Tim Chen

involvement

September28

I have been wanting to write this for a long time. This is my take on participating in extra curricular activities while being a student at a university.

From my involvement with university wide organizations, I believe that getting your foot in the door, so to speak, is a lot easier in engineering. By nature most campus clubs and groups are campus wide, but there are many that have a strong focus in engineering. Groups like Bluesky Solar Car, Engineering First Responders, or Engineering Photography Club target almost strictly at engineering students. Others such as Engineers Without Borders, or Women in Science and Engineering have 50% of their members in engineering, and there is the Engineering Society, and the discipline clubs which governs the whole engineering student body and discipline student bodies respectively. This categorization is not exhaustive, or inclusive but it gives a general layout of the different kind of clubs there are.

Motivation
Why do students want to do these things anyway? What is the point?
I think we need to prove that things need to be done, and these clubs and groups exist for a reason. These reasons may not be easy to quantify, but they are there to improve students’ lives. Many of them are fun. They may be there to take the load off official channels that are better suited for students. In particular, every clubs and groups have their own visions and missions, and goals they are trying to achieve. Then there are organizations like the cannon guards and the mascot, Ye Olde Mighty Skule Cannon. The purpose of the mascot is even harder to quantify, yet it indirectly contribute to students’ tuition. Before you start thinking i am a cannon basher, I can ensure you that every single engineering student at UofT loves and respects the cannon, and they most definitely think that every penny spent on maintaining the cannon and its guards is well spent.

Level of participations define students involvement as well.

Several reasons can contribute to that.

  • People are a lot friendlier
  • People have a much more aligned goal to start with, there is not as much of a diversification
  • Groups are physically a lot closer to each other, giving students easier access
  • The range of activities are a lot larger, and more diversified

What is in it for students to get involved?
There are a huge array of reasons, some may sound better than others but one can pretty much identify.

  • To benefit others by utilizing their talent and skills
  • To benefit others by investing time and dedication
  • To satisfy personal ego
  • To be popular or cool
  • To feel superior
  • To fill the extra-curricular quota on resume
  • To help with a cause they believe in
  • To perform orders
  • To make money

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but one can see that many of these sound bad and I would agree. We often don’t do things for the right reasons because the temptation to be selfish is always there. Some jobs are more labour intensive than others, some jobs are rewardless on the surface. It may be because the society’s definition of reward is inherently wrong, but I digress. Further, one may even be discouraged to do the morally right thing, such a person may be considered as a uncertainty because they don’t quite fit the bill.

Once one has identified why they want to be involved in extra-curricular activities, they can start picking which activities they want to participate in. The selection pool is huge, it is not an easy job.

Engsoc is an easy and tempting choice but it may also be the least righteous one. After all, drinking a beer filled hardhat may earn you some cool points and make you feel like you are doing something. It may be the least rewarding one, for it supports groups who benefit others. It involves politics, elections, and endless discussions on some of the most trivial matters. Going to a council meeting is like a going to a frat house, there is not a sense of professionalism or care. No I am not saying engsoc is an isolated case, on the contrary, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Canadian Parliament is much the same thing. I may be seen as a bitter person just bashing on engsoc. That impression may even be partly right, for engsoc seems like a bunch of people just rotating positions every so often and doing an okay job or a crappy one every time. No one gets punished, but everyone gets some awards. Is there a net gain? sure. Is the gain per capita large? Heck no.

All that being said, I have been an engsoc director for … two years now and helped out with many many engsoc projects. I guess my conclusion is, it is not worth it.

Everyone has a passion for engsoc, but rarely does anyone have a passion for achieving engsoc’s missions, which is to benefit all engineering students.

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Rainy day

May14

Slicing through puddles after puddles of muddy water, he fights to paddle up the hill and onto the top of that rusty bridge. His view diffracted by the droplets on his eye lashes. mouth salted, garments soaked, he slows down and steps onto the curb with his right foot. Cursing lightly, he looks up the sky, and turns to examine the content of his bag, and rides forward.

posted under travel | 2 Comments »

Go the second mile, do the right thing

February4

The first mile is compulsory. It involves tasks that fulfill ones ego, while the second mile is voluntary and it is self-initiated. It involves performing tasks because they are the right things to do.

