Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Happy New Year

I won't be here to make this post new year's eve, so I shall wish you a happy new year in advance. Though I wish to comment on the disaster in Southeast Asia and public policy for dealing with such natural disasters, time is short; my flight leaves in six hours. I shall see you all in the new year. Unless I see you in Saskatoon first. And this means that Part 1 will be posted in 2005. Figures.

RIP, those who passed away in Southeast Asia.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Leadership postponed

I know Part 1 is supposed to be up by now, but the basement flooded and it's been hard to try to fix everything. Also, another God thread finally popped up at HCW and I seem to be posting a lot more than I usually did in the past. Or maybe it's just been a while, and I can't remember how much I usually posted. :)

So ETA for Part 1 has been postponed to next week. But I've been outlining what I want to write about, and my goodness, this is going to get complicated. Everything's so intertwined, it'll be hard to avoid redundancy.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The many faces of leadership

I had a conversation with Sara some time ago about leadership. One interesting question I asked was whether quality leadership can be demonstrated, or even developed, in times of no trial. In particular, would that leadership be able to rival the quality of leadership exemplified in times of trial? One question Sara asked was whether teachers could be considered leaders.

My dad made me watch a couple of episodes of a Korean drama, and I am hooked (as can happen with Korean dramas). This one is called A Time of Heroes, and chronicles the story of the man who founded the Hyundai conglomerate (yes, they do make more than cars). The time is during the Japanese occupation. The context is quite critical here. The Japanese are in total control of Korea and use Korea's natural resources to fund their military campaigns. They've abolished the Korean language and Korean education. My grandparents grew up learning Japanese and are/were fluent in Korean in spite of the occupation (only my grandmother on my mother's side still lives). The family of my grandfather (dad's side) actually moved to Manchuria to have a better life when he was a teenager (though Manchuria was also under Japanese occupation and had its own problems). The parallels between the Nazi treatment of the Jews and the Japanese treatment of the Koreans are uncanny, except that the Nazis attempted to exterminate Jewish genes in their efforts for a supreme race; the Japanese simply attempted to exterminate Korean civilization as part of the plan to prove race supremacy. I've read some fascinating books (fictional and not) on the subject. The ones that stick out are Pearl S. Buck's The Living Reed and Sook Nyul Choi's Year of Impossible Goodbyes and Echoes of the White Giraffe. But I digress. And I harbour no ill will against the Japanese. ;)

Two characters really strike me in this drama. There is the main character, of course, but there is also a teacher. The main character Dwae-Sah is compelled by his younger sister's bout with tuberculosis to leave his home in the country and make enough money to bring her to a Western-trained doctor; Korean medical practices at the time weren't capable of curing this disease. Dwae-sah is only a teenager and was attending an underground Korean school where he learned about the things necessary for Korea to succeed and take back their country.

But the second character is what brought to mind the conversation I had with Sara. After Dwae-Sah and two friends head to the city and find work in a mine, they meet up with Song Dong-Min. This man started out as a freedom fighter, but realized that his methods were only a temporary solution. As a result, he started moving from rural area to rural area, starting schools to teach the next generation. The Japanese military started cracking down on those schools (for example, they killed one of Dwae-Sah's teachers while attempting to arrest the man), and had a warrant out for Dong-Min. So Song Dong-Min is a fugitive and hiding as an anonymous employee at the mine.

When Dwae-Sah and his friends realize who they've met, you have to understand, they met the legend in the flesh. Think of meeting the person you voted to be the Greatest Canadian. It was that special. And because Dong-Min is always on the run, and Dwae-Sah needs to make money, they keep running into each other, even after Dwae-Sah leaves the coal mine. Dong-Min uses this opportunity to forge the mind of the man who would help to transform Korean industry. Then the Japanese finally catch up to him. Knowing it's the end, Dong-Min teaches Dwae-Sah and his friend (by this time, one friend had gone home) the Korean national anthem as soldiers storm the logging camp where they are working; Dwae-Sah witnesses Song Dong-Min's death.

When I think about all the great leaders, they always seem to credit the people who taught them. Alexander the Great had Aristotle before conquering the known world. Though Alexander would disregard Aristotle's words for many things, the fact is that he learned how to think because of this great philosopher. Paul had Gamaliel, one of the most respected doctors of the law; Paul was responsible for the spread of Christianity to the gentile peoples and became the most prolific author of the New Testament through his many epistles. The twelve disciples had Jesus Christ; they took his teachings all across Western Asia, in the face of adversity, persecution, and suppression of the Roman Empire. Heck, Luke Skywalker had Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda! And we all know the feats of Luke Skywalker!

There's something especially interesting that happens when a leader is no more. Either the movement falls apart, meaning that the leader did not do enough to develop leaders for the next generation, or new leaders rise up. Teachers can have that role in developing new leaders. And does that not then make them leaders as well? Teachers, with their ability and responsibility to inspire their students, seem to need leadership aspects in order for leaders to be born.

Ironically we're both taking the leadership course next semester. That'll be fun. :) But until then, I've decided to post a series of my thoughts on leadership, taking ideas from that original conversation and other insights I've been fortunate to gain over the past little while. Part 1 is coming soon.

On the note of my father's father. He must be one of the biggest reasons why I'm not content to have a nondescript life. The man lived in extraordinary times when Korea was being transformed from a tiny despot to one of the infamous Asian Tigers. But while the transformation was initiating, life in Korea was extremely difficult. My grandfather moved from nation to nation to find work to support his family. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore, due to incidents in Vietnam, and decided to move his family to a nation where there would be better opportunity. His conversation with the immigration official went something like this (abridged version):

Immigration Officer: You have no skills, you can't speak English, why should I let you into Canada?
Grandfather: /speechless, starts talking about how he had to struggle in Manchuria to survive
Immigration Officer: You lived in Manchuria?
Grandfather: Yes.
Immigration Officer: Do you speak Mandarin?
Grandfather: Yes.
Immigration Officer: Ni hao ma?
Grandfather: /speechless again

The guy had been a missionary in Manchuria and saw firsthand how tough life was. He said if my grandfather could survive in Manchuria without having grown up there, he could survive in Canada.

Suffice it to say this. My grandfather did not work his butt off and suffer all his trials so that his descendants could squander the opportunity to do something. Anything. I do something with my life, or his efforts are in vain.

PakG1 is asking God to give him a dream, and has been asking for a long time.

Um, yeah, maybe Part 1 will be done in a few days.

Next: Introduction

Legs are dying, but it was worth it

Mountain fries: $2.95
Replacing OneNiter pass to be good for Thursday: $30
Seeing Belle slide over 300 m on her butt without stopping: Priceless

Casualties:
Was cleaning my cheap sunglasses on the Eagle chairlift when they snapped in half and fell from my hands. They now lie somewhere near the bottom of the Eagle lift. RIP. Must invest in more durable sunglasses.
My lock for securing my skis while eating lunch stopped working. Must replace it.
Lost my headband (but some kind person gave it to the Lost and Found).

My legs feel like they're going to fall off. Should take just a few more trips before they get used to it. :)

It was actually raining when we got up there. But it cleared up in the afternoon.

Mountains in the distance looked villages in the sky with all the fog shrouding everything but the peaks. Pretty view.

This was a good day of skiing, even if the roads up the mountain had no snow at all. That freaked me out for a bit. :)

Let there be snow

There' s something to be said about good and bad weather forecasts. I had been worrying that it would rain today at Cypress. But it's not. So I'm off. Having completely missed my Dec. 6 target for the sake of studying, I am glad I am going. Figures, it's the first day after exams. :) And so another frivolous post has been posted, for the opportunity cost of making a quality post is delaying my trip to the mountain. :D

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Dare to believe you can survive

Take that exams!

Dare to keep all your dreams alive!

One step at a time. :)

Standup Comics

I should really be studying. But I just watched Last Comic Standing. 10 push-ups for you!

I was at MSSC Appreciation Night earlier this year and this guy asked me if I was willing to standup comedy at MSN. MSN? Erm, sure, ok... what's your MSN account, I'll add you to my list. Nono, MSN is Malaysia-Singapore Night. Ah!

That blew me away. Wow, someone asked me if I was willing to do standup comedy in front of an audience!

But I'm not really that funny.
Don't worry, just do what you did today!
Um...
There'll be an audience of about 300 people.
Whoah... freaky.

Um, right.

Well, over the next few days, I gave it some serious thought. And I tried to make up some jokes. And I ended up gaining a ton of respect for comedians. Do you know HOW HARD it is to make an original joke?? And not just that, but be able to do it on the fly? Maybe there's truth to the statements I've read on the high depression level of comedians. Am I really funny? Did that make sense? Will they laugh at me? Am I going to have an awkward 15 minutes of silence up there? Minna sent me a episode of Last Comic Standing, the one where they have to perform at a laundromat. To make people laugh at a place where they don't want to be bothered, I don't know if I'd ever be able to do that.

