Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Minority Government!

Oh, this is too funny. Look at the breakdown:
Liberals: 135 seats
Conservatives: 99 seats
Bloc Quebecois: 54 seats
NDP: 19 seats
Independent: 1 seat
Total: 308 seats

So the Liberals and the NDP put together get EXACTLY 50% of the vote, not enough for this government to actually make any decisions. The swing vote is owned by an independent, Mr. Chuck Cadman, a former Conservative that left the Conservative Party over issues in the merger process between the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. I guess those guys are regretting having him out now. :D So now the question is, would Mr. Cadman, a right-wing guy, use his swing vote to help the Liberal-NDP alliance put through their bills? Or would the Liberal-NDP alliance need to go to the Bloc? A Quebec-sovereignist party holding the swing vote for Canadian government policy? All I can do is laugh at how ludicrous this is. It's like a bad drama. This government will last one year, max. Count on it.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Vote on June 28!

So for any of you Canadians that have been living in a cave the past few months, the federal election will come up on Monday, June 28 (coming Monday). I finally posted my thoughts in the HardCOREware.net forums, so I figured I'd copy and paste to here. :D Kill two birds with one stone, you know? Here it is, verbatim (bleh, there are some grammar mistakes, but I'm too lazy to fix them):
Definitely Conservatives. For me, it comes down to who I want for my PM. I definitely don't want Jack Layton, left-wing stuff is not my cup of tea. Once Gilles Duceppe separates Quebec, it would create a very interesting situation... I really wonder if he'd have any motive anymore for running the country well. Probably call an election immediately. :lol: Anyone got facts or statements on this? Anyway, no Bloc for me. 