The first mile includes tasks such as graduating from high school, attending all the lectures in university, doing all the assignments, and others. Completion of these tasks provides no benefits to one’s surrounding. One is only given the tasks themselves, and rarely the context of where these tasks fit in or what purposes these tasks serve. Even more rarely is one given the opportunity to explore for oneself what the context is. One gains knowledge from completing these tasks, and from this knowledge, one receives a degree and moves on to a rewarding career. This career involves performing tasks that belong to the first mile as well. Most of these tasks are assigned by one’s supervisor and they rarely carry any emotional attachment as one do not understand how they benefit the society. Again, one is given the tasks but rarely how these tasks fit into the greater picture.

To summarize, successful completion of tasks in the first mile gives gratification to the performer as these successes fulfill his/her ego. However it does not satisfy the performer’s yearn to find meaning in what he/she does. It is difficult to be emotionally attached to what he/her does, and to understand how these tasks fit into a greater picture. One’s success or failure of these tasks affects no one but oneself. These tasks are almost always assigned by someone else, and the performer is robbed of the decision making opportunity.
Tasks in the second mile are strictly voluntary. It is about doing the right thing, things that won’t fulfill ones ego, but things that will benefit others. In some cases it may even temporarily damage one’s reputation, but the performer is convinced that under circumstances certain things must be done to benefit the community he/she serves. Some of these voluntary tasks may still assigned by a supervisor (provided that one volunteers in the first place), while others are self-initiated. To volunteer for a role or a task, one must be completely willing to put in the effort assuming there is no visible return, grades or monetary. One must make the conscious decision to volunteer by weighing the benefits to others (since there is none to oneself) against the time and effort one must put in to complete the tasks. Because the performer is acutely aware of the consequences and the effects the results of these tasks will have on others (whether it be a community or another individual), he/she will have an emotional attachment to these tasks, and invest the time and effort to ensure the quality of the results. Furthermore, the performer will also need to decide how to balance these tasks with the tasks from the first mile.

If the task is self-initiated, the performer will not only need to produce high quality results, he/she also need to define these tasks and convince all parties that these tasks are not only beneficial but crucial to their agendas. I argue that the defining and the convincing processes are a lot more difficult than the actual performance because these processes involve dealing with people with difficult ideas and agendas. The performer therefore, must carry an even greater sense of passion and conviction. He/she convince him/herself and possibly oppositions that his /her initiative is absolutely necessary for the community it serves, and that the initiative is the right thing to do.

While there is no direct benefit to the performer of these second mile tasks, I believe there are much greater indirect benefits. The initiation and the performance of these tasks require the performer to have the ability of making sound decisions, the knowledge to excel in his/her tasks, the innovative minds to conceive meaningful initiatives, the persuasion to convince others that his/her initiatives are significant, and the inspiration to lead other, to align their visions and goals and to help them motivate themselves to achieve said goals. Many of these qualities cannot be gained by one who only performs tasks from the first mile. These people simply do not know what the right thing to do is, and spends no time in figuring it out because it is not required of them when they are “running” the first mile.

To do the right thing is the most difficult part, and the ability to decide on which thing is right for any situation is extremely valuable for one’s future. I worked at a civil engineering consulting firm for my PEY year and from what I observed, many of its employees are completing tasks in the first mile. Most of them do not carry a stake in the company, and are indifferent to the impacts their work may have. It is reflected most evidently in a design project. While designs must satisfy the code requirements because it is the law, very rarely do designs surpass and achieve something better. This reflects on the mentality of the designer. To satisfy the code is to complete a task in the first mile. To go beyond involves something much harder. The designer must first define how much better the design should be than what the code says. Secondly the designer must convince the owner to accept his/her proposal and possible budget increase. Thirdly, the designer must have the technical knowledge to design his/her structure to the standard he/she proposed him/herself. One example would be the Confederation Bridge, a bridge linking PEI with mainland New Brunswick. The 12.9 km bridge was designed with a standard that surpasses the code requirement both in life span (75 years to 100 years) and in factor of safety because the design engineer saw the difficulty in the physical constraints and felt it was his obligation to convince the owner that it is critical to heighten the standard.

