beer": no cover charge.
    Festival International Nuits d'Afrique de Montréal - World music Musique du monde


    Did Google Lose Its Touch?

    Well, ok, the changes in the APIs might be worth it. But Google's personalised maps feature (MyMaps) don't impress me much. Maybe there's something I didn't get but apart from Google Earth/KML integration, this new feature seems to add relatively little to what other services and mashups have been doing with Google Maps and other map-based online services (Yahoo! Maps, MapQuest, Microsoft's Live Local, Mappy, etc.).
    One thing I expected in creating a new map is that distances would be automatically calculated. Sure, you can get directions with distances. But those directions are based on car driving and you pretty much need to have addresses. Besides, it takes a lot more time to input the data necessary than just drawing a line.
    Actually, I'm still convinced that functionality exist (getting distances by drawing lines) but I haven't seen it yet. Microsoft's Live Local does it.
    In fact, it could be fun to be able to set a distance (that you want to walk, say) and draw around a path which would be equivalent to that distance.
    Someone told me about a Mappy, European map/direction system which takes into account toll roads, gives you an estimated gas consumption and generates maps for pedestrians or for express routes. It also includes public transportation for Paris. I hope that we'll eventually get the same in North America, especially for those of us who aren't so car-centric.
    So, despite its hype for its new map-making feature, is Google losing its touch with creating new tools?
    Official Google Blog: Map-making: So easy a caveman could do it


    eLearning and Creativity

    Yes, the Moodle Community is listening.


    Scouts 19è de la Vérendrye

    Scouts 19è de la Vérendrye
    Originally uploaded by Enkerli.
    Quand on parle de petit monde...
    Jean-Sébastien Thibault, qui se faisait appeler «Sébastien» à l'époque, vient de m'envoyer ces photos de la troupe de scouts dont nous faisions partie, la 19è de la Vérendrye.
    Vous savez me reconnaître?


    Hooked on Bread

    Only noticed the Chowhound post about Lahey just now.
    What I liked about the video "Minimalist" Mark Bittman did with "No-Knead Baker" Jim Lahey is that the notion is to "spread the word." I do prefer to spread Lactantia Our Country butter on bread, but "the word" is a more plentiful thing to spread. ;-)

    After blogging about a video showing how to make bread without needing to knead the dough, I did my first batch of no-knead bread. Can't take pictures, unfortunately, but it's a very nice piece.
    As in the video, nice crumb structure. Not as Frenchy, but there are some commonalities.
    One thing I notice is that the contributions of the flour and the yeast really come through. In a sense, it's a very "plain" bread. It's not hiding anything. So you can easily imagine the combinations from this basic recipe.
    One thing I'll experiment with is leavening agent. I have some undrinkable sour beer which worked quite well as a yeast culture for some bread I made. In my mind, the sourness would really fit this bread.


    Fermenting Fun: Bread

    Been experimenting with bread, a bit. Haven't tried this technique yet but it does sound like fun.


    Beatboxing Paris

    Video Concert sauvage dans le m�tro ! - Naturally7, Metro, Paris, Concert, Beatbox - Dailymotion Partagez Vos Videos

    Playful Performativity

    Heard of dissertation-writing through email messages? ;-)
    Was writing a message to Georgina Born based on the talk she gave at McGill yesterday. Willfully playing with diverse levels of informality.
    Here's a slightly edited version of my message (as a placeholder for more of my craaaazy connections of ideas to serve in my research).

    I get the impression that a concept of playfulness may help us connect different issues with which Born's work seems to be dealing. (Recovering from Bourdieu by showing Adorno's limits.)
    It might be that I have been obsessed with play and playfulness. One of my crazier blog entries related to those concepts.
    Yes, it's quite «touffu» (never found the perfect equivalent in English). But there are things which fit in nicely with my approach to "significance, language, music, culture, and society."