So that brings it down to Conservatives and Liberals. Nobody else has a chance, so there's no point in me voting for them, because I don't care who my MP is. I just care who my PM is. Harper vs. Martin. 
I never liked Paul Martin for several reasons. 
First of all, he never seemed to be someone who cared about ethics in a proactive sense; it always seemed to be reactive. Case in point, I remember reading the memo that was written to him in 2002, regarding the PWGSC sponsorship scandal (the memo was shown in the National Post earlier this year). It said that even though Martin wasn't Minister of PWGSC, the writer (believe it was some sort of watchdog? I can't recall) requested for Martin to look into various sponsorship initiatives because of their questionable nature. As Martin was Minister of Finance, the writer felt that Martin had a special perspective from which he'd be able to make judgment. Martin ignored that memo. The guy just doesn't seem to take initiative to look into or do things.
Secondly, he always seemed to be a fat cat type of guy to me that never cared about the common man. The guy is friggin rich, people, he used to run Canada's largest shipping company. And he has tons of investments. I worked a summer in PWGSC (the same time that the sponsorship scandal was coming into the news :lol: ) and the federal government has very strict rules as to how civil servants and politicians must divest or turn over control of assets. I never did like the way that Martin resolved his relationship with his shipping company. I'll admit that the guy's been fiscally responsible, but that's to be expected. He knows how to run a business. Does he know how to run a government? See below. 
Thirdly, the guy has no spine. I watched the TV debate between the four party leaders, and Martin evaded questions like the plague. I started watching a bit after it started, so I missed the part where he tried to answer the question about where the PWGSC money went. But I'm told that he never answered the question, just talked about the circumstances and the factors involved. My friend told me that he was thinking (as he watched Martin do his dance), "You must think I'm really stupid and don't know anything, just tell me where the money went, ok?" I DID get to see Martin try to answer the gay marriage question. It was hilarious. 
Duceppe: "Well, my position and Mr. Layton's position on gay marriage is quite clear, we obviously support it. Mr. Harper says that he does not support gay marriage, but he would respect the results of a free vote, and not use the notwithstanding clause for anything except outlawing child pornography. But what is YOUR personal stance on gay marriage, Mr. Martin?"
Martin: "We want to uphold the values in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because this is the most important thing in Canada. Blahblahblah..."
Duceppe: But Mr. Martin, what is YOUR personal opinion?"
Martin: "The Charter of Rights and Freedoms blahblahblah..."
Layton: "Stop hiding behind the charter!!!"
Martin: "What?? The Charter is the basis and foundation of this country, blahblahblah..."
Harper: Mr. Martin, I remember two years ago, you held the exact same stance on gay marriage as I did, but now you don't (note, Martin never actually admitted this, but it's safely presumed), why were you so willing to change your stance?
Martin: "Charter, charter, charter..." 
The gay marriage question sticks out the most because all three candidates were attacking Martin at the same time. But suffice it to say that Martin answered many questions in the debate in this manner; I was sorely disappointed in him. This was his last chance to redeem himself in my eyes (and probably the eyes of many throughout Canada). But the guy had no spine to give an up-front answer for so many of them. He'd play around, dance, and never get to the answer. This guy is too eager to please people, and so his loyalty to anything is questionable. I bet that if right wing had a bigger voice than the left wing, he'd change his tune on a lot of issues just to get votes. 
Three reasons why I will not vote for Liberals. Conservatives? I like a lot of ideas that Harper has. The one that I like the most is cutting corporate taxes only on the condition that handouts and loans to Canadian corporations are also stopped. He's telling that they should either get into shape or die. I like this. There are too many companies that aren't run competitively and don't really do anything for Canada. These guys need to be able to compete with the best in the nation, and also the best in the world. Anyone that needs government funds in order to do that severely lacks competitiveness in my eye. They should just die a quick death if they can't compete, not live on life support from my taxes. I hate it when corporations depend on crutches instead of innovation and strategy. Some government funding can still be warranted because the government would have interest (for example, Dream Home China would warrant federal government support because it's getting a whole industry going to compete with the world, and every single forestry operation from the little Joe logger to the big Weyerhaeusers would be able to access and benefit from the resulting economies of scale). But companies like Air Canada? Crap man, cut the stuff that keeps them from competing properly already. They'd be dead by now if it weren't for those crazy German investors, I have no idea how they think they'll get a good return on this investment deal. Our watchdogs can take care of any monopolization attempts. Look at Westjet, they are COMPETING and have had 28 CONSECUTIVE quarters of profitability! And they're moving up to Air Canada's class of service too.
My goodness, I got off-topic... And yes, I appreciate the free-vote thing he advocates. The Supreme Court should enforce the law, not create it. Of course, this is open to debate. Also, Harper's an economist by training. I have faith in his economic policy development. 
Finally, I like Harper's commitment to the military. Whether or not Canada ever goes to war is irrelevant to me, for this issue. Canada has built a great reputation on peacekeeping, but that reputation has been in serious decline. Our military sucks. If we want to keep our reputation in this world, let's get some better military funding. As Harper noted during the TV debate, it's an embarrasment that our troops headed to Afghanistan had to hitch a ride with the US because we didn't have enough sea vessels of our own that could make the trip. And our troops can't do a good job peacekeeping around the world if they don't have the equipment, no matter how good their training is. 
Harper in. Martin out. That's what I'm hoping for.
Election day is June 28 and your vote counts. It counts especially this time around because the race is so tight between the Liberals and Conservatives, we could very well be headed for a minority government. So vote. Hopefully, we won't need to suffer one, and progress can actually be made in this country in one direction or another.

Friday, June 25, 2004

The Last Samurai

Director: Edward Zwick
Starring: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Timothy Spall, William Atherton
Premise: An American hired to train a modern Japanese army and quell a samurai uprising ends up changing sides.
Rating: 4 out of 4 stars

I watched this in theatres and again on DVD. It is a great movie. There. Done.

Ah, yes, the review.

Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren, a US military man that was involved in the slaying of North American native peoples. Disillusioned with the effects of war and the atrocities that he himself helped to commit, Algren is a broken shell of his former self and lives off alcohol to escape his guilt. Finally, he gets hired by the Japanese government to train a modern Japanese army. As well, Algren must work with his superior officer, a man Algren hates for his utter willingless to slaughter the natives. Algren is ordered to put the Japanese army into battle, despite his protests that it is not yet ready for combat. The army is overrun by samurai and Algren is captured by the enemy.

