Un-Distinguished Lecture Series

The Un-Distinguished Lecture Series (UDLS) is a series of free, casual lectures on a variety of topics held Fridays at 5:30 in the 8th floor boardroom (X836) of the ICICS/CS building at UBC, Vancouver. These are given by and for students, staff, and faculty at UBC; though they’ve been from computer science primarily, all are welcome. The series has included over 130 lectures since it first began in early 2007″

[November 28, 2014] Cured Fish

Abstract: Tired of eating fish raw, baked, broiled, poached, sautéed, grilled, smoked, sous-vided, or fried? In this talk I will unveil miraculous techniques for curing and pickling fish. This talk will include: history, science, culinary tips, a pining for the fjords, and free samples!

[October 25, 2013] Burmese Copy Tunes

Abstract: As the southeast Asian country of Burma (aka Myanmar) emerges from military rule and cultural isolation, Western-influenced music is gaining a foothold. Some of the most successful Burmese artists are known for producing “copy tunes”, note-for-note covers of Western pop hits with new Burmese lyrics set to the original vocal melody. Many fans are totally unaware of the songs’ Western origins.

[April 12, 2013] How to Hide your Money in the South Pacific

Abstract: Last week, it was revealed that nearly 250GB of documents pertaining to private offshore investments had been recently leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. These documents reveal that a big chunk of the world’s wealth resides in far-flung destinations, such as the Cook Islands. Some of these investments are legit, while others form part of a complicated web of tax evasion, money laundering, and other suspicious activities. In my talk, I’ll attempt to explain how hiding money in these places works, as well as the motivations for doing so.

[January 04, 2013] Quaint European Towns (outside of Europe)

Abstract: Why go to Europe when Europe is just around the corner? I’ll talk about a few European towns that range from quaint pastoral towns to Magic-Kindom-esque replicas. Are these places preserving an immigrant heritage or are they mere tourist traps?

[September 07, 2012] Vancouver’s Live Music Scene

Abstract:A talk for musically adventurous newcomers to Vancouver and those who are keen to find out where live music happens in the city, as well as where you find out about upcoming performances. I’ll also invite those with an intimate knowledge of Vancouver’s music scene to contribute to the discussion.

[June 08, 2012] Dystopian Fiction

Abstract: I’m going to talk about a few of my favourite works of dystopian fiction: speculative tales of repression, subversion, authoritarianism, hope, despair, defeat… I’ll stick mostly to novels, but mention a few decent film and music adaptations/homages too. I’m not an authority on all-things dystopia (but I know someone who took a course on it once!), and I expect a fair bit of “but haven’t you read “Foo” or “Bar”?”. In other words, please come and make additions for my to-read list. Books mentioned:

  • Brave New World (Aldous Huxley, 1932)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1948)
  • Player Piano (Kurt Vonnegut, 1952)
  • We (Yevgeny Zamyatin, 1924)
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (Walter Tevis, 1963)
  • Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell, 2004)
  • The Chrysalids (John Wyndham, 1955)
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller, Jr., 1959)
  • Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira (Blindness) (José Saramago, 1995)

[November 04, 2011] Vlad Țepeș

Abstract: I recently spent several weeks in Romania. I now know more about Vlad the Impaler, the historical figure who (partially) inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula character. This talk contains references to holy sects, sibling rivalry, dragons, Leslie Neilson, cheap paraphernalia, and Russell & Norvig’s AIMA. Like one of my earlier [1] talks, it’ll also feature gory death and mutilation, and the infamous 16th century ‘blood countess’ Elizabeth Bathory

[March 18, 2011] The HeLa Cell Line

Abstract: The HeLa cancer cell line has contributed to countless medical and scientific discoveries over the past 60 years, but at what cost? This talk will touch on medical ethics, unprecedented legal cases, race relations, media sensationalism, con artists, tobacco farming, capitalism, opportunism, and the poor African-American Baltimore family at the centre of it all.

[November 05, 2010] A Rough Guide to CBC Radio

Abstract: CBC radio is one of my favourite things. If you are new to Canada or don’t already listen to CBC Radio, I will convince you of its many merits. CBC radio has something for everyone: from ideas, news, current affairs, humour, arts, music, to the spaces in between. I’ll cover the history of the CBC network and the past and current effects on Canadian culture (i.e. the Polaris music prize, Canada Reads, the Massey lecture series). My presentation won’t be strictly limited to the FM/AM variants of CBC radio, but also to its online radio-on-demand channels and podcasts, and its growing social media and music network, CBC-R3. PS: (CBC-R1 is 88.1 FM / CBC-R2 is 105.7 FM in Vancouver).

[August 20, 2010] A Culture of Bricks (A UDLS presentation about Lego ®)

Abstract: Imagine yourself building a house out of Lego; do you use only one colour? Or do you make your house out of whatever colour brick you happen to grab? Do you cringe at the sight of toy store displays stocked with movie-franchise-tie-in Lego sets? (And why are the pieces so big these days?) Do you have an unusual fear of vacuum cleaners? Do you remember Blacktron vs. the Space Police? Perhaps the Black Knights castle sets were more of your thing. If you’ve answered passionately to any of these questions, you will undoubtedly enjoy a discussion of Lego nostalgia, history, and philosophy, as well as a showcase of constructions by contemporary Lego hobbyists and artists.

[March 12, 2010] A Curious History of Medicinal Cannibalism

Abstract: Prior to the advent of modern medicine and the scientific method, many cultures prescribed strange and fascinating treatments for various ailments. Some of which were known to involve ingredients of human origin. While in many cases the patient may have been better off not relying on folk wisdom, hearsay, or their local apothecary, modern medicine and chemistry tells us that some of these treatments may have actually worked. During this presentation, we will venture to Renaissance Europe, black market bazaars of the Middle east, Sung Dynasty China, and Soviet Russia, examining several unorthodox treatments within their cultural backdrop. As for the modern era, have we become more squeamish when it comes to such forms of unorthodox medicine? Or are our “cannibalistic” treatments subtly disguised: we no longer prescribe blood baths, but blood transfusions.

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