    In my mind, there are clear parallels between:
    • Huizinga's and Caillois's notions of play
    • The dramatic dimensions of Turner's approach to ritual
    • The well-known sacred/profane and public/private dichotomies
    • Lévi-Strauss's bricolage and wild (not savage) mind
    • Stone's version of Schutz's ideas about time
    • Post-Lord orality
    • Deleuze and Guattari's rhizome metaphor as applied to social network analysis
    • Nachmanovitch's approach to "Free Play" improvisation in music
    • Bauman's notion of performance
    • Wilson and Sperber's model for relevance applied outside of ostensive-referential communicative processes
    • Molino's "total musical fact"
    • What's lacking in Bourdieu's conception of improvisation
    • The contextual negotiation of social identity
    • Trendier notions of agency and performativity in North American social sciences
    • Microsocial interactions
    • Tradition as the organic equivalent of institutional "canon" as "continuity through change"
    Haven't packaged all of these together yet, but it should come up soon.

    As anybody can guess, I'm a typical ethnographer (holist, culturalist, particularist and, yes, even relativist). These concepts all fit in my own fieldwork practises (dialogue with participants in Malian hunter music-verbal performance events). So maybe these connections don't fit in the late national era European cases with which Born works. Was just trying to bounce some ideas off her, see what sticks.


    Wishful Thinking for eLearning (was: Moodle as New Facebook)

    An edited version of a message I sent to the Moodle Lounge, earlier today. Moodle is a free and open source course management system (or CMS, content management system, learning management system...). It has some similarities to Sakai, which is being developed by different academic institutions including Indiana University. In my teaching, I've used (in decreasing order of usefulness, in my mind): Moodle, Sakai, Oncourse, Blackboard, and WebCT.

    On my main blog, Michael Penney sent an elaborate comment about Moodle's
    upcoming Facebook-like features. I still need to wrap my head around what
    social networking features in Moodle would look like, but I'm quite glad that
    people are taking it up. I really do see a lot of potential there.
    As luck would have it, I also got a comment from Don Hinkelman about student-generated groups (different entry on the same blog). Seems like my thinking isn't that off-base (though it's overly enthusiastic, obviously).

    Without thinking too much about the technical details, I'm brainstorming with myself about what the ideal CMS integrating social networking features would be like.
    My ideas are mostly based on Moodle but could eventually work with other CMS, including some blogging platforms. Obviously, a course management system has some essential features which are different from most blogging and content management systems. For instance, a course has specific roles for instructors and students, an issue which sparked a rather sad legal case from the Blackboard corporation (current owners of patents for both Blackboard and WebCT). Courses imply assignments and gradebooks, which have little equivalent in the content management, blogging, or social networking worlds. But today's "eLearning" (or computer-mediated pedagogical techniques) does resemble blogging, content management, and social networking. The motivation for my blogging (and posting to the Moodle Lounge) about these connections is Michael Wesch's comments about Facebook supplementing the needs for course management software. As I had personally been having some of the same reflections, it sparked my interest further.
    Here's what I posted on the Moodle Lounge:
    Each member (teacher, student, administrator) of each Moodle installation
    (each campus, say) has an ID which can work on any Moodle installation.
    Hopefully, PeopleSoft/SIS integration isn't an issue. People can have
    multiple roles in multiple groups, some of which are really networks of
    "friends" (in the MySpace/Facebook sense) while others are actual courses. A
    person's main page is easy to use and can serve all at the same time as a
    public blog, a portal, a "comment wall," a profile, a host for
    "user-generated content," and an eLearning solution. For students, feedback
    on assignments for different courses is aggregated. Teachers can communicate
    about students across different courses. Anyone can post blog entries using
    third-party tools and those entries can be sent to specific groups or
    displayed publicly. Blocks in a user's main page can be moved around and
    customised, using some easy-to-understand AJAX technology as in Google Page
    Creator, WordPress.com's Sidebar Widgets, or Blogger Beta. Different
    templates are available but can easily be customised by users through both
    GUI and code. Users can "borrow" content from one another while maintaining
    links and Creative Commons licenses. Large files are distributed through
    peer-to-peer technology. Server administrators can limit bandwidths for
    different groups and individuals. Podcasts are P2Ped. Different file formats
    can be viewed directly in a page: PDF, MP3, MPEG, RTF, Word, PPT... Content
    can easily be repurposed from, say, OPML to PPT and hosted HTML. Teams can be
    setup by users themselves or by people with specific roles (such as a
    teacher). Public pages could serve as centralised profiles. Activities from
    other users recognised as "friends" are automatically aggregated, depending
    on the level of "trust" allowed by users themselves. Specific Skype- or
    ICQ-like icons for "I am available for discussion" would appear in the list
    of "friends." People's calendars could be aggregated (upcoming shows,
    teamwork, etc.). Different kinds of content (blog entries, assignments, etc.)
    could be sent from an email account, a phone, etc. ID pictures would be the
    default picture instead of the yellow happy face. Current items (weeks or
    topics) from different courses would be aggregated. Notification of private
    messages would appear as a mailbox icon instead of a popup window. Users
    could set the level of privacy for their Moodle activities. Browser toolbars
    would ease things like collecting images and links. The "insert link" button
    would communicate with a type of browser history function (maybe through a
    del.ico.us-like or Spurl-like feature) to list possible links to insert.
    Content submission (blog entries, assignments...) would be confirmed, with a
    list of links to a user's submitted content, with timestamps and versions.
    All content available to a user could be searched through a simple interface.
    A private Sakai-like filemanager would make Moodle the ideal way to back up
    important files. A user's connection to former groups (classes, etc.) would
    be maintained. Alumni could keep their Moodle account even if they lose the
    email privilege at the institution (maybe through a third-party host which
    would still maintain the links).