So what was it about this movie that I enjoyed so much? This is a tale about personal redemption and a shift in eras. We have several conflicts happening here, all intertwined with each other. First and foremost, there is Algren's conflict with himself and everything that represents the cause of his actions. How can he live with himself after what he did in the US? He does not know the answer. Then there is the conflict among the Japanese peoples. Japan wishes to become modern and become as one of the Western economic and military powers. The samurai warn against losing their values. The Emperor Meiji wants what is best for Japan, but is unsure of how to go about it. He can only follow the advice of corrupt government officials who are working for selfish gain. Thus, where is the struggle? Is it the samurai against the government officials, against the emperor, or against the inevitable change that time brings?

In the samurai village, Algren is kept for a winter and eventually is befriended by the samurai. His exchanges with the samurai show us many things again. Firstly, there is a vast difference in culture. Algren cannot understand the samurai's code of honourable death. The samurai are amazed by Algren's unwillingness to admit defeat. The exchanges range from the comical (Algren's one-sided dialogue with his personal guard) to the dramatic (Katsumoto's psychological probing of his new prisoner).

Katsumoto, played by Ken Watanabe, is the leader of the samurai. He values honour as most important, but see that a vast cultural shift is taking place in Japan, allowing avarice to displace honour. Honour is a theme that runs throughout this movie and it hit home as to what people truly value in this modern world. Perhaps the way honour is viewed by the various cultures can be demonstrated best by two scenes in the movie.

Algren and Katsumoto's scene. It's the end of the climactic battle between the samurai and the modern Japanese army (this time ready for combat). The samurai get defeated in Round 2 and the battlefield's action ceases to focus on the fallen samurai, valiant in being mowed down by gatling guns. Katsumoto motions to kill himself, but Algren stops him. Katsumoto says, "You have your honour back. Now let me have mine." For Katsumoto, honour was more important than life. Once defeated, it was no longer worth living.

Meiji and Omura's scene. The emperor has abruptly decided that Japan is not to enter into a treaty with the US. Instead, Japan must develop its own path. Before led like a sheep by Omura, his corrupt and wealthy government official, Emperor Meiji becomes a true leader and finally acts in the interest of the Japanese people. In response to protests by Omura, Meiji seizes the assets of the Omura family to give as a gift to the people. He tells Omura, in response to further protests, "If your shame is too great for you, I offer you this sword!" Read between the lines: if you are too ashamed of your actions, do the honourable thing and fall on a sword.

Ah, honour does conquer in the end then. In a way, at least. But what this movie demonstrated was that honour needed to be put into a modern framework in order to work in the modern world. Change is inevitable for many things, and civilization is one of them. But that doesn't mean that we should throw honour away. Just as Algren redeems himself for the atrocities that he committed against the North American natives, by assisting the samurai to live their values in one amazing last stand, we can pick ourselves up and move forward by helping others to find their way. There is no dishonour in providing compassion to our fellow human being.

This movie was definitely worth watching in theatres and definitely worth a buy. I can't say that about many movies these days....

So what do you REALLY look for in a girl?

Who knows?

You can have all the criteria you want, but it won't matter if you don't know what you want. Most likely someone who understands what sacrifice is. It'd be very important for her to have her priorities straight. Maturity is preferred. This goes hand in hand with having one's priorities straight. So fine, maturity is required. And she must want to make a difference in other people's lives, preferably in the same way I hope to. She should be willing to absolutely give her life to God if called for anything.

Man, I need to make an IT post or something, but fast...