Here's the best I could come up with during those few days of thought after the MSSC event:
Remember World Cup 2002, and all those Korean people running around with their red t-shirts? Calgary, you thought you had a sea of red during the Stanley Cup playoffs, you ain't seen nothing! Look at photos of the celebrations in South Korea, now THAT'S a sea of red! So I was just wondering about this sea of red, and how every single t-shirt had their motto, "Be the Reds!" Every morning South Korea won a game, you'd see all these Koreans tramping all over downtown waving flags and screaming their song. Can you imagine what some America-lovin, gun-totin CIA rookie could have been thinking?

"Damn! Get me HQ! These darn Canadians are in league with those bastard Chinese Commies! They're all wearing shirts that say 'Be the Reds', dammit!"

Dude, we're Korean. You fought for us in a big war. You station troops in our country. You know?

This is what happens when football does not use a round, black and white ball in the US. Folks, be careful with your sports.
I came up with some more stuff, but would any of it really sell onstage? Would the MSSC guy ask me again? I dunno. Would I consider it if he asked me again? Hell yeah. But I'd probably die on stage. :)
Hey, you know that the #1 fear in North America is public speaking, right? It's feared more than death. See, I'm in the awkard situation on this stage where I'm supposed to make you laugh at me. Usually, people don't want that, it's embarrassing. So let's get this straightened out right now. Here, I actually want you to laugh at me, or else I give in to North America's #1 fear. If you stay quiet, I'll have a high incentive to commit suicide. You wouldn't want that, it's not a pretty sight to see someone try to strangle himself with a microphone cord. The face turns blue for one thing. But more importantly, he starts waving his arms and flops like a fish, so that you're not sure if he's really dying or gone schizophrenic and dancing to imaginary music.

Ah, ah, ah, ah, staying alive! Staying alive! Step to the side! Everyone wants to stay alive!
/do funky dance routine

Trust me, you want to hear me tell bad jokes more than you want to see my dancing.
Yeah, I'd probably die. But, still, it would be cool to try. :D

edit: Bleh, now that I've had people dash all my hopes and dreams by telling me how unfunny these routines are, perhaps I'll stick with the weeping under my bed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Oracle Buys PeopleSoft for $10 Billion

Whoah.

Well, it was kind of expected after Craig Conway got fired. You just knew after that happened that the board of directors really actually did want the merger to go through. Still pretty amazing that it happened though, after the long fight and many lawsuits. We've essentially seen the consolidation of three major software corporations into one (recall that PeopleSoft acquired J.D. Edwards earlier during the battle with Oracle). The big question will be how Oracle and PeopleSoft deal with the poison pill that PeopleSoft set up. As well, will Larry Ellison try to keep the PeopleSoft team onboard? It'd be difficult to keep those promises that Ellison is making and support PeopleSoft's customers otherwise.

IBM sells their PC unit to Lenovo. Oracle buys PeopleSoft. Is the IT world changing or what?. :)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

What's the point?

So I read all of one economics paper yesterday. One out of... what, 15? Really, what's the point of even trying? So now my exam is in 3.5 hours and I'm wondering what's the point of reading? Of course there's a point! There's always a point when you haven't read the darn thing ever before. I am so glad I don't have World of Warcraft or Ghost....

100 pages in 3 hours. This is doable.

This has been another frivolous post brought to you by the letter I, number 2, and PakG1.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Chronicles of Narnia

I loved the Chronicles of Narnia when I was kid. Hey, I still love them! They're some of my favourite books ever written! So I was really excited when I read in the newspaper during the summer of 2001 that they were going to make movies based on the books. Being filmed in New Zealand, possibly one of the only book series that can match up with Lord of the Rings and still be targeted at children... the production team has a lot to live up to, after the success of Lord of the Rings. :)

Well, here's a fan-based website for the movies.

Thanks to Estey for finding the website.

C.S. Lewish has to be one of my favourite authors ever. :D Though I still have to get through reading all of his theological works.... @@ School gets in the way of a lot of stuff, you know?

Jeff is a genius!

I would like to note that Jeff has discovered the conspiracy behind Xmas.

Applying Economics to Relationships, Sex, and Marriage

I am not studying as hard for that economics and law final as I should be. So here I am instead. Given that an entire chapter is devoted to the economics of sex and marriage law, I blog to get me motivated into the right frame of mind.

Goose's complaint.

Andrew's friend's complaint.

Always interesting to get the female perspective.

OK, now the economic explanation. You know what the real problem is? The population of each gender is so diverse and widely dispersed that transaction costs are too high to get a good match. Ultimately, as each individual is a maximizer, each individual wishes to wait out for the best match. However, such matches cannot be found with the high transaction costs, where Allen defines transaction costs as the costs of establishing and maintaining property rights (Allen 1999), or in this case, the costs of finding and establishing the bond necessary for a relationship. One must first find a person, then get to know that person, ensure necessary attribute requirements are met, and then finally experience life with that person.

Search costs decrease drastically with the advent of the Internet and online dating and networking services. However, it is argued here that search costs take up only a minimal percentage of the entire transaction cost set. Ultimately, investment into discovering a relationship's prospects requires a much higher percentage of the overall transaction costs, if we consider that search costs are able to utilize economies of scale over the entire population, while the other transaction costs cannot do so; otherwise, the subject is considered to have cheated on his/her date(s).

Of all the bottlenecks that keep transaction costs high, time constraints would be the largest impact. If we assume that full transaction costs (excluding search costs) include at least one year of one's life, a person may be able to only analyze 10 candidates per decade. Added to this conundrum is the fact that one is not able to utilize economies of scale successfully, unless one keeps such activities secret. However, the risk of such action is extremely high in that, if found out, a candidate (and potentially all other candidates if word spreads) will reject the subject as a cad. This is possibly not in the best interests of the subject anyway, as economies of scale gained in terms of time may be lost in terms of opportunity costs for use of income; that is, it is expensive to maintain prospects for more than one potential girlfriend at a time (eg. if we want to increase the rate of candidate analysis to 10 candidates per year, rather than per decade, the percentage of one's income spent on candidates essentially increases tenfold, a prospect that can quickly render one bankrupt).

The best way to decrease the gross sum of these high transaction costs would be to ensure that search efforts return high quality results. With higher quality search results, one will be able to find candidates that have less risk for rejection, which will lower the total expected value of transaction costs. The puzzling question would be why expected transaction costs have not been lowered, despite the creation of matchmaking services that supposedly increase the quality of search results. Several possible explanations exist.

Firstly, it is possible that the combination of individuals that result in maximization does not take geographic locations into consideration. Consequently, individuals may be left with the horrible dilemma in having to decide whether to incur extremely high transaction costs to relocate or rejection of maximization maxims for the sake of lowering transaction costs. Profiling through online dating services may have had the ironic effect of actually encouraging non-maximiation by making the inputs necessary for utlity maximization clear; Pareto improvements are impossible.

Secondly, there may be an extremely high incidence of lying on the Internet. Stories of online stalkers are common, as is the idea of a bearded, tattoed 50 year-old Hell's Angel pretending to be an 19 year-old up-and-coming female supermodel. Such mendacity actually increases transaction costs, as it may take some time to discover the candidate's deception.

Thirdly, the opportunity cost of having a relationship may be so high that it is in fact not desirable for the majority of the population. Individuals may place more importance on generating income (rather than not generating as much, and then frivolously spending what little income is generated), professional or academic pursuits, extra-curricular non-romantic activities, pets, or inanimate entities, such as rocks. This may be especially true when the substitute interest can actually take the place of several categories (eg. pet rocks that assist in geological studies for the pursuit of a Nobel Prize that can provide much income).

Given that according to the Coase Theorem, maximization occurs when transaction costs are zero, it seems unlikely that individuals would be able to achieve maximization in relationships, except through a stroke of luck. For maximization to be achievable, one must have perfect information and zero transaction costs, both of which are unachievable.

Heh, ok, so maybe that's not an economically correct way of explaining things, but I had to throw the Coase Theorem in there somewhere.

However, until utility is maximized, one can always temporarily substitute with a virtual girlfriend. You knew that this was only the next step after the Tamagotchi craze. I remember walking down the street with my brother and two cousins. Suddenly, you heard this noise, and all three whipped out their Tamagotchis, crying out, "It's mine!" It reminds me of that cell phone scene in Clueless. I never did end up watching the entire movie....

Did I mention we have a budgie now? That thing is dang loud. I wonder what budgie tastes like.

And a bunch of fish. I don't even know where all this stuff came from. Shh... never end a sentence with a preposition, it's bad grammar. You're setting a bad example for all the kids, you know.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Miss Digital World 2004

Another frivolous post. Have you noticed the quantity of posts I've been making these days? Quality sure goes down when quantity goes up... I'd implement a TQM system, but I wouldn't be able to afford the consulting fee.