    Whew! I know some of these things sound completely absurd while others are
    already doable. Just thinking out loud (or brainstorming with myself).

    Think I'm crazy? You ain't heard nuthin' yet!

    Some quick ideas for yet other features (in no particular order):
    • PDA integration (calendaring, outlining, presentations...).
    • Event organisation (à la Linkup, Meetup...).
    • Project management (meetings, progress, etc.).
    • Whiteboarding and realtime collaborative editing.
    • SMS support.
    • Music/video sharing, recommendations, etc. (Ruckus and MySpace meet YouTube and Last.fm)
    • Reporting on privacy issues ("Am I making Too Much Information available to everyone?").
    • Statistics on profile views, pings, etc.
    • Import/export to blog platforms.
    • Direct access to library material (both on- and off-campus).
    • Library references can be directly imported, along with a virtual copy of the text itself (CiteULike meets RefWorks, BibDesk, and Endnote).
    • Integration of searches through online reference databases (library catalogues, Web of Knowledge, Google Scholar, etc.).
    • Full versioning system for any file kept online (subversion meets Wiki).
    • Online applications (à la Zoho Office or Google Docs and Spreadsheets).
    • People can recommend or ask to be introduced to new people (à la LinkedIn).
    • Apparently relevant job offers posted directly on a user's page (à la Monster/Workopolis).
    • Full support for tagging content (à la Technorati).
    • Clear distinctions between private (personal journal), restricted access (assignments, "private messages"), and public (blog entries, forum posts) content.
    • Full support for social bookmarking with default tags for groups (or courses).
    • File synchronisation.
    • Assignments automatically checked for plagiarism.
    • Flexible glossary feature (not all entries are automatically linked).
    • Consistent keyboard shortcuts throughout the platform.
    • OpenID support (not mentioned before but implied in other comments).
    • Basic mailing-list features.
    Yeah, I know. It's more than mere wishful thinking. But I can easily think of ways integrate all those neat "Web 2.0 technologies" can really make sense for not only campuses but social networks of avid learners.
    In fact, most of these features already exist elsewhere. And I keep "predicting " that blogging and social networking will merge with other online uses:
    my guess is that community-building and social-networking will become increasingly important with blogs. Tomorrow's blogging platforms are likely to get increasingly like, say, Facebook. Interestingly, LiveJournal which has always been strong on the community-oriented features seems not to be capturing much of the newer crowds.
    As I also see Moodle (or another learning-oriented CMS) becoming more like Facebook/MySpace/LiveJournal/WordPress.com, I see the connections in multiple ways.
    What is kind of funny is that, although I have profiles on diverse social networking sites (including several Facebook profiles from different institutions, a basic LinkedIn account, etc.), I don't tend to use any of those services much. SixDegrees.com is the first social networking site in which I tried to involve most of my actual friends and acquaintances. Before it went away, my network was somewhat established but still nowhere near the breadth of the social networks in which I'm active. When SixDegrees did collapse, I had lost all those connections and rarely tried to remake them in LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, or LiveJournal.
    What's perhaps funnier is that my most active Facebook account (though still very low in activity) seems to be the one from Bridgewater State but the people it brings in tend to be former students from Concordia and IU South Bend. A system-wide Moodle account could eventually solve this (not to mention that I could transfer course material from one institution to the next).
    Ah, well...