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Nature of Evil

What is the nature of evil in humanity? I just finished watching the TNT miniseries Nuremberg
on DVD. It's a short drama of the famed Nuremberg trials after World War II, in which Nazi leaders were judged for crimes they had committed during the war. While Alec Baldwin was pretty good as the chief prosecutor Robert Jackson, and Brian Cox was excellent as Hermann Goering, commander of the Luftwaffe, it was Matt Craven that really stole the show for me as Captain Gustav Gilbert, a Jewish US military psychologist who spent much time in dialogue with the accused war criminals.
In one scene, Gilbert tells Jackson that he thinks he's finally come close to answering the eternal question on what constitutes evil and the cause of it: a lack of empathy. He has found it to be the one common thread among all the Nazis on trial. This brought up an interesting thought in my mind because I believe that evil is from selfishness. Sin is evil (the noun, not the adjective) because of 1) sin's nature in being opposite of love and all that is good, 2) sin's all-encompassing aspect, and 3) sin's dual status as both an intangible concept and as an act; it's the intangible concept that matters here. And sin is a consequence of selfishness. Consequently, I believe that selfishness is at the core of the nature of evil. Anyone who wishes to know how I came to believe in the above premises can ask me for details later. That's currently beside the point. If you must know, most of it lies in the defiance of the Golden Rule.
So now, here's the question. Is pure selfishness simply a symptom of a lack of empathy, or is a lack of empathy simply a symptom of pure selfishness? Or are the two phrases in fact interchangeable? Or is evil epitomized by some other concept altogether? I wonder. But in the end, I would say that selfishness wins over and that Captain Gilbert only touched on the surface. This is rationalized through the actions of the defendants. Despite all of the evidence against them, many of the defendants persist in declaring themselves not guilty in order to save face and continue to live; they preferred to justify themselves, rather than take responsibility. Such acts require no lack of empathy because they no longer hurt others directly. However, such acts are still evil, and coincidentally (for those of you would disagree on this theory), selfish.
In conclusion, I still maintain that selfishness is the epitomy of evil. But selfish we all are.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ~ Romans 3:23
OK, fine, what's really the epitomy of evil? Girls. Here's the proof. :p
Girls = Time and Money
Girls = Time x Money
Girls = Money^2
Money = the root of all evil
Girls = (sqrt(evil))^2
Girls = Evil
Q.E.D.
If you need me, I shall probably be on the run from an angry girl. Please try my cell.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

So what do you look for in a girl?

The last time I got asked this question, I was very wary. It didn't sound like one of those random jooc questions. Events that followed were interesting, to say the least. I don't regret anything because I had to learn a lot. But this time, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to respond because who wants to go through lessons twice unnecessarily? What the heck do people care anyway?
Pak: Well... I don't know... Stuff. Blahblahblah.
Girl: Really? But all of my friends are like that!
Pak: Erm, you have good friends then...
Girl: I really don't understand, is it so hard to find that?
Pak: Well, let me clarify what I said... Blahblahblah.
Girl: Oh. OK, yes, that is very hard...
Pak: (thinking: I didn't even say everything)
It got me thinking. Are my standards too high? Unattainable? Yes, as someone told me before, it can seem like I'm deliberately making them impossible to achieve. It's achievable though. I've seen it. I've met perhaps four women in my entire life who could meet those standards. But circumstances never allowed for anything. Am I an idiot? There are tons of women in this world who fulfill other criteria even better.
So discussing this with a friend, why are we willing to keep waiting? How long will we be willing to wait before we break? Why must our standards be so high and why must they be those particular standards? After much consideration, it seems because I know that in the end, I won't be able to be with anybody who doesn't meet those standards (especially with the type of life I desire to live). Conversely, unless she meets those standards, she could find it very difficult to accept me, no matter what I change. Do I believe in soulmates? Heck, yeah. Although one must be careful when that word is thrown around cheaply. It's a word with a lot of baggage, don't throw it around like it's nothing.
Why get into something that you know will end abruptly when you want it to last? You shouldn't get into it in the first place then, especially if the tangible and intangible ROIs are negative, as they would be for me. Do we understand each other? Of course, I never listen to myself...
So what is my criteria anyway? Well, if I can remember... It's now become more like some sort of automatically engaged set of heuristics in my mind. Let's see what I can think of straight off the top of my head. In no particular order:
1. Christ-centredness
2. Honesty
3. Integrity
4. Loyalty
5. Humility
6. Ability to listen
7. Ability to connect with me
8. Understanding
9. Selflessness
10. Emotionally responsive
11. Ability to figure me out
12. Selflessness
13. Caring
14. Devotion
15. Openness
16. Transparency
17. Altruism
18. Patience
19. Forgiveness
20. Charitableness
21. Selflessness
22. Selflessness
23. Commitment
24. Empathy
25. Open-mindedness
26. Wide perspective
27. Righteousness
28. Selflessness
29. Selflessness
30. Selflessness
The list must go on. But I am dang sleepy... And why should I bother going into definitions? There's no point here.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. ~ Proverbs 31:10
I've been hearing this song over and over. Heard it at the bowling lanes again today. Finally, I decided to find out more about this song. And guess what I find. It's Hilary Duff that sings it... This is just wrong. :( But I like it. :)
Come Clean
Hilary Duff
Let's go back
Back to the beginning
Back to when the earth, the sun, the stars all aligned
'Cause perfect didn't feel so perfect
Trying to fit a square into a circle
Was no lie
I defy
[CHORUS:]
Let the rain fall down
And wake my dreams
Let it wash away
My sanity
'Cause I wanna feel the thunder
I wanna scream
Let the rain fall down
I'm comimg clean, I'm coming clean
I'm shedding
Shedding every color
Trying to find a pigment of truth
Beneath my skin
'Cause different
Doesn't feel so different
And going out is better
Then always staying in
Feel the wind
[CHORUS]
I'm coming clean
Let the rain fall
Let the rain fall
I'm coming clean
[CHORUS]
Let's go back
Back to the beginning

