No Food for Thought

Food is something you should provide to your brain long before coming to this blog. You will find no food recipes here, only raw, serious, non-fake news for mature minds.

Launches and updates

admin Saturday August 25, 2012

Around 1997, when I entered high school, I learned HTML (version 3!) and started LinkOPlaza, a website whose purpose was to share links to the webpages I liked. Although I found nice background pictures, and great horizontal rules designs, I never launched LinkOPlaza (if you find any reference to "LinkOPlaza" today, these are unrelated to the real LinkOPlaza, which Angelfire must have gotten rid of at some point - disk space for polychrome images is so costly!).

On my eighteenth birthday, Tiki 1.7 was released. This was the first CMS I downloaded and tried. At that time, I was working for Ido. Tiki was a great tool so I could build a website focusing on its content, rather than on its implementation. However, IdoWiki, my project to create a central website about Ido, was a lot more ambitious than LinkOPlaza. There was also a new technical difficulty - as a PHP website, I needed to find a real host. The free hosters wouldn't do, and I was on the low budget of a student working for practically minimal wages in the summer, so this was an important barrier to launch IdoWiki.

The final element against IdoWiki was… Tiki. I hadn't realized the tool I had chosen, which was not even 1 year old, was more beta than production software. I started working on improving Tiki, and I found that more rewarding than building IdoWiki. In the end, I effectively became a Tiki developer and abandoned IdoWiki. I would abandon Ido altogether soon after. This episode would concretize my taste for software development and determine my career choice. Yet… I still hadn't finished any website.

Today, I'm launching a true personal website using Tiki as www.philippecloutier.com (succeeding my minimal static personal homepage). This project was a lot more reasonable than IdoWiki - much smaller in content, and based on a tool which will soon have 10 years of maturity. Still, this site is not quite finished - a few pages are too long and probably not accessible enough. The translation to French is also just started.

The Tiki project now released version 9, highlighting its maturity by making its first serious commitment to support. Tiki 9 will be supported for 3 years, until at least November 2015.

I am proud to present my personal website using Tiki 9. This site currently presents my interests, projects, and this new blog. It simply uses blogs and wiki pages.

I must thank my long-time friend Xavier Douville for offering to host this website free of charge (on his Debian server). I must also thank all my Tiki colleagues for making Tiki 9 possible, helping me to create this website. I hit my fair share of bugs creating this site, but the good news for you is that I contributed fixes for most of these!

So, 15 years after starting LinkOPlaza, I am finally launching for the first time my own website, and after hundreds of commits to Tiki, I am becoming a real Tiki user! In fact, I am also becoming a mere Tiki user. After 3 years of freelancing, it was time to try something different. Since July, I am working fulltime as a developer for a Quebec tour operator. The Tiki experiment was worth it; I learned a lot as a freelance and it was much fun. It's sad to stop it entirely, but one has to make choices, and my new workplace has new challenges. I have had much less Tiki time for several months, and I'm only making my new status official by announcing that I'm resigning from Tiki's security team.

The golden opportunity I had would not have been possible without Tiki, the community of developers behind it, and the community of users which allows developers to work on Tiki. Thanks to my colleagues and customers for your trust.

Finally, I hope you appreciate the result of all my efforts and experiences. If not, I've enabled comments on blog posts (if this goes well, I'll do the same on wiki pages). And if you do like it, feelbe free to use it. Oh, and the same is true for Tiki 9. If you'd like to try it, it's free to try, and equally free to adopt. Enjoy!

Afghan schoolgirls, mass psychogenic illness and sources of conflict

admin Monday July 9, 2012
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote:
Misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent occurrence.

There is a lot of truth in Goethe's remark. But a list of sources of conflicts couldn't be complete without imagination. We all know that imagination can create fear. From there, there is only a small step to say that imagination can cause conflicts. A confirmation seems to come from an unlikely place - Afghan schoolgirls.
From Slashdot:

A number of incidents at schools in Afghanistan, especially girls' schools, have been attributed to poisoning by the Taliban. The World Health Organization has investigated 32 of them but found no poison. "Mass Psychological Illness is the most probable cause," they conclude, the Telegraph reports. The Taliban has consistently denied poisoning schools and have even consented to allow the education of girls in a deal with the government which allows significant Taliban control over the curriculum.