Miss Digital World 2004 has apparently been crowned. The artist actually did a pretty good job, but most of the entries were really bad. But I suppose when you're not a corporation like Square, you can't spend the big bucks to make a quality Yuna, Riku, Rinoa, or Aki Ross. Did you know that one quarter of the budget for the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was spent on Aki's hair? Hehe, I can imagine the annual report to the board of directors at Sony.

"Um, well, Final Fantasy the movie would have turned a profit if only they had spent less money on the main character's hair...."

But do the math, I guess; even if the hair budget had been cut down to zero, the movie would still have made a loss of $28.35 million.

But as Kristina noted after we stepped out of the theatre, the hair was amazing.

I remember when the trailers for Final Fantasy VIII first came out and I was blown away. Final Fantasy VII had amazing graphics. VIII was out of this world, especially the CG sequences. I would play those trailers day after day, drooling at the detailed renderings of churning water, smooth animations of human movement, and textures of the wind-blown grass. To date, I still think that the grass in Final Fantasy VIII has the best CG-animated grass I've ever seen (Shrek would be #2, but a distant #2). Square set the standard for a lot of things, and every one of us wanted to work at Square. It took years for any company to even come close to catching up; of course, the competition does eventually, and Blizzard released a trailer for Warcraft III that again blew my mind away. That trailer had the most realistic CG crow I've ever seen; at first, I thought it was real. It was the crow's eye that really fooled me. And the field had some really good grass too (maybe that would actually be the #2). But their CG humans are still sub-par when compared to Square's work.

So let's suppose that computer technology eventually becomes sufficient for perfectly and exactly rendering 3D reality on a 2D screen. How will that change the future course of entertainment? More importantly, what about the value of traditional artists? When you can map textures and model reality with mathematical precision, are we sacrificing creative talent for quality efficiency? Of course any computer animator still needs to have artistic talent, just as any professional photographer does. But the big question is whether traditional artists will become obsolete. The photograph did not make them so, but perhaps all that is needed is the push of one more medium. I'm one to disagree with Marshall McLuhan, the medium is not the message. But I cannot deny that the medium affects the message, and one day older messages can become forgotten.

I have no clue what the future holds, but Leonardo da Vinci, eat your heart out.

This post sure said a whole lot of nothing....

Blogthings and things

Lea. Confucius. My turn.



You Are the Individualist




4




You are sensitive and intuitive, with others and yourself.

You are creative and dreamy... plus dramatic and unpredictable.

You're emotionally honest, real, and easily hurt.

Totally expressive, others always know exactly how you feel.




How correct is that? You decide, I guess.

And I link May today. Wish we could have gone to Halifax for Dalhousie, but in retrospect, the semester was a little crazy. So sorry, would love to party it up with you all on New Year's Eve, but I'll be in Saskatchewan. :)

But DANG those tickets are expensive! You planning on donating to charity or something?? Or was there no other way to rent the place? Heh.

I swear, I'll make a good quality post next week. I'm still busy, you know. :)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

IBM Sells PC Unit to Lenovo

It's happened. Surprisingly, there are people who really think that this won't work. I really don't see how those premises are valid. Time will tell. But this is a particularly interesting statement:
As the old saying goes, no one ever got fired for buying IBM. But no one ever got hired for buying Lenovo.
Here's a memo from the CEO to all IBM employees explaining the deal.

Not surprisingly, Michael Dell is bashing IBM. But this statement is also interesting:
In recent years, Dell has also been gaining market share in China, a trend that has prompted Lenovo to cut prices.
If Lenovo can't even compete with Dell on their home turf, what would they be able to do with IBM's PC division worldwide? But it still seems to me that Lenovo would have some tricks up their sleeve that would allay the fears of doomsayers; one lesson that people need to learn, you never underestimate the Chinese. For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Attention whores

I was bored one day and searching through people's profiles on Friendster. Coming across one profile, I was utterly amazed. Firstly, it was a girl, but that's not what was amazing. What was amazing was that this girl claimed to be a professional hacker. As in IT security consultant. And she had the looks of a model. She could have easily passed as some sort of Asian pop idol, with Singaporean, Chinese, and Japanese blood in her; she lived in Indonesia. So I was staring at her profile in disbelief thinking to myself, "Nah! She can't be a hacker!" Don't get me wrong, I know some very nice (and good-looking) women in computing science. But... she just didn't look the Trinity type, let alone a realistic hacker. Too much of an Asian pop look. I've experienced a paradigm shift and it ain't nice. Girls like Miranda do exist. My head felt like it was going to explode.

Then I had to laugh at myself, because my reaction was so stereotypical. It reminds me of the attention whore video. Hehe, and then there's the special HCW version made by Frugle. Thanks to Brucey for finding them for me. You may now classify me as a chauvinist, I suppose?

Speaking of the Matrix, did you know that the Wachowski Brothers didn't write the Matrix? Thanks to Andrew for the link. I found some discussions on the topic.

If Stewart's accusations are true that Time Warner stopped the media from reporting on this lawsuit, I think we have another bit of evidence that indie news through blogs and forums has its potential. :)

... Still thinking she couldn't have been a hacker.... But whoever said that a hacker couldn't be pretty or dress like an Asian pop star? Maybe...

Nah! :)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Damn, you Koreans are crazy!

So said my friend after sending me this. This thing almost rivals the 2003 Japan National Yoyo Contest vid. :D I have a high-quality copy of the 2003 Japan Nats vid if anybody wants. :)

I'll make a serious post next week, I swear. :) Until then, I have something called exams. :)

edit: I found some really cool vids of the 2000 Korea National Yoyo Contest. And here's a website with some cool vids from a HK group. Hehehe.

Travel as a Canadian

I swore someone had already made this long ago. I had heard that it was a regular practice for Americans in Europe to put Canadian flags on their backpacks. Yeah, it was only hearsay, but hearsay starts somewhere, you know.

Man, if I had only known there wasn't any product already been sold, I would have made a package for export so fast...

Coulda, shoulda, woulda... bleh.

I jest.

No, not really though....

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

How IT helped the Red Sox win the World Series

At Anandtech's news page, I found a link to a fantastic (if brief and superficial) case study on how IT made the Red Sox more competitive. An excellent read if you're interested in how IT can be used in this world. Here's a quote:
The turning point of this fall's epic Boston Red Sox comeback in the American League Championship Series took place not in the ninth inning of Game 4—when Dave Roberts stole second base, putting the tying run in scoring position—but two innings earlier, when Roberts made his way from the dugout through the team's clubhouse to the weight room, where the Red Sox video command center is arrayed against the end wall.

There, Roberts asked Billy Broadbent, who handles video systems for the Red Sox, to queue up footage of New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera pitching from the stretch with a man on first base. Two innings later, Roberts put to good use what he had learned from the team's massive digital archive of opposing pitchers.

In The Art of War, you must know your enemy, huh? Talk about information warfare. :)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Just Two Guys

Andrew and Superman have started a joint-blog called Just Two Guys. This is because Andrew made a comment on the resurrection, with which Superman disagreed. Eventually, the discussion became large enough to warrant its own blog, and it now seems that there's another interesting website you can visit if you are interested in anything that deals with theology and Christian doctrine.

I'll start reading it after a good night's sleep, but I figured I'd link them first. I always did enjoy any conversation I had with Andrew, he tried to think things through carefully. Though I must admit, his statements on atonement through Christ were quite surprising and unexpected (to me, at least). I had always presumed that he ascribed to the same understanding of atonement through Christ as I did, mainly because I was ignorant that there was any other valid way of understanding it (there are a ton of invalid ways, of course, as with anything else); as Andrew notes, the other theories of atonement through Christ are not well-known. This should prove to be an enlightening dialogue.

Echo Star, you have green light. 10-4, I'm going in

Possibly the strangest experience I've had for the last couple of weeks. Try sneaking a large heavy object out of somebody's living room at a time past midnight, out over a balcony. Covert ops is something cool to put on your resume.

K: I want you guys to help me get rid of it.
E: Huh?
PakG1: Where you going to put it?
K: There's a bunch of old furniture being thrown out in a parking lot nearby. We'll just leave it there.
PakG1: Oh, ok.

(Two hours later, K leaves for a scouting trip)
K: (back from his scouting trip) OK, I've decided our strategy.
E: So we're supposed to go through the window?
PakG1: I suppose it won't be too much trouble. Let's do it now.
K: We'll carry it face-down, it'll be easier that way.
PakG1: I'd prefer to do it with the lights off.
L: Won't that make it look more suspicious? It's past midnight!
E: We have nothing to hide, so we shouldn't be worried about getting caught.
PakG1: Well, if we have nothing to hide, and there's no worry about what would happen if we get caught, why bother increasing our chances of getting caught anyway? I'd rather not be seen...
K: OK, we'll turn off the lights.
E: Maybe we should wear ski masks.