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Target: Atlantis

So this German scientist dude thinks that he may have found Atlantis! And he has some quite interesting historical facts to corroborate his hypothesis too.

Now the only thing left for me to do is get together an archaeological team and apply for a permit to create a dig site in the Donana National Park. After that, we'll be able to harvest some orichalcum and I'll have the new cool fuel cell! Forget that hydrogen stuff, this orichalcum will make EVERY other energy source obsolete! Then... WORLD DOMINATION!!! :D

On a side note, way to go, Dave Andreychuk for finally winning your cup! I would have preferred to have seen Calgary win, but Dave deserves it! And I can say that tonight I watched Khabibulin make the save of his life. How he got across that empty net to stop Leopold I shall never know. What a goalie. And what a third period! The first two, Calgary was very flat, they didn't deserve to win this game and they know it. But they turned it on in the third, and I must say that it was extremely entertaining! :D

Monday, June 07, 2004

The World of Patents

I'm no lawyer, and therefore no expert on how the patent world works. But while patents have their place in this world, I become increasingly disappointed in how companies (or individuals) seem to want to abuse them. Patents promote innovation from the standpoint that inventors and researchers can be ensured that the work they put into research somehow does have a positive return on investment. Without a positive ROI, one's life can become unsustainable pretty quickly; after all, we still are living in a world that revolves around economics. However, patents can also stifle innovation. After talking about this with Victor (a good engineer friend), it's only fitting that I see more news along these lines.

The problem that I see with the US can be summed up by Craig Barrett in this article, in answer to this question:
You travel the globe a lot. How do you think the United States ranks versus the rest of the world in terms of technology adoption?
The U.S. has a whole series of complacencies about it. It is complacent on its economic development platform. It is complacent on its infrastructure platform. It is complacent on the whole issue of promoting research and development. So you go down the list--education, infrastructure, research and development--and the U.S. is basically complacent.
It is very difficult to go to Washington, D.C., and discuss those three aspects of competitiveness (education, infrastructure, and R&D) with anybody.
In fact, we have been having this great argument in the press about offshoring, or offshore outsourcing. The press in general, the politicians in general, have not picked up the issue that you need to be competitive. The fact is that the U.S. is pulling further behind from an infrastructure standpoint and the dismal aspect of the U.S. education system. It is very difficult to go to Washington, D.C., and discuss those three aspects of competitiveness with anybody.
I see this kind of mindset over and over again in my neighbour to the south, as well as in my own country of residence... Why?

We're on top of the world, and we shouldn't have to do any work to stay there!

