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Talk: Artificial Stupidity

My colleagues and I unexpectedly got asked to give a talk at the Open Source conference, to fill a Friday morning slot. I feel like the third-string rookie in those sports movies, who unexpectedly gets called in to make the Big Play when the star quarterback/batsman/coxswain injures himself and is taken out of play.

Our talk will be called "Building a Smarter Search Engine: Artificial Stupidity". It's about using statistical natural language processing to create the illusion of intelligent search behavior. It's also about finding smart, abandoned ideas from the 1980's and using them to make yourself look like a big innovator. If you are at the conference, I hope you can come. I'll post talk notes here afterwards (but first I have to write them).


Both Aaron Straup Cope and Kate McDonnell took the time to write and explain the whole Moving Day business.

First, Aaron:

My understanding is that it began in Montreal and has spread across the province over the years. I don't know the exact history but I find the conspiracy theories a little hard to believe.

The first thing to remember is : July 1st is guaranteed to be warm evenif it's not necessarily nice. It doesn't snow here in June, like itsometimes does in Calgary, but you know who the hell wants to move in December?

The second thing to remember is that regardless of your feelings about Canada Day the real party, in Quebec, is a week before on St. Jean Baptiste. Given that both are holidays if you had the opportunity to get loaded and shake your booty on St. Jean and move on Canada Day (thus not having to take a day off work, or your weekend) it's sort of a no-brainer.

Kate has tracked down some antecedents for the practice:

According to what I've read, the origins of Moving Day are actually Scottish. In Scotland at one time they had something called Flitting Day - here's a typical web cite: "In Scotland, however, Whitsunday is a fixed term day, May 25, referred to as 'flitting day' because the year's house-lease runs from that date." One doesn't think of Quebec as being very Scots now, but there was a time when a lot of Scots lived here. The flag of the city of Montreal includes, among other things, a thistle. So it seems most likely the idea of all rental leases starting at the same time was adopted from the Scots, and since Montreal has always been a huge renters' city - they say 70% of us are tenants - Moving Day is a huge event here.

Scottish readers, the baton passes to you. Flitting Day?

Meanwhile, Aaron and Kate have now helped make Idle Words the authorative source for information on this important topic. Truly not a role I foresaw for the blog when I started it, but one that makes me very happy.

Aaron's blog, by the way, is probably the best-designed weblog I've ever seen. You really should pay a visit.

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