/L opens the sliding window door

PakG1: Dude, you gotta be kidding. That balcony looks high.
E: No, maybe we can carry it over.
PakG1: This thing??
K: One of us just needs to jump over first and then we'll pass it down that way.

/K drags large heavy object towards door, P switches off lights, and all their get shoes
/some grunting, all communication is now at whisper level

PakG1: OK, I'll jump down, and you pass it down to me.

/PakG1 jumps down and tumbles to break the fall; K and E lift large heavy object over balcony and hand it to PakG1, so that one end is in PakG1's hands, and the other end is resting on the balcony rail

E: You got it?
PakG1: Yeah.
K: OK, I'm coming down.

/K jumps over balcony rail and goes underneath object

PakG1: OK, push it out.
E: Alright.

/K and PakG1 manage to hold up the large heavy object between the two of them; E jumps down to join them, L is watching the house

K: OK, just walk that way.
PakG1: I'm walking backwards. I can't see anything.
E: Don't worry, I'm watching out for you.

/they walk, carrying the large heavy object; a car's headlights appear in the distance

E: Oh, crap, a car!
PakG1: Oh, great.
K: Walk to the garbage dumpster!
PakG1: What garbage dumpster? I'm tripping over my feet here!
E: Go that way!

/they stumble towards the garbage dumpster; the car turns to a side alley long before it reaches the group

K: OK, just keep walking.
E: Watch out at your feet! Careful!

/PakG1 almost trips and falls, but recovers

PakG1: Thanks. You're my eyes and ears, you know.
E: We're almost there. I see the furniture.
K: OK, keep walking. We'll put it over there.
PakG1: (still walking backwards) I can't see what you guys are talking about.

/they finally come to a large pile of furniture and gently put the large heavy object down to be one with the pile

K: OK, let's go.

/they arrive back at the balcony; L opens the sliding window door, and K climbs back onto the balcony first

E: What's this?

/E examines a part of the balcony rail bent out of shape, in towards the house; PakG1 also examines after climbing back onto the balcony
/E is grunting and trying to bend the iron back into place

PakG1: Here, we'll do it from this side and push it back out. If you brace yourself against the door, it should be easier.
K: No, don't, we don't want to break it! That'll be even worse, and then they'll start asking questions.
E: I got it.
PakG1: Here, seriously, push it from this side.

/PakG1 starts pushing bent part outwards; E climbs up onto balcony

K: No, just leave it.

/PakG1 accidentally pushes rail out too far, but quickly adjusts so that it is straight again

PakG1: See? That was easier.

/they go inside; L quickly closes the sliding window door and draws the blinds

E: Mission success!

/high fives all around

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Trends in IT

A little bit of everything in this post. First of all, I forgot to note in my open source post that Microsoft seemed to validate some of the advantages of open source with the introduction of their shared source strategy. Read an article about it in Fortune today and was thereby reminded about it.

Today, I am linking the artist formerly known as Locke. I had a talk with him at 4 in the morning on a street when I was 15 and it was inspirational. But in the present, he is a game coder. And I recall how he said that many at his company refused offers to switch employers to EA because EA was a coding sweatshop. Well, EA has promised changes. More and more, I think we see that corporations can't have their cake and eat it too. You always get warm fuzzy feelings when a corporation's people are put in jail for price-fixing RAM. OK, maybe not, but there is relief in that we are trying to clamp down on corruption. But back to IT labour economics. The hours are s especially horrible in the coding profession, whether you work at EA or not. Despite not working at EA, Locke was telling me for the first few weeks how much compsci grads in general got shafted. :D I scream at the poor guy whenever I see him online at midnight...

PakG1: Don't tell me you're at work coding...
Locke: Yeah...

When you bring your sleeping bag to work, there is something seriously wrong there. But at least he's enjoying his job now, it seems. :)

The thing about EA coders and artists, they should at least be happy that their jobs aren't in danger. I had a long conversation with Minna one night about the automation of certain types of IT work. My opinions from that conversation still stand, although I don't think we actually disagreed with each other anyway (except on an emotional level). Let's face it, if you do administrative work, your work can be easily broken down into an algorithm and thereby replicated by a computer. You add no value when you're just an algorithm. The day when cashiers are unnecessary will be a sad day for many people who can't do much else, but it's inevitable, especially with the future filled with RFIDs. Excuse me if I seem cold. But you need to be able to create value, and that only comes from creativity; until weak AI is able to replicate the creativity of the human mind, only creativity, analysis, and design jobs will be safe. And it will be a LONG time before weak AI reaches that level of sophistication. However, this is not meant to be an analysis of Communist vs Capitalist systems. For now, suffice it to say that humans don't give themselves enough credit for creativity.

Speaking of AI, does anyone find this scary? Terminator, The Matrix, I, Robot, and many other movies all follow the same thesis: humanity builds infrastructure, infrastructure all automated machinery with AI, AI turns on humans. We should learn a lesson here. Q.E.D. Regarding other issues, I am not qualified to discuss the ethics of using robots in war. But when was I qualified to discuss anything anyway? So let's sidetrack a bit and discuss. It seems really unfair that one nation will have to risk the lives of their brave men and women to shoot at machines, while the soldiers of the other nation hide back in the bunker. I understand that the safety of the troops and success of a mission is always a primary goal, and technology already exists that gives a huge advantage to specific Western nations, but using robots really seems to overstep a boundary. One nation risks lives, the other doesn't. Something just doesn't smell right here.... I wonder what my friends in the US Army have to say about this subject.

But back to IT. Well, two quick things of note before I jump to the main course. This has to be the most innovative cell phone service option I've ever seen for a long time. I don't get drunk myself, but I've been with people who are drunk, and it's not a pretty sight. You learn things you JUST DON'T WANT TO KNOW. Toronto scarred my life, amcal. :p So I can imagine that many customers will be using this service feature in the future. As well, eBay has gone ballistic and let people advertise for specific stuff they want to buy. Now there's an interesting idea. I have no idea how the logistics would work out though; can you imagine how many people will be wanting to post ads? With that many ads posted, seriously, what's the probability that your ad will be viewed? I suppose somebody's BOUND to view it sooner or later, whatwith all the traffic that eBay gets. But still, it seems that the pool of prospected sellers is severely bottlenecked by the number of buyers.

OK, the news that made me want to write this post in the first place. Drum roll, please.

IBM is selling their PC division.

Well, it's about time! Let's face it, anybody who's stupid or crazy enough to stick around in the PC market has either mind-blowing inventory turnover (cough, Dell, cough) or red ink up the wazoo. PCs are no longer where it's at. Consumers don't need PCs anymore in the same way they used to need to the technology. Now it's just another appliance, a necessary commodity. Market maturity peaked a little while ago, I think, if it hasn't peaked already.

IBM is one of the companies for which I have a huge amount of respect. You know what their name stands for? International Business Machines. They originally made typewriters. Then the PC came along, which wiped away the typewriter industry, but they were able to adapt and take advantage of the next wave. Then the PC market got saturated, but they were already into servers. Then consulting was getting a good boom, and they were smart enough to get almagamate consulting efforts with their server business. And now they're getting into life sciences. IBM's ability to see, interpret, and take advantage of the future never ceases to amaze me. Of course, they've had their screw-ups, like thinking that the money was in the hardware they were making, and not signing an exclusive contract with Bill Gates. But IBM knows when it's time to change and has never feared doing so. I like that. I really can't stand fear of change.

Really. It bugs me.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Target: December 6


So I got a new ski bag on Saturday. Posted by Hello


It's the perfect size for my skis (175 cm bag for 170 skis) and can fit anything else I'd want to put in, like my poles! Posted by Hello


And I can sling it over my shoulder like a backpack! This is what I look like after a night of MIMC. Posted by Hello

So I used my Westside Sport and Ski coupon from the Warren Miller movie to purchase a brand new ski bag. This makes it so much easier to transport my stuff to and from the mountain. And while on the slopes, I can just roll up the bag and put it in my backpack. :D

Will be busing up to Whistler on Monday, December 6! Anyone wish to join me? This is my biggest motivation for getting through this final crazy week. :) Yes, I really should get around to writing that economic analysis on movie and video game child protection ratings....

Still need to get socks though. Those new gloves were darn expensive; I didn't want to waste the coupon on cheap socks! But the gloves are oh so comfy. :D Now for some oh so comfy socks.

And for those of you who are headed to Saskatoon, I have registered and will see you there!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Have you ever really loved a woman?

Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman
Bryan Adams

To really love a woman
To understand her - you gotta know her deep inside
Hear every thought - see every dream
N' give her wings - when she wants to fly
Then when you find yourself lyin' helpless in her arms
Ya know ya really love a woman

When you love a woman you tell her
That she's really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she's the one
Cuz she needs somebody to tell her
That it's gonna last forever
So tell me have you ever really
- really really ever loved a woman?