Perhaps this kind of mindset can be epitomized by the automotive battles that started when Japan first started exporting to the US. Gas prices shot through the roof, and all of a sudden, Americans were snapping up Japanese cars left, right, and centre for their superior fuel economy. Finally, the American and Japanese governments negotiated a voluntary import quota that limited the number of Japanese cars imported to the US over five years (this would theoretically give the American manufacturers "catch up" in terms of creating quality fuel-efficient vehicles). The Americans felt that they were too sacred to be attacked economically, and weren't willing to compete. Well, guess what. If you need rules stacked in your favour in order to win, it won't matter: any skilled competitor would be able to still adapt to your new rules and beat you at your own game. Following is an excerpt taken from a speech delivered by Milton Friedman:
Or take a more recent example. One of the few economic mistakes President Reagan made was to approve of the so-called voluntary import quota on Japanese cars, under pressure from the big three American manufacturers. Who benefited from that? The Japanese industry. We enforced the cartel for them. They were able to get higher prices than they otherwise could. They were able to accumulate capital than they otherwise would. In the long run, the automobile industry had to meet the competition from Japan. They would have been better off if they had stuck to their earlier free market guns, because when the automobile industry was predominately an export industry, it was among the strongest supporters of free trade. However, where people stand depends on where they sit. And when they became subject to import competition, they changed their position and came out in favor of protection.
Why are people scared to compete? Scared to skate? It's like using the trap in the playoffs instead of open end-to-end hockey. For corporations, perhaps it's the pressure of shareholders that demand minimal risk investments. But that's another debate altogether. Back to patents.

How this all relates to patents is my personal disdain for corporations that patent stupidly obvious or common things for the purpose of trying to gain a stranglehold on the market. Let's look at the most recent example:
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on April 27 granted a patent for a "time based hardware button for application launch" in which a click of a button can start different programs if it is clicked once, twice or held down for several seconds.
That's a process familiar to countless computer users who have double-clicked their way through Microsoft's Windows operating system, as well as anyone who's tried to set the time on a digital watch.
Mouse-wielding computer users need not worry, as the patent only applies to handheld computers which run Microsoft's PocketPC software--specifically the method of bringing up different features depending on how many times a button is pressed.
... Yes, that must take the cake as innovative patent of the year!
But the application highlights shortcomings in the Patent and Trademark Office, where examiners short on time and resources are hard-pressed to root out earlier examples of similar technology, said San Francisco patent consultant Gregory Aharonian.
"Unless the examiner had a patent or journal article in front of them, it's going to be hard" to reject the application, he said. "The examiners need the pieces of paper. They're like the IRS."
The Federal Trade Commission last year said the patent office should not grant patents so readily, as those granted for obvious concepts, such as one granted in 1895 for putting a gasoline engine in a car, can impede progress by preventing competitors from improving on them.
No kidding! But is Aharonian saying that the PTO still has absolutely no process for analyzing the validity of patent applications? Puleeze... Processes to challenge patents are cool, but it'd be nice if there was a way to decrease the amount of garbage getting approved in the first place. As we say in the database world, garbage in, garbage out, you know?

But the sickest part isn't when patents get granted. It's when firms use these atrocious patents to get what I would say is undeserved revenue through lawsuits. I would claim that Rambus would be one such case, though rulings would state otherwise. Whether or not the various memory manufacturers knew about the plans of Rambus doesn't in my mind justify the litigation strategy of Rambus, mainly because Rambus used this whole litigation thing as a crutch to compensate for a lack of product offerings that would actually sell. Note that Intel did well to drop Rambus technology when it did.

