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19 December
2006

This past weekend Chris and I went and took the rescue diver's course in Toronto. This combined a "First Emergency Responder's" course on CPR, making splints and suchlike with a course of how to recover non-breathing divers, how to subdue divers in a panic, and how to tow tired divers to shore. The course is probably one of the most substative single PADI scuba courses. It not only includes some useful (and potentially life-saving) scuba skills, but a lot of general knowledge that is good anyplace.

It's a tiring course and we had to drag each other around the pool in various ways. The most spectacular part is learning to essentially disable a diver on the surface who might attack you because they are experiencing irrational panic.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
01 January
2007

We celebrated a quiet New Year's at the cottage while Natasha was adventuring in India. On New Year's day the temperature was above freezing. Nicholas and Gregory still managed to go skiing, but it was foggy and lots of trails at Mt Garceau were closed (10 out of 27 trails open.) There were very few people there and we felt sorry to the ski operators. That said, the skiing was still fun and the snow was quite fast since it was borderline icy; we recommend it desipte the lack of snow.


Of course, on New Year's eve we set off a few fireworks on the lake.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
30 January
2007

Today I had lunch with the president of NSERC and a table full of illustrious researchers and administrators from McGill. NSERC is the federal body that funds most academic scientific and engineering research in Canada. Suzanne Fortier began as president of NSERC at the start of 2005 and she had the good grace to visit McGill. give a talk and meet with various people.

She asked us to provide comments of NSERC funding policies and make suggestions for improvement.
Many of the researchers simultaneously praised NSERC's mechanisms for providing funding, but also lamented the the lack of sufficient funds in the Canadian system. Specifically in comparison with other G8 countries, the sizes of the grants available and the diversity of funding opportunities in Canada is too small. This is a particular problem is areas like robotics, where the core infrastructure costs are not moderated lower costs found in Canada (for example the very low cost of tuition doesn't help pay for equipment or off-campus testing). Fortier was very sympathetic regarding the problems faced by researchers in Canada, and was surprising open to suggestions and enthiastic about hearing about our particular research interests.


A hot topic of conversation was the "success rate" of NSERC (National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada) applicants. At NSERC, as opposed to the NSF (National Science Foundation) in the United States, a very large fraction of grant applications get at least some funding. This allows more people to get research money but, since budgets are fixed, means that the total amount per funding project is smaller. An open question is whether NSERC should be more selective and in so doing, it would have more money for those whom is actually chooses to fund. This would be a controversial policy, but one which I think would be good so long as it doesn't go too far. I am aware of a few projects that NSERC funds that don't really lead to significant publications that anybody would read, and hence the funds are not very productive. On the other hand, funding some of these smaller projects has some pedagogical value, but that probably isn't the job of NSERC.

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (1) or Leave a comment |    
26 March
2007

The 2007 Quebec Provincial Election is underway. When I visited two different polling stations this morning and this afternoon, the traffic was very light, but the close election race is supposed to presage a good turnout. Presumably is will appear in the evening before the polls close at 8pm.

As usual, the "PQ" party has a platform that calls for succession from Quebec from Canada. This is a genuine threat and they almost got approval in a past referendum. Two other parties are almost tied in the polls, and the numbers are far too close to call the outcome in advance.

By 10:21pm the election result, a minority Liberal Party government was declared, with the ADQ party in second place. This will probably have a major (negative) impact on the separatist PQ party.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
15 May
2007

The US Attorney General has proposed some astonishly harsh changes to the already Draconian and repressive copyright legislation in place in the United States. As described at CNET, the new laws would criminalize merely "attempting" to infringe copyrights and add additional penalities (to the existing 10 year maximum) for "intended" copyright crimes that had not taken place.

In general I think the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is already too strong, with its prohibition on taking apart devices you personally own. For a person who came to like science and engineering by figuring out electro-mechanical things we had at home, this is an awful prohibition. It also inhibits the creation of devices that leverage existing technology.

Just to be balanced, I think the the DMCA does have some redeeming features. The safe habour component that stipulates how to deal with copyright material placed on public web sites is quite reasonable.

At any rate, if you're in the US this new proposal deserves comment and oppsition.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
20 July
2007

Employee quizzing the crowd

Employee quizzing the crowd

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I stopped in at Chapter's Bookstore in Montreal to drop of our kids just before the release of the new Harry Potter book 7. Even though it was a couple of hours before the book became available, the crowd was large and very enthusiastic. I had hoped to buy a (different) book for myself by it was too difficult to negociate the store.

It was a really great atmosphere, but expectant and positive. Really great.

Followup note: we had ordered our copy from Chapter's by internet using the special Saturday delivery provided for this event by Canada Post. The book arrived at 10:45am Saturday morning and was greeted with even more enthusiasm than I expected.

img_Jul_20_2007_06_52


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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