    The Onion rules
    Originally uploaded by adactio.
    Can't wait to move to Austin. Sounds like a nicer place than I thought... ;-)


    Do I get it?

    Maybe not. There could be a connection between an online word processor and a blog editor, of course. But I expect blogging tools to have specific fields for titles, categories/tags, and trackbacks/pings.


    Making a Scene

    Those who think bloggers have no social life should either think again or attend a meeting of the YulBloggers.
    Here's a list of some of the people present: Metroblogging Montreal: Biggest Yulblog EVAR!
    And some people's reactions to the event:
    In English (or bilingual English/French):
    In French:
    Lots of people, all of them fascinating. Lots of fun, much of it free and open discussion about just anything. Fair amount of diversity, though recognizable features of many bloggers. Fair bit of bilingualism, much of it French-speakers speaking English. Great sense of community, despite a few definite subgroups. Good number of new people, none of whom seemed intimidated. All sorts of subtle things happening between some individuals (new relationships?). Formal proof that bloggers aren't anti-social.

    All in all, a great party. Picture it this way: a group of about 80 people take over a bar on a Wednesday night. They spend the whole night (8p to some time past midnight) talking about all sorts of great subjects while drinking good amounts of beer and mixed drinks, leaving pretty good tips to the very welcoming staff. Many of those present talk publicly about their experience the following morning.

    Toponymie montréalaise

    Chez la panthère rousse: Victoire!!!
    L'Avenue du Parc ne changera pas de nom! Comme je n'ai pas écouté les nouvelles, je viens de l'apprendre grâce à Laiya de Metroblogging Montreal.
    Et, justement, c'est Metroblogging Montréal qui nous set de lien. ;-)

    Blogging from MS Word???

    Hate to say this but… The last post was posted from Microsoft Word 2007 and, well, it's not as bad as I thought it might be as a blogging platform.

    Of course, it doesn't do categories in Blogger, it has no repository of blog posts (à la Qumana), it doesn't maintain a link history for easy linking (though it does keep a list of recent documents), it seems to only support one category per Wordpress.com post, its support of "advanced blogging features" seems lacking, etc.

    But, at least, it works with the new version of Blogger. What's a half-w00t?

    Brikka Bliss

    (Reposted from CoffeeGeek)

    I love it when I get one of those. A cup which is just awe-friggerly-some! What's cooler is that I can be reasonably certain that the next one will be very similar to this one.

    So, this is a blend of two beans, Burundi Mumigwa and Brazil Santos. Both roasted well into second crack. Did that two days ago, I think.

    The first cups weren't so good. Kind of harsh. Maybe because my previous batches were with less-awesome beans.

    And my two moka pot brews this morning tasted, to me, something like Charbucks drip. You get the roastiness and some kind of spicy/wild character but on a cup without any depth. These two batches were fairly weak (low grounds to water ratio) but, with lighter roasts, I get a more multi-dimensional cup.

    But now, this Brikka version. Neat!

    I still get roasty, with a bit of smoke and wood (the Charbucks profile). But with many other notes. And it really is multidimensional as I get harmony (several notes at the same time) and  melodic development (a sequence of notes, with some repetition, tonal centres, rhythm...). I got a short note of Japanese dry sake. I get nuts. I get dark, dry fruits. I get earthy, muddy, dark soil. Some faint tomato/brothy umami/savoury. And many other notes which are modulating to other tonalities but are still very consonant. As it's cooling down, those notes are muted but still sounding. The whole cup was an experience.

    What's neat is that it wasn't as full-bodied as most cups I get. More nuanced. Like an ensemble mezzo-forte (as opposed to a solo fortissimo). Made it easier to perceive differences.

    Oh, wait! The second piece is starting!

    Starts with tomato, gets into curry very quickly. Now we get woodfire smoke. And that was just the first few bars. Let's take a sip... Velvetty, creamy. Another sip: crescendo to apricot nut. Back to the woody motif. Lingering notes of fire crackling. Smoke as a soft drone throughout this section. A sweet, short melody in the higher range. Warm, brassy notes. A few cherries, here and there. Did I hear pepper? Nah, just a faint spicy note, calling back the curry introduction. Surprise effect! Smoked ham, sforzando! Lingering finish. The whole concert hall is still resonating.