More Government Waste 2004 >

As we gag in disbelief at the rolling out of the disturbing and crooked dealings of such pillars of honesty as Lafleur Communications and Groupe Action and their positively jaw-dropping audacity in their abuse of taxpayer funds we must realize that there are more incredulous shennanigans going on right under our noses. Man this whole mess is really getting ripe! It's not just sleazy marketing company drones who are able to spin a cock-eyed idea into a government funding proposal that lines their pockets so they can chop the tops of champagne bottles with silver hammered sabres during little incestuous drug fuelled picnics in their oversized country-homes. Oh no...the highest levels of academic branch-hoppers are also thinking-up new and exciting ways to get huge wads of government funding into their moth-eaten skirts:

We are all surely well aware of the race between Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others to perfect the algorithms which will create the ultimate search engine but did you know that the Canadian government has taken it upon themselves to direct precious funding into a project that will:

"deepen our understanding of the fundamental structures of human language and of the processes of language acquisition. In turn, this new knowledge will make it possible to improve how we communicate with computers and, at the same time, give us more effective tools for searching the Internet."

This seems like an important undertaking but could we have a volunteer step forward to deepen my understanding in the rationality of the government making a 2.5 million dollar investment in this?

2.5 million dollars! It's bad enough that the government is willing to fritter away money on funding arts programs so left-field toddies can paint with squirrel blood or create a new-age dance program featuring hula-hoops but now they have decided to "invest" some of your money in a real winner of a research program! All we can say is "Thank-you"

From their press release:

"Optimizing the human-computer interface
SSHRC invests $2.5 million in research project led by Université du Quebecà Montreal researcher
(Ottawa, March 2, 2004) – The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) today announced an investment of $2.5 million in a project that will deepen our understanding of the fundamental structures of human language and of the processes of language acquisition. In turn, this new knowledge will make it possible to improve how we communicate with computers and, at the same time, give us more effective tools for searching the Internet."


Shouldn't that read "optimizing the government funding by another questionable university program interface"? I admit that deepening our understanding of the fundamentals of human language and the processes of language acquisition sounds good. It must have looked good on the funding application written in ink to have been accepted. We could have saved the 2.5 million dollars by telling you all that communicating with computers is best done with clenched fists or a swinging ball-peen hammer and point out to you that there are a multitude of private companies trying to find effective tools for searching the Internet. Effective tools indeed. Tools?


While we wait for something tangible like health services to be properly funded...this is the line these academics and civil servants so delicately walk upon:

“Internet users often feel that they spend far too much time searching for Web sites that have the information they need,” said Lucienne Robillard, minister of industry, minister responsible for Canada economic development for Quebec regions, and minister responsible for SSHRC. “Given the demands of the knowledge-based economy, it’s essential that we improve our ability to access information. Research that makes possible the development of better-performing Internet search engines will help us to attain that objective.”

Do we? I never noticed that problem although what did cross my mind a few times is that these departments are spending too much time searching for ways to help fund their little circle of buddies and their projects. I rather thought we were spending too much time waiting in emergency rooms to be seen by a doctor? No thanks, we can find the information we are looking for. We don't need assistance in our searches. We know how to find your governmental departmentalized job boards and once we are done with them we know how to find our a site on cooking techniques with a welfare budget and once we are done with that we know how to find our e-mail accounts and once we are done with them we know how to download music from our favorite band and once we are done with that we know how to find the newest porn or tattoo or the cure for Asian bird flu and everything in between is easy to find. But thanks for thinking of us! The very fact that you are reading this article shows that it is quite easy to find what you need to know on the Internet.

According to Di Sciullo: "if searching the Web is to become an effective way to find information, we have to create search tools that adapt to the very cognitive structures—which do not depend upon any particular mother tongue—which enable people to learn and understand language."

That sounds suspiciously like someone trying to fulfill government rhetoric guidelines while trying to hide their experience in securing government financing. Certainly there is the potential to mobilize such a model...but to take it beyond the test-phase it may require "additional state funding". Thanks Marc and Anne-Marie for such progressive thinking. Why didn't we think of that!