By performing tasks in the second mile at all possibly opportunities and constantly searching for opportunities to invent these tasks, I practice many of the skills listed above that are instrumental in making the right decisions at the right time for the right situation and following through with these decisions. In conclusion, I believe going the second mile is about defining what the right things to do are, and doing them. I envision my future to be one where I will not be told what to do. Rather, it will be one where I must consider situations and circumstances and go the second mile to define a solution and implement that solution.
The first mile challenges are yesterday’s challenges. Today’s challenges are complex and great, and tomorrow’s challenges will be more so. Tomorrow’s challenges are the second mile challenges. These challenges are multi-disciplinary; they aren’t just electrical engineering problems or civil engineering problems. They are combined, multi-facet problems with components from environmental, social, health, safety and financial sectors. We as professional engineers won’t deliver what we promised to deliver if we know only our disciplines and very little of other disciplines. As engineers, we need to engineer solutions that have all the necessary disciplines engineered to work in a harmonious way. We must be willing to continuously learn new things, and take in new ideas with no reservation; we must be willing to accept people with different opinions or great oppositions. Lastly we need to go beyond the call of duty, and further, we need to define our call of duty when none is given.

iPad

January30

“No multitasking capability, and no flash support, an oversized ipod touch”. These are the comments generated by google search.

iPad’s intent was to fill the gap between smartphones and computers (laptops). Apple disregarded netbooks as slow. they don’t have a graphic display ability.

As a product on its own. iPad is great. It is great because we can copy and paste all the great things about iPod touch to iPad, and it has a waaay bigger screen. That’s fantastic. The problem is, iPod touch and iPhone already exist, further, they belong to the same company as iPad!

You can see that iPad is still a device that serves a set of predefined functionality. With any laptops (inc. netbooks), end users define how they want to be served. There is no predefined functionality. On a superficial level, that is the biggest difference, and some users will vividly feel that difference.

Note I quantified that as “some” users. In fact, that subset of users is quite small, or alternatively, the percentage of time a user need to run multiple applications is quite small. Who really needs to run 5 programs at a time? Not many people. We like to have many windows open only because we can. Most of us focus only on one window at a time. Sure, it is convenient to have many windows open, but I argue that one can be more efficient when he/she work on one thing at a time. If iPad can minimize the time to open a new window, then there won’t be any noticeable difference.

Yes apple limits apps to the ones that are on app store. From a technical point of view, that is a huge limitation. I would argue that this limitation does not affect many users. Sure there are times when I need to render a 3-D object. Most of the time however, I use the internet, I do word processing, and I chat, all of which iPad can do perfectly.

These limitations may generate a new way for users to interact with devices. Just like ipod touch, iPad will perform admirably. I find these limitations are inline with the spirit of Apple products. These limitations are implemented because freedom of choosing leads to confusion for average users.

Mac OS is a perfect example of implemented limitation. It is a unix based operating system, so are linux or open BSD. But instead of keeping a conventional GUI, Mac OS eliminated or automated many many features that are readily available to users on linux. By eliminating unnecessary or advanced options all together, 95% of users won’t even notice that they are being confined, rather they always feel that things go a lot more smoothly. Those 5% will find ways to access the underlining system, which is unix, still the same incredibly powerful OS.

The attention is never on stuffing as many features on a device or a product as possible, it is always on what to keep and what to eliminate and how to provide an easy way for users to do exactly what they want to do. With the ever decreasing cost of CPU or memory, the temptation is to jam every single feature in existence onto the device.

Other implementations make use of addons and plug ins. There are many advantages of offering these add-ons. They keep the core very simple and make the whole system very modular. Drupal or WordPress or many online systems are like that. There are many disadvantages also, for example, the onus is on the impelmenter of these addons to make sure they are up to the same standard as the core and interact with the core and users in a consistent and friendly manner. The offline version of this implementation is something we are all used to. Buying softwares from stores or from the app store.