To really love a woman
Let her hold you -
Til ya know how she needs to be touched
You've gotta breathe her - really taste her
Til you can feel her in your blood
N' when you can see your unborn children in her eyes
Ya know ya really love a woman

When you love a woman
You tell her that she's really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she's the one
Cuz she needs somebody to tell her
That you'll always be together
So tell me have you ever really -
Really really ever loved a woman?

You got to give her some faith - hold her tight
A little tenderness - gotta treat her right
She will be there for you, takin' good care of you
Ya really gotta love your woman...

Then when you find yourself lyin' helpless in her arms
Ya know ya really love a woman
When you love a woman you tell her
That she's really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she's the one
Cuz she needs somebody to tell her
That it's gonna last forever
So tell me have you ever really
- really really ever loved a woman?

Just tell me have you ever really,
Really, really, ever loved a woman?
Just tell me have you ever really,
Really, really, ever loved a woman?

Second post. Andrew got me thinking about a time where I was at a funeral. Strange how morbid thoughts could spout out of such wonderful sentiments, but it really was actually a beautiful moment in retrospect; hear me out. The husband and wife had only just got married, it seemed. And all of a sudden, the wife was stricken with cancer. They did everything to keep the wife alive, but in the end, she came to be with God. The husband had much difficulty dealing with this, especially since he (to my knowledge) had no understanding of Christ's love for him. I went up to him after the casket was buried and talked with him a bit. Out of courtesy, I mentioned how great a woman she had been, even though I had barely known her myself. I'll never forget the tears he tried to fight back as he stuttered, "Yes, and I LOVED her."

That was the only time in my life where I felt I truly understood how much a man loved his wife. I have no doubt that married people I know truly do love their spouses. But at this funeral, I didn't just believe it, I felt it straight to my bones. And I wonder today how many people in this world would actually be able to answer Bryan Adams truthfully. Certainly not me. Childish fantasies and petty thoughts would never be able to compare to the lifelong commitment that two people make to each other.

Now then, since English is such a limited language, let's go back to the original Greek. From Wikipedia, we can see that the ancient Greeks outlined love as:
Agape
Agape is love that God has for mankind. Only God can express this kind of love.

Eros
Eros is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing.

Philia
Philia, a dispassionate virtuous love, was developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. Philia is motivated by practical reasons; one or both of the parties benefit from the relationship.

Storge
Storge is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring.

Xenia
In ancient Greece, the concept of xenia was extremely important. It was an almost ritualized friendship formed between a host and their guest, who could previously be strangers. The host fed and provided quarters for the guest, who was only expected to repay with gratitude. The importance of this can be seen throughout myth, in particular Homer's Odyssey.

Given that the word love can be understood in so many different ways, it's easy to see how different people can use the same word and mean totally different things; they're just not on the same page. I wonder how many unworkable relationships are due to this dichotomy. And why is it that rationality goes out the window when people are locked in the throes of love?

A question that's been asked for millennia and we still don't have a satisfactory answer. Though with all the literature I've seen, I think we're coming close. Please read this. It's good for you. It puts rationality back into the works. But don't borrow it from me. I lent my copy to Amcal.
Of course, this could explain it all.
And if women who can understand this type of guy really exist in this world, I'll... run screaming into the streets, or something.

The Lure of Open Source

I haven't really discussed open source often. Well, actually, hardly ever. But the movement is extremely fascinating. I have two posts to make, thanks to Andrew, but let's make them one at a time. That guy is getting annoying, always stirring my mind. Perhaps I better stop reading. On to the first post.

What is it I find so alluring about open source? Here's a quote taken from Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft. Great book, I used it for my 374 paper and it changed my life. OK, not really, but it did shift my thought paradigm regarding organizational crisis management. And actually, Bank really took the quote from an internal report written by some Microsoft employees. Yes, I totally recommend this book to anyone that is interested in what makes companies rise and fall; it's like The Innovator's Dilemma in action. But on to the quote. :) Erm, me quoting Bank quoting the Microsoft guy, rather.
A Microsoft engineer named Vinod Valloppillil was commissioned study the threat and found that “the open-source process was in many ways better adapted to the new dynamics of the software market than Microsoft’s own centralized structure. Open-source projects easily draw talent from anywhere in the world, he said, scale up as needed, and demobilize just as effortlessly.” (Bank, 2001, p. 169)
I have Breaking Windows if anyone wants to borrow it. I seem to have a lot of books.... While the debate between open and closed source probably will never die, open source definitely has some advantages.

1. Firstly, you've got a zillion more minds working on the code to make it space and time-efficient, bug-free, and functional. Couple this with the fact that their motivation is purely altruistic, philanthropic, anti-corporate, whatever. The point is that they are not motivated by money and if one of them for any reason becomes disgruntled, he is easily replaced; they're all grains of sand on a beach (except Eric S. Raymond or someone like that, but even the Eric S. Raymonds and Linus Torvalds entities of this world have successors lurking in the shadows). Compare that to thousands of expensive coders being worked to the bone to meet deadlines (which can ironically lead to more bugs) and who are difficult to replace.

2. Open source software is released in stages, which vastly increases the product quality. Product quality is easier to ensure when you have a zillion eyes analyzing the code and a centillion users testing the binaries as they move from alpha stage to release candidates. The most fantastic thing is that many of these users test the software in real-life situations; that is, they use the software as if it had already gone gold. It is extremely difficult for me to believe that a traditional development shop would be as capable at catching bugs that arise mostly in real-life situations; more likely, they find the bugs after the software has gone gold. One might argue that it's unfair to put the burden of unfound bugs on individuals or organizations that use the beta versions of the software. I argue that this is not unfair. Those people should (and most likely do) understand that they are using beta software. Consequently, only the people who take the risks are actually taking the risks. Everyone else patiently waits for the final release candidate and the software still gets tested in real-life situations. It's a win-win scenario.

3. The security. Security holes will always be discovered and even exploited whether you use open source or closed source, mainly because of the ingenuity of hackers and crackers. Given this reality, what matters is who is more capable of responding to the discovery of security holes. Of course, the closed source camp would argue that this reality does not exist; we'll never know the truth until open source operating systems like Linux have enough market share to warrant attack from crackers. However, if the ability of crackers is the driving factor, it really seems to me like open source has the advantage. The open source camp has way more resources to allocate towards bug patches because 1) they have more coders, and 2) they aren't constrained by budgets and the need to balance resources for product launches.

4. The collective innovation. With open source, you have the collective creativity of minds from all over the world working together to make a great product. Knowledge is free and is used to drive further leaps and bounds of innovation. So open source is like a high-tech throwback to the old days of academia, where knowledge was discovered and use for the betterment of mankind, rather than profit. I'm not denying that knowledge creation can be driven quite well by profit. However, there comes a point when sharing knowledge makes much more sense: patents case in point. This is part of the reason why we have industry standards, I suppose. But think of how many cooler add-ons we could have for Microsoft Office if only the darn thing were more open.

Open source has more advantages, no doubt. The funny part is how the phrase "open source" can be applied to almost any type of knowledge creation now. For example, Wikipedia, the world's best (and possibly only) free encyclopedia is completely open source. The content is so diverse and accurate precisely because there are so many people constantly editing the encyclopedia for veracity and adding information. Furthermore, because it's open source and online, the content is up-to-date and covers topics that have only come into existence even within the past few months. It makes for extremely enlightening conversations with Jeff on Japanese toilets.

So Andrew has brought to my attention the existence of Open Source Theology. While concepts like this have already long been in existence (any public forum would suffice), such a site title is still pretty cool, IMHO. And the site itself looks pretty cool. My only worry is this. The integrity of an open source product depends on the quality of its contributors and testers. The quality of open source coders cannot be denied, as many of them code for a profession and contribute to open source on the side. As for Wikipedia, the number of people surfing the site is bound to have a few who are actually subject matter experts and thus willing to state the truth of the matter. With Open Source Theology, you have people dealing with subjects wherein the truth is not yet finalized. For example, the age-old Calvinist-Armenian debate; did I spell that right? I'm never sure. But when you have such differing worldviews, you end up with much differing interpretations of scripture. Consequently a concept of "open source theology" may output content that could constantly be in conflict with itself.