But wait...don't put the shovel away just yet!

“The work of Professor DI Sciullo and her team will revolutionize how we find information online,” said Marc Renaud, president of SSHRC. “This study is a key illustration of the vital contribution that the cognitive sciences can make to information technology. Moreover, it represents one of the most important and innovative advances in the field of artificial intelligence.”

My hand puppet would like to introduce this crack University team to the google/yahoo/msn/inktomi experts who are already involved in this research and invite them all to go for a walk in the deep dark forests of reality...yeah, I know, the university would love to but only if the Canada Council pays for the trip.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more stinky...it gets more stinky:


“The utility of currently available search engines is limited by the fact that they process the user’s query on the basis of keywords rather than on the basis of the relations between words,” said DI Sciullo. “That’s why a simple Internet search for [child+diabetes+treatment] generates over 970,000 results, some of which are relevant, others less relevant, and thousands quite irrelevant.”

[child+diabetes+treatment]???
Would anyone not suffering from a diabetic sugar dip enter such a search string query? Not likely. And if they did the search would go beyond the figure of 970,000 they quoted :

Let's try it...we'll enter their "simple Internet search" child+diabetes+treatment

google = 1,210,000 results not 970,000 as was quoted
yahoo = 12 results not 970,000 as was quoted
hotbot = 4 results not 970,000 as was quoted

If we were in charge we would submit a query such as this: treatment for child diabetes

google = 1,200,000 results not 970,000
yahoo = 1,010,000 results not 970,000
hotbot = 120,209 results not 970,000

We seemed to find what we needed.
Maybe this research project will help us find what we don't need before we don't know we need it!
By the way...if you do a search for "government waste" you get 4,590,000 results. Get the picture?

It's not rocket science...talk to us and this government could have saved a few million bucks! The fact that these sort of misinformed figures probably helped gain funding approval. Dazzle em' with dung should be the university cheer! Do they just pull these numbers out of the GroupeAction magical mystery accounting hat? It doesn't take a corral of monkeys to see that 2.5 million dollars could have been better spent. Oh and speaking of a corral of monkeys:

"With the funding from SSHRC, Anne-Marie DI Sciullo, professor of linguistics at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), and her team of 43 internationally recognized researchers, will develop, among other tools, more “intelligent” Internet search engines."

Excuse me a moment? Did you say that with a straight face? A " team of 43 internationally recognized researchers"? Does this group of "researchers" happen to include a classroom full of university students whose mommies have coughed up tuition to get them into the Brazilian Utopia of university schoolin'? Perhaps it includes a group of like-minded windbags in their cloistered university cubicles who have come up with yet another way of increasing their incomes by waving their diploma's quickly in the eyes of a publicly funded beaurocracy at such dizzying speed that even a 10-ounce can of Beefarino would start to look like grandmas Christmas dinner. Let's face it. Most universities are nothing more quaint little clubs where students are genetically bred to replace the aging faculty so the circle of grant application masterminding and lifetime tenure remains unbroken. Beyond those closed doors is a never ending relay-race where the baton of bullshit is passed back and forth like a club sandwich at a sequestered jury's lunchhour.

"DI Sciullo’s team includes experts in linguistics, psychology and informatics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other universities in Canada, the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In addition, the project benefits from the collaboration of Canadian corporations such as Delphes Technologies International, Bell University Laboratories, and Oralys Inc."

Oooohh...we're very impressed with such impressive credentials. Now it starts to make sense why public tax money should be used!

“The work of Professor DI Sciullo and her team will revolutionize how we find information online,” said Marc Renaud, president of SSHRC. “This study is a key illustration of the vital contribution that the cognitive sciences can make to information technology. Moreover, it represents one of the most important and innovative advances in the field of artificial intelligence.”

We beg to differ. In fact we believe it represents another example of the innovative advancement of artificial stupidity in the large festering manure field of government waste and mismanagement.


this is our opinion and we have our right to it
total manipulation | this isn't the only funding that makes us squirm