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Monthly Archives: December 2008

Worio Public Beta is out!


At long last, I can reveal what I’ve been working on for the past year: the public beta version of!

Worio combines search and recommendation with the philosophy that user effort should be kept to a minimum. You can simply use your favourite existing search engine, or Worio’s own, and receive recommendations based on the context of your search. But if you start to save, share and tag pages, Worio learns about your preferences and recommends pages it predicts Salihli you, personally, will be interested in.

Last week we had a combined beta release/demo at the 2008 NIPS conference at the Vancouver Hyatt, complete with Worio t-shirts foisted on everyone in range. The entire Worio Machine Learning team was there, and we were pleased with the response. NIPS is one of the most important Machine Learning conferences, and I know from personal experience that people are not shy about telling you if they don’t like your work.

Even if you’ve tried Worio in its previous incarnations, you might want to check it out again. It’s still in beta, but we’ve come a long way in just a few months. Suggestions and feature requests are most welcome.

reading list

reading list, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Currently reading or about to read.

  • Michael Ignatieff, The Rights Revolution. I figure I should know more about Ignatieff, since it’s currently looking pretty likely he will be our Prime Minister before long.
  • Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope. I meant to read this before the US election, but never got around to it.
  • Roberto Bolano, 2666. I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about the novel, including comparisons to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, my favourite novel.
  • John Hodgman. More Information Than You Require. Maybe not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as The Areas of my Expertise, but just as enjoyable.
  • Nixon at the Movies, Mark Feeney. I’m almost done this, a journalist’s look at Nixon through the movies he watched in the White House, and later movies about him. Much better than it’s gimmicky premise sounds.
  • Something Like an Autobiography, Akira Kurosawa. I’m fascinated by Kurosawa the filmmaker,less so by Kurosawa the man. I’m curious to see how this book changes my understanding of Kurosawa’s films.

the hell just happened?

Jeffrey Simpson has a good essay in the Globe today, summarizing how we got to this past week of politics in Canada. I will say, this is pretty entertaining political theatre, though more the bloodthirsty backstabbing of Richard III than the noble self-sacrifice of Henry V, if I may get all English major for a sec.

I will also say, I have absolutely zero sympathy for any of the key players. To quote a discussion I had in a Thai restaurant, Harper is an asshole, Layton is an asshat, and Dion is just an utter ass. Michael Ignatieff, probably the only national figure I haven’t yet totally given up on, once again proved himself to be the smartest man in the room by half-heartedly joining the high-fives and then quietly backing away while the coalition started handing out fantasy cabinet posts to each other.

Still, can you imagine if this shit were happening during, say, a critical period of a massive global economic meltdown that was expected to cripple the country’s economy for years? Oh, man, that hypothetical situation would suck!

And on that happy note, if you haven’t already seen it, here’s Wednesday’s pre-recorded video address of the man we’re supposed to think should be leader of the country. I can’t help but wonder what the rejected takes look like for this to be the one they went with.

my blatantly ill-informed predictions

Coalition replaces the government. Harper stays on as leader of the opposition, survives a leadership review. Ignatieff becomes unelected PM. Economy worsens. Coalition falls apart. Grits take most of the blame, because nobody really expected anything better from the NDP or Bloc. Election late 2009/early 2010. Grits lose seats, Tories and Bloc gain. CPC is in power again in 2010.

I think I’ll revisit this post in a year and see how spectacularly right and/or wrong I am. Hopefully, I’m wrong. Feel free to leave your own predictions in the comments.

Oh, and also, the scenario I would *like* to see? No coalition. Ignatieff elected as Liberal leader. Grits defeat Tories in a proper election without the support of the NDP and Bloc.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

slumdog-millionaire.jpgThe past few years, I’ve invariably spent much of November in a moody funk. It’s not only my birthday month (which always reminds me I’m not as young as I’d like everybody to think I am), but it’s the first month of deep Vancouver gloom. I wake up before sunrise, go to work surrounded by the looming glass-and-concrete towers of Yaletown reflecting the grey sky back at me, and go back home in darkness again. As much as I love Vancouver, my prairie-bred brain always battles the idea of a sunless winter.

This past weekend was cold wind and pouring rain. I spent Saturday watching TV Carnage and reading about Richard Nixon’s tastes in film, but by Sunday morning, I needed to get out of the house. So I went to my gym and then walked down the street to the Fifth Avenue Cinema to take in a matinee of Slumdog Millionaire. The theatre was nearly full and I ended sitting at the back, next to a 40ish English woman who struck up a conversation with me about India and Danny Boyle. She told me she didn’t know much about the movie but had been to India several times. I told her I was planning to go there with my girlfriend once I finish my degree, and she warned me, as does everybody who has been there, that it was “intense”.

I often end up talking to people when I go to movies by myself, which is kind of odd, because I’m generally more cooly polite than friendly with strangers.

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamel, an Oliver-Twisty character from the slums of Mumbai. He ends up on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, where each of the questions happens to fit like a puzzle piece into his experiences. It’s a neat and intricate bit of plotting, which could have been gimmicky or precious, but Danny Boyle manages to use it as a scaffold to hang the loose and flowing tale together. The story itself starts grimly, almost wallowing in picturesque misery, but actually shows itself to be more of a fairly tale by the time it’s done, with a noble protagonist, evil villains, and a beautiful princess to be rescued. It’s the kind of movie that makes you grateful for your own cushy life, but still leaves you smiling at the end even if it is all really kind of sentimental and preposterous. And frankly, the whole thing is gorgeous: the slums are fetid, but filled with life and motion, train stations are filled with colour, and by the end, we are in 21st century Mumbai, sprouting soaring skyscrapers.

In the end, I found the slick, crowd-pleasing aspects a bit unsatisfying, but I still enjoyed watching it despite myself. Probably endorphins from my workout before the movie. As the credits rolled over a Bollywood dance sequence, the English woman asked me if I still wanted to go to India and I told her I did, more than ever. Then I walked outside and it had finally stopped raining and a slash of mountains and blue sky was visible.