Then again, that doesn't make it any different from choosing books off the shelf of a Christian bookstore, does it? :) I suppose it's the same as the collection of knowledge that we have offline, so I really shouldn't have any worry at all. But there is the one aspect that it's easier for poorly-read theologian wannabes to post an article online than it is for them to get published offline. But I'll probably give Open Source Theology a read now and then; no doubt, there are a few (probably many, actually) good contributors on there.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Some of the research our psychology department does

Just got this in the e-mail:

>WIN ONE OF THREE $300 PRIZES
>
>Participate in an ONLINE Study of Daily Events in Romantic Relationships
>
>Participants must be in an ongoing romantic relationship of at least 3
>months or longer, have regular in-person contact with their partner,
>have daily internet access, and be willing to complete short
>questionnaires daily for 11 days.
>
>-----------------------------------------
>Beverley Davino, Departmental Assistant
>Psychology, SFU

I'd post the contact e-mail, but I wouldn't want them receiving spam because of me... :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Snow Falling on Cedars

I went up to the park on Burnaby Mountain tonight to sort out some thoughts. Walking along the path, it seemed like there was a magical or mystical atmosphere. Looking over the cliff at the river, fog enshrouded the islands and completely covered the waterway. One could hear the foghorns as boats traversed down the river. Trees stretched above me beyond one's imagination, reaching for the clouded skies. Majestic in their silent splendour, they stood guard over the entire mountain. Looking on the other side, the city was viewable in its entirety, with a heavy mist that seemed summoned eons past. The panoramic scene as one turned around had no beginning and no end, because the mountain ranges in the distance had no distinction, nor radiance. They simply waited ominously in the shadows, challenging wayfarers to pass through to the other side. For what? What treasures or adventures lay there in the lands beyond the horizon? What peoples lived there? What legends were created and feared there? And one realized that this phantasm had a meaning far beyond purpose of life. For one's life was too small to have purpose in this astounding environment. A small piece, a link in the great chain of time, a cog in the unbelievable clockwork of reality, one would be unable to fathom the ramifications of his tiny contributions because his contributions lacked formidability. And so purpose exists in life. And the fog would never lift, lest that purpose be made clear and the awe of it all be lost to the cravings of a searching mind. For the journey is just as gratifying as the destination.

I wrote a poem last night. Writing again finally.

LOL! Amcal needs a date for a networking dinner! If you wish to date this very eligible bachelor, please contact me ASAP. :) He is desperate, as everyone else going to this dinner already has a date. Please note that most of the people attending the dinner will most likely be older than the two of you. It is a Christmas dinner to which his employer has been invited.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

RIP amcal

amcal is no longer with us. Rest in peace. Here is a memoir, our last meaningful conversation.

Amcal ^o) lol says: thanks man.. well, you know how to contact me :0

PakG1 - Add oil says: by snail mail?

Amcal ^o) lol says: or cell phone

PakG1 - Add oil says: or telegram

Amcal ^o) lol says: or telepathy.. (oh wait.. wrong alternate reality.. I thought this was the one with the cool mutant powers)

PakG1 - Add oil says: what, u mean u can't?

Amcal ^o) lol says: not this one.. this is dimenson b12, B13 is the one where I have the mind powers.. C12 is the one where I'm just learning my psionics..

PakG1 - Add oil says: oic

PakG1 - Add oil says: wow, I haven't been able to connect with myself in alternate realities yet

PakG1 - Add oil says: we're not yet aware of each other

PakG1 - Add oil says: been trying during my dreams tho

Amcal ^o) lol says: oh.. neither was I.. it was T16 I think, who crossed the subconscious barrier treshold.. or something like that.. him and WX are thinking of giving me a field trip..

PakG1 - Add oil says: dang, I wish mine would do that

PakG1 - Add oil says: I'm going for the tridimensional lunar displacement method

Amcal ^o) lol says: but.. we'll see.. apparently W and T actually were aware of each since 6 years old or something...

hahah don't worry, I'll ask one of the two if they know your alternate... though, I think they're not in canada right now though.. ^o)

Amcal ^o) lol says: sweet.. lunar displacement?

PakG1 - Add oil says: ya, I figure if I'm able to displace the moon's orbit, I'll be able to create a rip in the fabric of space-time and go through it to one of the other dimensions

Amcal ^o) lol says: um.. dude.. I don't think you can displace the moon's orbit.. not in this one though... C talked about some idiot who tried blowing up the moon with his "laser"

PakG1 - Add oil says: but it would be only a temporary displacement, I'd hope that the tides on earth wouldn't be affected that much

Amcal ^o) lol says: hmm.. that depends though.. especially if you have to consider if the laws of physics and gravity are taken into account..

PakG1 - Add oil says: timing the nuclear launch with the movement of the next close-range comet should be sufficient

Amcal ^o) lol says: hmm interesting.. though, make sure you've compensated for any other possible space objects..

Amcal ^o) lol says: even a small meteor could knock things of whack

PakG1 - Add oil says: dang this stupid chaos theory. I hope there's no butterflies around when the time comes

Amcal ^o) lol says: oh shoot.. I forgot that.. imagine.. a butterfly's wings may cause a cyclone on the other side of the planet.. hmm.. why not use chaos theory in your favor?

PakG1 - Add oil says: as in calculate for all the nonlinear factors to decide the optimal conditions?

PakG1 - Add oil says: the compilation of data alone would not be finished within my lifetime for such calculations

PakG1 - Add oil says: although I suppose it's possible there are no comets coming by the moon in the near future either?

Amcal ^o) lol says: hmm true.. but.. perhaps, launching a small warhead into deep space may bring about a string of event to create a comet or similar body to pass by..

PakG1 - Add oil says: oic

PakG1 - Add oil says: calculate the conditions necessary to cause a comet to come close and then initiate the sequence of nonlinear events

Amcal ^o) lol says: exactly.. alright man.. this is it.. wish me luck

Amcal ^o) lol says: nite take it easy


I guess he didn't make it.... :(

It's not the trinket that matters

Azumanga Daioh is one of the funnier animes I've ever seen. In Azumanga Daioh, there's a nice scene at the end. The girls are all graduating and Kagura is in her classroom for the last time. She's touching a desk, wondering what the future will hold. Yukari-sensei walks in and asks what's up. The conversation goes something like this (though my memory isn't perfect):

Kagura: Yukari-sensei, I don't suppose it'd be ok if I took a desk or chair with me, would it?
Yukari: Kagura, why on earth would you want to do that?
Kagura: Well, it's really silly, but I guess I'd just like to take something from this classroom with me.
Yukari: But you are! Your memories!
Kagura: (Whimpers, then bawls) Yukari-sensei! Thank you!
Yukari (in her typically clueless fashion): Huh?

Through an unexpected and unfortunate circumstance, I have lost the globe's base. But I don't need to the globe's base to keep the memories. ABA is still one of the coolest things to ever happen to me, and the ABA execs are still some of the coolest people around.

Besides, I still have the globe. Too bad it has nothing on which to spin anymore.

But it was the globe's base that had the logo.

Dang.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Warm fuzzy feelings

Who the heck threw that cup? Seriously!

Let's get to warm fuzzy feelings.
Your Love Is a Drug
Puffy AmiYumi
Translation: None needed, it's in English this time!

When trouble ever gets me down
Your touch is all I need to turn me round
You lift me up
Your love is a drug

When life is just a misery
Your kisses are the only remedy
Can't get enough
Your love is a drug

Knock me off my feet
Make my worries obsolete
It's so groovy
Just like a movie

Flyin' through the sky
As I'm jonesin' for those eyes
It's amazing how you can make a sober girl so high

I used to see the world as dark
Now everyday the sun shines in my heart
You lift me up
Your love is a drug

It's something more than chemistry
I'm trippin' everytime you're next to me
I can't get enough
Your love is a drug

The buzz is oh so strong
Tune me in and turn me on
You're a rainbow
You make my love grow

Take me for a ride
You're my tie dye butterfly
It's amazing
How you can make a sober girl so high

I know I'll never shake the stuff
I'll always be a junkie for your love
I can't get enough
Your love is a drug
It's more than a puff
Your love is a drug
You lift me up
Like your love is a drug

I wonder, is this what actually happens to a woman's mind? What do you say when someone says to you, "When I'm with you, I feel so carefree"? It's a nice nice ubernice feeling to hear something like that. I know. So it's interesting that I really dislike it when a female directs a statement even remotely close to that at me. I wonder how much women in general think like Hikki here. Probably one of my favourite ballads of all time anyway. And the one that got me into Jpop. :) But I doubt feelings like this last long. The imagery of tabacco breath is apparently very meaningful in Japan. It apparently signifies the end of love. This is heard through the grapevine and unconfirmed. Perhaps I'll ask Mauro about it.
First Love
Utada Hikaru
Translation found: Here

Your last kiss had the flavor of tabacco
A bitter and sad scent
Where will you be tomorrow at this time?
Who are you thinking of?