Linus Torvalds awarded the Millennium Technology Prize

admin Wednesday June 13, 2012

So, for the first time, the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize was awarded to both laureates, among which Linus Torvalds, for creating "the Linux kernel, a new open source operating system".

It is certainly sad to notice that even Technology Academy Finland still has such a poor understanding of what Linux is and how free software development works (at least, I honestly didn't expect the academy to call Linux "new").
Thankfully, the feeling of sadness is definitely neutralized by the thought of how Stallman must be reacting lol

ADHD = Young?

admin Thursday March 1, 2012

Have you ever read on a mental disorder and found its description to be incredibly vague? Some diagnosis procedures look so relative that it's hard to believe diagnostic opinions can be trusted. If you ever wondered whether some diagnoses were handed out because something's wrong, or simply because some parameter was above some arbitrary threshold, you need to read ADHD may be overdiagnosed in youngest classmates.

Thankfully, even though I was born in August, I haven't been diagnosed with ADHD (so far, but then if the study is right, that's getting less likely at 26). As the study brilliantly analyses:

Although the alternative interpretations that underdiagnosis takes place in older children or that the social pressures on younger children amplify the symptoms of the disorder must also be considered, the evidence of a relative-age effect in our study raises the concern of overdiagnosis and overtreatment of ADHD in younger children within a grade. [...] Inappropriate diagnosis of ADHD in a child born late in the year might lead parents and teachers to treat the child differently or adversely change the child’s self-perceptions.
[...] Our data underscore the dimensional and developmental nature of the symptoms of ADHD and the impact of contextual expectations on the likelihood of the diagnosis being made. Age-corrected rating scales and developmentally appropriate evaluation are therefore essential, but such a strategy may not be enough to fully eliminate the relative-age effect. Confounding influences may still exist, such as the expectations of parents and teachers, or the child’s self-perception in the classroom. For example, inadvertent reinforcement may magnify the apparently inattentive, distracting or impulsive behaviours of the youngest children in a class, such as escaping from a difficult academic task (negative reinforcement) or receiving attention from teachers and peers for disruptive behaviour (positive reinforcement). A previous study found that teachers’ perceptions of child behaviour were more strongly related to a child’s age within a grade than were parental perceptions, suggesting that
[T]eachers’ opinions of children are the key mechanisms driving the relationship between school starting age and ADHD diagnoses.

Either ADHD needs to be seriously revisited, or the impact of classes on children has been seriously underestimated. Whatever the issue(s) is/are, let's actively prevent a defect of attention from this disorderly state of affairs.

How Doctors Die

admin Friday December 30, 2011

From Slashdot:

Dr. Ken Murray, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at USC, writes that doctors don't die like the rest of us. What's unusual about doctors is not how much treatment they get when faced with death themselves, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves because they know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. 'Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call "futile care" being performed on people,' writes Murray. 'What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, "Promise me if you find me like this that you'll kill me."' Feeding into the problem are unrealistic expectations of what doctors can accomplish. Many people think of CPR as a reliable lifesaver when, in fact, the results are usually poor. If a patient suffers from severe illness, old age, or a terminal disease, the odds of a good outcome from CPR are infinitesimal, while the odds of suffering are overwhelming.

Why Walking through a Doorway Makes You Forget

admin Wednesday December 14, 2011
You're sitting at your desk in your office at home. Digging for something under a stack of papers, you find a dirty coffee mug that’s been there so long it’s eligible for carbon dating. Better wash it. You pick up the mug, walk out the door of your office, and head toward the kitchen. By the time you get to the kitchen, though, you've forgotten why you stood up in the first place, and you wander back to your office, feeling a little confused—until you look down and see the cup.

For the curious, here's an interesting article about our beloved but faulty brains which would explain this common situation.