The current poster boy for such a strategy must be SCO. I'm sorry, but does this company actually DO anything? Seems that they're hoping for all of their income to come from licenses or lawsuits. Now, it's fine for IP companies to exist, but I would hope that any company that bases its strategy solely on intellectual property would do some actual research and innovation of its own, not buy its intellectual property from another company (which Novell says did not actually happen, as SCO is saying; this one's yet to be decided in courts). OK, fine, they seem to sell Unix solutions and some other stuff. I find it funny that if you click on the company profile link in the Investor Relations section of their site, you'll get redirected to Microsoft's website. Just found that out now as I was trying to see what SCO actually did; it's an error in their HTML. :D Maybe somebody should tell them, hehe. Or conspiracy theorists can start theorizing. ;)

Final note, Sony did the wrong thing to give in to this guy. This is stupid. Now he's considering going after Apple because their iPod would infringe on his patent (which is probably expired by now?). There are a lot of ideas that I came up with before but was never able to see through to success. However, I've watched other companies succeed with these ideas (how they were able to read my mind, I don't know!). So this one's tricky. If I had filed for patents on my ideas, should companies be required to pay me licensing fees, even if I was never able to make my own ideas successful? Hmm... please excuse me while I go patent methods for mining minerals from the core of Mars. I'm sure they'll come in handy someday, hopefully within the next twenty years or so before my patents expire. I'll need to find some engineers and geologists to help me; hey, we could all be co-authors and co-owners of the patents!

When patents, tariffs, and the like are used to gain strangleholds so that we can become lazy and let the dough roll in, I think we have a severe problem for the long-term. How are we going to be able to compete once the rules in our favour become circumvented if we can't compete on a level playing field in the first place? People who advocate for any kind of protectionist measures are used to protect the status quo in defiance of changing environments, will end up committing business suicide, as Friedman would say. Unions, politicians, and industry bodies, please take note. Changing environments in which you operate can make your policies irrelevant and self-destructive.

Let's go back up and see what Barrett had to say. Grr. It all goes back to the quality of the education system, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Immortality! Take it, it's yours!

Achilles rallies his troops in the movie Troy as they single-handedly storm a beach of Trojans to establish a camp for the entire Greek army. You have to understand that there are not more than 50 men on this boat, according to Agamemnon (well, the movie made it look like a lot less, but 50 is perhaps a plausible number), and the beach has hundreds of ready Trojans. As their boat approaches the shore, he asks them, "Do you know what lies on that beach? Immortality! Take it, it's yours!" He was telling them to not be afraid because by storming that beach and taking part in that battle, their names would forever be engraved and remembered in the history of the world, just because of the battle's significance. Death held no superiority over valour.

So a lot of my friends are convocating this coming Friday, finally. Yay! Congratulations, guys! Erm, why did I quote Troy?

I have a problem with our post-secondary education system: many current students come in wanting a degree, not caring about whether they learn. Let me reiterate: they care about the end result (piece of paper), not the journey of learning. I find that this perspective is extremely limiting.

Students come in and try to get through everything as quickly as possible, without learning about how to evolve their minds, understand the world around them, and make an impact in the world (whether it be economically, politically, socially, or some other way). Where are the visionaries and difference-makers?
I have essentially four beefs:

1. Limitations on vision and creativity
Students are told to think outside of the box and be creative. However, many of my peers use what they learn as a new box. See, this education is supposed to "free their minds." Instead, it puts new limits on their creativity because students use what they learn as a black box. When faced with a problem, they input the problem specifics into this big machine, press a button, and hope for the right answer to come out. They might as well be robots. It's great that you're able to determine that Hypothesis A should be rejected because the experimental mean x-bar falls outside of the confidence interval, but are you able to understand how the Central Limit Theorem explains the validity of hypothesis testing? No, never mind, that's irrelevant. Can you explain the importance of rejecting Hypothesis A and the ramifications it would have on your decisions for two straight years into the future, as well as its ripple effects on society as a whole? Or do you just make a one-stop decision based on the rejection of Hypothesis A?

Students are so focused on trying to fit problems they face into this box (oh, let's be fancy and call it a framework) that they receive from education that they fail to see the big picture. I suppose that one can argue that this is natural for the academic world, and that we learn as we live: theory doesn't necessarily translate to practice. However, students shouldn't live in this new box so much that their desire to think of new ideas is actually restricted. I find that happening way too often today. Where's the innovation? CRM is a great marketing strategy, but what stops you from improving the idea? Improvement is always better than the status quo; otherwise, it wouldn't be called improvement.