You are always gonna be my love
Even if I fall in love with someone else once again
I'll remember to love, you taught me how
You are always gonna be the one
Now it's still a sad love song
Until I'm able to sing a new song

Time stood still, but it's trying to move once more
Full of things I don't want to forget
I'll surely be crying tomorrow at this time
I'll be thinking of you
Yeah, yeah, yeah

You will always be inside my heart
There's always a place just for you
I hope that I have a place in your heart too
Now and forever you are still the one
Now it's still a sad love song
Until I'm able to sing a new song
Oh oh

You are always gonna be my love
Even if I fall in love with someone else once again
I'll remember to love, you taught me how
You are always gonna be the one
Now it's still a sad love song
Now and forever
Do you know how friggin hard it is to find a good translation of First Love?? It took me an entire hour! Thank goodness for my rudimentary Japanese.

Looking at Cassiopeia again. Please direct attention towards the trees instead. Much thanks.

I seriously thought Cassiopeia wasn't distracting anymore. Cycle, amcal, cycle.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Fallacy of Economics?

"And this is why I think the foundation of economics is totally wrong!"

Try understanding that when it's said by an economics professor. Well, it was something close to that, I'm sure; I can't remember the exact wording. It was many many weeks ago.

This one is for 9race, regarding a discussion from a while back. While Andrew applies his little quote specifically to the Christian movement, rather than general ideological movements as the author does, I have some comments regarding the author's economic analysis. Mind you, I totally agree with Andrew that the quote epitomizes the state of many churches and "Christians" today; churches in general have devolved from their original status as faith institutions created for a specific purpose to become social institutions where people can simply be part of a community. There's nothing wrong with such a social institution existing. However, those are called community centres. The church was originally supposed to be much more. One can trace a similar devolution in the YMCA, which was once an amazing parachurch organization, on the frontier of the Christian movement in the United States. I mean, excuse me, it's called Young Men's Christian Association.... Now it's... a place where you can go to work out. And in both the YMCA and many churches, the understanding of what being a Christian means is lost. Even the understanding of how to become a Christian is lost. One is not a car because he/she sleeps in a garage. One is not a Christian because he/she attends church.

But the economics in Wendell Berry's article. My main issue is that he focuses more on rhetoric to present his argument; I'd argue that his underlying logic has some faulty premises, creating an unsound, if not invalid, argument. I shall pull some quotes of my own from the article:
The global "free market" is free to the corporations precisely because it dissolves the boundaries of the old national colonialisms, and replaces them with a new colonialism without restraints or boundaries. It is pretty much as if all the rabbits have now been forbidden to have holes, thereby "freeing" the hounds.
Berry decries free trade and globalization precisely because of the control that corporations get in manhandling the little guy. But in taking his stance, he makes several assumptions that I believe are not true. Perhaps he makes them inadverdantly. They seem to be as follows:
1. Free trade and globalization in their current forms today truly constitute free trade
2. People are incapable of ownership, enterprise, and learning new tricks
3. Corporations are unwilling to act in a socially responsible manner
If these three points are true, then I think Berry's argument stands. However, I really do not concur that they are true.

Firstly, tariffs, quotas, and subsidies exist aplenty in this world that prevent the economic output of poorer nations from reaching the markets that are willing to buy them. Here's a quote:
The mandate of the NAMA Negotiating Group also includes further efforts to reduce or remove existing non-tariff barriers that act to unduly restrict trade. In this regard, Canada has stated that governments must retain the right to apply measures in support of legitimate objectives while regulating in the public interest in the least trade-restrictive manner possible. It is Canada's view that the NAMA Negotiating Group's mandate covers only those non-tariff barriers that are not covered by existing rules and agreements, and the scope of the Group's eventual work in this area remains to be seen.
I'm not one to say that our farmers need to become poorer. However, their self-interest in wanting to protect themselves through means like the Canadian Wheat Board, tariffs, and subsidies are slaughtering the abilities of poor nations to export agricultural products. Let's face it: the less a nation's economy is developed, the greater percentage agriculture composes for that economy. Hence, poorer nations are able to export mainly agricultural products. Except those exports hit a wall of trade barriers that exist because Canadian farmers are afraid to compete on a fair and level playing field. Free trade is not actually happening today, and what we really are seeing is an attempt by richer nations to protect themselves from becoming poorer. IMHO, this is a fallacy. But people are unwilling to look at the potential long-term benefits of comparative advantage and instead focus on maintaining the status quo because it's "safe and secure."

This leads right into my second point regarding Berry's stance. He assumes that workers are forever members of the proletariat, and are incapable of working for themselves. Free trade benefits people when they actually participate in the trade. The problem with Berry's viewpoint is that he argues that corporations have all the ownership, and therefore all the exploitation; the corporations are consequently the sole beneficiaries of free trade. No, not true. Free trade by its very nature necessitates ownership on both sides of the trade. Of course it's impossible for people to have ownership if they are only employed by the corporation; employment is an awfully one-sided trade. I think there have been plenty of cases where citizens of poorer nations have reaped the benefits of free trade precisely because they had private ownership. It means they get to keep the profits, after all. In fact, Berry makes some of these very points in the latter portion of his essay, where he talks about his idea of local economy. It's ironic that he's on the verge of actually supporting free trade; it demonstrates his potential misunderstanding of the status of "free trade" in the world.

But for private enterprise and free trade to operate properly, we need respect for the law, integrity in the system, and peace in the region. It's impossible for one to operate private enterprise if an area is run over with crime, has corruption in the government, and is constantly at civil war. This is precisely why it would be so difficult to have free trade work to improve the economic wealth of specific African nations. The droughts are a large factor as well, I'll admit. We thus have a difficult scenario: can crime decrease when one of the greater causes of crime is poverty? But poverty cannot be improved upon by free trade unless the crime is reduced. However, this issue doesn't nullify the positives of free trade, it only prevents them from working. I may also add in that I believe that such a situation is a clear result and manifestation of humanity's general sin.

As well, education is necessary. It's not free trade that caused those farmers to raze the forests to sell timber; it was short-sightedness. A wiser farmer would have seen that it was in his interest to fulfill long-term demand by responsibly harvesting timber, while at the same time maintaining the agricultural potential of the soil. Once again, this doesn't make free trade a bad thing. It only demonstrates that certain prerequisites are necessary before free trade can be implemented.

However, if these prerequisites are met, then it's perfectly possible for members of the proletariat to become members of the bourgeoisie. It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Just as a plumber can do plumbing jobs for himself and receive all the revenue for his services, a farmer can reap his harvest and take all the profits, or even change his vocation. People are more capable of things than they think. The Joy of Freedom - An Economist's Odyssey is filled with some great examples. I have a copy if anyone wants to borrow it. :) There is no need for us to underestimate the ingenuity, innovation, and work ethic of our fellow man (or woman!). Free trade has many general social benefits as well, that extend beyond the individual. For example, my thoughts on the effects of free trade on environmentalism can be found here. And The Joy of Freedom has some excellent commentary on how private ownership can improve the environment.

The final assumption to be rebutted is the thought that corporations are unwilling or incapable of acting in a socially responsible manner. Well, I have to admit I agree with this quote:
The folly at the root of this foolish economy began with the idea that a corporation should be regarded, legally, as "a person". But the limitless destructiveness of this economy comes about precisely because a corporation is not a person. A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance. As such, unlike a person, a corporation does not age. It does not arrive, as most persons finally do, at a realization of the shortness and smallness of human lives; it does not come to see the future as the lifetimes of the children and grandchildren of anybody in particular. It can experience no personal hope or remorse, no change of heart. It cannot humble itself. It goes about its business as if it were immortal, with the single purpose of becoming a bigger pile of money. The stockholders essentially are usurers, people who "let their money work for them," expecting high pay in return for causing others to work for low pay. The World Trade Organization enlarges the old idea of the corporation-as-person by giving the global corporate economy the status of a super government with the power to overrule nations.
Well, I haven't seen The Corporation yet, nor have I read the book. But I have heard amazing things about it that seem to relate to Berry's words. I hope to see The Corporation soon, it was first recommended to me by a co-worker at TELUS, and I've been hearing about it ever since. But what Berry says is true. What Berry fails to realize is that the corporation caters to the customer because the customer gives the corporation bread and butter. And I think that the customer is naturally demanding ethical conduct. Nike has vastly improved its standards for labour in overseas nations. Although it still has a bad sweatshop reputation, it's nowhere near what it used to be. On the other hand, you have companies like Mountain Equipment Coop that focus on corporate environmental and social responsibility. Heck, Ben and Jerry are still a couple of hippies at heart. But my point is that if the customer wants it, the corporation will change. And the customer wants it today. So corporations are changing, while others started out that way in the first place.

Perhaps Berry's biggest problem with the concept of free trade is an ethical issue.
These assumptions clearly prefigure a condition of total economy. A total economy is one in which everything — "life forms", for instance, or the "right to pollute" — is "private property" and has a price and is for sale.
According to efficiency maxims, it is actually not optimal to eliminate crime. It is not optimal to eliminate sickness. This is because the price is too high. Eliminating crime is perfectly possible. We just need to have secret police patrolling every square inch of the street, creating systems that virtually eliminate the existence of black markets for weapons, invade the privacy of every family's home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, etc. 1984 is a world that we do not want (though the US heads closer to it every day after 9/11). Likewise for sickness. We could pour the nation's entire economic output into AIDS research, cancer research, heck, even flu research. We could force everyone to walk around in astronaut suits to make sure that germs are never spread from one person to another. Do you see my point? Society actually prefers to endure some crime, some sickness, some social unrest, because it is not willing to pay the cost of eliminating those social bads.
And likewise, many things are consequently for sale. The right to pollute is for sale because it's too costly to absolutely eliminate pollution, and society deems the economic output of the polluter to be worth the pollution. According to this same economics professor I mentioned at the beginning, Ralph Nader once came to SFU and gave a talk. He said, "You know what's not right? If you pee into the Detroit River, you get slapped with a fine, but GM pollutes that river every day and receives no fine!" It was obvious what the fallacy was. GM creates economic output and gives back to the community something that the community deems worth an amount equal or greater than the pollution. However, when you piss into the pollution, you're not contributing anything. So you get fined for causing a net damage.

Let me be blunt. It seems to me that advocates of protectionism would rather piss on society than contribute to the economic welfare of society.

The Folly of Best Buy

Since I first started building my own computers, I've used these specific rules:

1. Look for a small shop owned and run by a Chinese guy.
2. Do not expect excellent service. As long as the service is efficient and quick, it will be sufficient. You should be able to walk in, buy your parts, and walk out all within 15 minutes.
3. Play stores off of each other to get a lower price.
4. Do your research and know what you're getting before you buy.
5. The store should not have a reputation of cheating the customer.
6. At all costs, avoid Future Shop, London Drugs, or any other big retail chain.

Of course, as the years passed, it was more plausible to shop at online stores. Especially since it was the online stores that carried all the hot deals. I'm not a hot deal hunter like Ted or Vlad, but it's still nice to reap the benefits of one now and then. :)

This is not Let's Diss Rom Day. The poor guy was just unfortunate to get a job at Best Buy in the computer section. :)

I extraordinarily disliked my experiences with Future Shop computer salespeople.

PakG1: So, what's so special about this RAM? The store down the street sells RAM for half the price.
Future Shop Whipping Boy: It comes in a box! That store will give it to you in a bag!
PakG1: ... That's cool. But I want to buy the RAM. Not the box.
Future Shop Whipping Boy: If it's in a box, it's more reliable!
PakG1: ... Hmm, thanks. Well, gotta go!

Mind you, there are some excellent diamonds in the rough. Not all Future Shop computer salespeople are ignorant about what they're selling. I have some friends who are quite capable of selling what they have to sell (and they work at big retail chains). My big question is why oh why does that not seem to be the norm?

The 80/20 Rule has been long known in business. It's not anything new (well, it might have been new to the Best Buy execs). 80% of your profits are generated by 20% of your customers. Thus, a huge percentage of your customers actually cause you to have losses. Strategies have long existed to deal with this issue and cull customers that are not profitable. I repeat: what Best Buy is doing is nothing new. But how many companies come out and say, "We're going to actively try to lose some of our customers"? It makes no PR sense whatsoever! Every other company has spun it in a favourable fashion; CRM (customer relationship management) systems perhaps comprise the latest and best method so far. But Best Buy has to come out and put mud on its face. It looks lovely on you, dude.

So you gotta love Dell. Heh.

Yeah, so I haven't bought computer parts at Future Shop for a long while now. Nor at Best Buy, its new parent company.

Did you know that Bill Gates gets 4 million e-mails a day? Now we know why he got the R&D department to invest in anti-spam technology. :D

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Insanity of Sports

Today, I link Erica. I met Erica in Stats AP back at Burnaby North. Now she's working in a bank in Amsterdam for a while. And she throws great parties. Please note that she is a living example of how living in another culture or environment can really broaden our perspectives and understanding of the world.

An LOT event tonight at the Relish. Acceptable quality of food, and fair price as well. Perhaps I would be willing to go there again for special engagements. However, the owner's speech of how he started up the restaurant was a lot shorter than I originally expected. And an anonymous person almost killed me. I am still laughing. Heh.

Met Yvonne (of all people, who woulda thunk??) on the way back on the Skytrain. Haven't seen her for what, 2 years now? She's working at this company. And they need someone to design a database for them. I have offered my services. We shall see what happens. Minna thinks I am crazy.

Chee... my blog is starting to turn into a daily diary. I better make a noteworthy post but fast. I wanted to discuss the stupidity of sports mania going too far. But alas, I am tired. Heck, let's do it anyway.

I remember cramming into a motel with some of the male BASS folks in 2003. It was great. We grabbed these huge cheap (but great quality) pizzas from Granville and Pender, and watched the Canucks pound the Blues in Game 7. And it was great! :D We ran out of the hotel to Robson Street and screamed our lungs out. Total strangers were giving each other high fives, hugging each other, and singing the national anthem. Rick ran into the middle of the street to high five every single driver and passenger that was slowly passing by; the streets were filled with people all celebrating the series victory. The euphoria was amazing.

Contrast that with what happened in 1994, when the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the New York Rangers. Vancouver experienced one of its worst riots ever. I reminisce especially about the incident of the cop shooting a rubber bullet at a specific Canuck fan, and the ensuing controversy, because of the current controversy over the dead Red Sox fan. The investigation probably will come to some conclusion, and from my understanding, the fan wasn't actually part of a "riot". However, why do crowds need to act in such a way that the police feel that it is necessary to show some presence?

Passion obviously can be both exuberant and destructive. Passion in and of itself isn't actually good or bad, just like many of the things in this world. It's how the passion is shown and used that matters. Sports fans on this level can possibly be compared with religious fundamentalists. It's unfortunate that the actions of a few (or many) can tarnish the reputation of all (including the ones with constructive passion).

So the biggest question I have is why this passion drives certain sports fans to hate someone who used to be a hero. If it weren't for Paul McCallum, the Saskatchewan Roughriders would not even have been in the playoffs. I can understand if fans wish to no longer support McCallum. I can understand if they scream for McCallum to be traded. But I can't understand why any fan would egg his family's house, dump manure on his lawn, and scream threats at his family. Let's look up the word fan, shall we? For our context, Merriam-Webster Online defines fan as:
1 : an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as
a spectator
2 : an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit)

I can't see how vandalizers are enthusiastic devotees or ardent admirers. They're bloodthirsty for the Grey Cup and care nothing for the team that would get them it, so long as it is won. But perhaps the etymology can shed some light. Good old M-W says that fan is probably short for fanatic. Ooh, that's interesting. Is there a mirror image in the actual physical manifestation of a fan? Is a fan's root in fanaticism? Certainly that cannot be said for those of faith. Faith's roots do not lie in fundamentalism. I think if we trace the history of all major religions, that is a safe conclusion.

This fanatic passion is unfortunately cemented in North American culture. You know it's bad when Hockey Canada releases a campaign like Relax, it's just a game. I've heard enough about hockey dads killing each other, soccer moms screaming at referees, etc. I'm sorry Don Cherry, the culture is really like that. I've talked with people who coach and they can't agree more that a campaign like Relax, it's just a game is necessary. Heck, I played soccer for a few years with Cliff Avenue (bronze and silver levels) back in high school. Even at our lower level of competition, you still sometimes had a screaming parent.

Ultimately, I feel distraught that sports can have such an impact in igniting people's passions into loose cannons. Sports can unite cities (and even nations) like few other things. Go back to 2002 in Salt Lake and Gretzky's "They Want Us to Lose" rant. It's almost impossible to say that all of Canada did not rally behind this team, with pride on the line. What about the Summit Series? Heck, look at South Korea in the 2002 World Cup. You think Calgary had a Sea of Red? You ain't seen nothing if you didn't see South Korea's Sea of Red in the STREETS. Examples abound throughout history, these are just some of the more recent and prominent ones. Let's go back to the time when sports really was a way to unite humanity. Heh, like it ever existed? And the integrity of the Olympics gets worse with each scandal, doesn't it? Or perhaps it was already lost after it was necessary for all the corporations to get involved.

Currently listening to:
Urei
Puffy AmiYumi
Translated by: Sony Music

Such a muddy road: how far does it go?
You not only get dirty
But teacher's directions were different and
The last train gets farther

Rushing around and around and then stuck
It's still dark out, but morning comes

Let's play until it's disgusting
Let's play in a world that has everything
Let's play before you let it go
Come and catch me here: Let's play

The view through a donut hole
Alone, a curse
I don't seem to be trusted
Since I get jerked around

You don't seem to notice that the rails are twisted
I'm not waiting for you; I'll leave now

Let's play the way I like to
Let's play and get sweaty
Let's play while you're alive
Come and catch me quick: Let's play

The translation really doesn't do it justice... too bad.