This is why I love the open source movement so much. It's people sharing knowledge with each other and building on the shoulders of previous innovators, all for the sake of advancing the abilities of technology. There's no selfish hoarding of ideas (well, for the most part) and in the end, all of society can potentially benefit. But the key is sharing and advancing.

2. The ability to think critically is gone
So I alluded to this already. I find far too many students aren't willing to think through the logic of their arguments and statements. Furthermore, many students seem confused in thinking that a valid argument is the same as a sound argument. Let's get this straight: a valid argument's conclusion is true ONLY IF all of the premises are true, while a sound argument is the same as a valid argument, except that all of the premises are definitely true. Therefore, it's possible that a valid argument's conclusion is actually false because a single premise could be untrue. People don't understand this, and they don't understand that their argument can be easily nullified by proving a single premise to be false. Let's not even talk about those who fail to make even cogent arguments. Furthermore, many students don't care about the why, which would explain why they're not really hooked up on the whole premise thing.

3. Fine, I do think the black box thing is relevant
I really dislike that people use models, theories, whatever, without caring about the underlying mechanics and logic of said stuff. I find that it creates a vast unappreciation of the said stuff and that the truly smart academics don't get the credit that they deserve for developing this stuff. Furthermore, as students get more and more hung up the whole black box thing (caring more about the results, not the underlying mechanics), our ability to innovate and develop better models becomes severely limited. There won't be anybody around anymore (except for a select few) who can take us to the next step. See previous post for some interesting quotes (at the bottom of the post).

4. People just feed the machine
So when it all gets summed together, students are like cookie bakers. They have this great opportunity to make fantastic-tasting cookies. After attending cookie baking school, they can make their own recipes, their own decorative designs, and add their own individual touch to every other aspect of baking cookies; I'll admit that the analogy doesn't allow for many possibilities, but work with me here. But all these students get out of cookie baking school, and what do they do? They take the SAME practice recipes that were given in school, follow those SAME recipes to a T, use the SAME cookie cutters they got for school, and use the SAME icing, placed in the SAME way on the cookies as was done hundreds of times in school. Congratulations. You've just made some picture-perfect cookies that would have given you an A in Cookies 439. It gets awfully bland after a while. Do something special with your newfound skills, will ya?

But no. People are content to just feed this huge monster oven with cookies, and out come row upon row of identical cookies. Well, content is too charitable for many students. I would venture to even say that's all they are able to do, despite four years of quality post-secondary education. It is ironic that the cookie bakers have become the cookies, cut from the same cookie cutters, made from the same recipes, and put through the same big machine called university. Fine, this was just an elaboration of Point #1.

Am I generalizing here? Perhaps. Someone prove me wrong, please. Those I do know who are doing cool things seem to be the exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself. I'll let you know what kind of cookie I have become in a few years, yeah? Talking the talk is always easy. ;)

To my graduating friends: Immortality! Take it, it's yours! Many of you have already done so much in your lives, and I know that you'll do much more. Looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for you.
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no rememberance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow." - Ecclesiastes Chapter 1, verses 9 - 11

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Every guy wishes to say this to someone

Every guy has a dream of being able to say this finally one day to somebody. Sentimental crap, isn't it? :) But for some reason, it's part of our nature. I wonder why.

(Everything I Do) I Do It for You
Bryan Adams

Look into my eyes - you will see
What you mean to me
Search your heart - search your soul
And when you find me there you'll search no more
Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for
You can't tell me it's not worth dyin' for
You know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you

Look into my heart - you will find
There's nothin' there to hide
Take me as I am - take my life
I would give it all I would sacrifice
Don't tell me it's not worth fightin' for
I can't help it there's nothin' I want more
Ya know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you

There's no love - like your love
And no other - could give more love
There's nowhere - unless you're there
All the time - all the way

Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for
I can't help it there's nothin' I want more
I would fight for you - I'd lie for you
Walk the wire for you - Ya I'd die for you
Ya know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you