Back to iPad, it tries to compete not only with netbooks (which I don’t think it is a direct replacement) but also e-book readers. From what I see on an ipod touch, it is perfectly capable of directly replacing every e-book reader on the market.

posted under technology | 4 Comments »

feelings vs. thoughts

January17

We were walking by the cannons in front of the Hart House. I was carrying bags of feelings and thoughts in my head as usual.

“Did people have thoughts when they had no language?” one of us asked, I forget if who it was. Then it hit me. We formulate thoughts in our heads by stringing together words, much like how we deliver speeches. “What if words don’t exist? Wouldn’t it take forever to think?” I reflected back on myself. Back to the time when I came to this English speaking country, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had to speak english in public. However, I still thought in Chinese for god knows how long, then it somehow changed. It was very subconscious, I can’t find any external stimulus that may have triggered the change.

A language is a particular kind of system for encoding and decoding information. — wikipedia What other systems are there? Spoken language existed for millennia, then how did homo sapiens think prior to that? I don’t know.

I do know however feelings don’t need to be expressed through language. When I was stung by a bee, I didn’t need to know the word pain to feel the pain, I just feel it.
Feeling is a conscious subjective experience of emotion. I like that definition very much so.

I am sure you have all had feelings before. How would you distinguish feelings from thoughts? As another example, you wouldn’t normally walk through a dark alleyway at night. Why is that? You may feel frightened by the darkness, or you may form a thought similar to this one “it may be potentially dangerous in there because I can’t see anything and I am not risking it.” Now most people will probably avoid the alleyway because they are frightened. On the surface, fear is a feeling. The underlining origin of fear however is a thought. Common sense are pre-formulated thoughts. Because of the existence of common sense, we instantaneously act. Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis or CIPA is a rare disorder that prevents the feeling of any real nerve related sensations, including pain, heat or cold. Patients with this disorder will never formulate common senses such as “stove top is hot” because they will never experience the feeling of burning when they touch it the first time.

This shows that feelings subconsciously gets stored (as common sense) and converted into thoughts.

Do thoughts convert into feelings? According to the definition above, we must experience to feel. Do we experience imagination? Can a hypothetical situation make you cry? I think so. Do you have to have some background knowledge on this particular situation? Or can you formulate a story in your head and virtually experience it in ways much like reading a heart-touching novel? Will tears roll down your cheek when everyone surrounding you are completely oblivious?

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Level of thoughts

January12

This is interesting, let’s think consciously. I am seriously, this is similar to critical thinking, but this actually how you do it.

I find it is a lot easier to categorize items or thoughts into the What, less easy for How and almost impossible for Why.
I also find this to be a unstructured tree with the whys on the top.

Here’s what I think.
Belief is something all the stakeholders believe in, without question. For example, safety is priority.
Why?

  • Belief
  • Philosophy
  • Principle

How?

  • Concept
  • Strategy
  • Design

What?

  • Evaluate
  • Audit
  • Action
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New Year’s Resolutions

December31

Anyways, I just saw a facebook update, “2010 = a new beginning! […] no alcohol for me”. It made me chuckle a bit, I made that same pact about 4 or 5 months ago and it was a lot easier to achieve than I thought.

It was partly because of a blog I read. I can be wrong but this is probably it: 30 days to success. The idea is there, the idea of trying something “good” for 30 days and see what happens.

So read this list and tell me what more should I add?

The list of things I did / do,

  • vegetarianism – still counting
  • no alcohol – still counting
  • no coffee – still counting (I still accidentally ingest caffeine here and there…)
  • Exercise for 30 minutes a day – only started two weeks ago then I got sick so I kinda stopped for 3 days…
  • no tv – I don’t have a tv so …
  • no video games – Broke this twice this year

Somethings I think I do but want to write them down regardless

  • Read for an hour a day on a subject that interests me. wikipedia?
  • Write a new blog entry every day. I do, a lot of them are unpublished.
  • Give up soda, junk food, coffee, or other unhealthy addictions.
  • Spend 10 minutes cleaning up and organizing your home or office every week.
  • Go for a long walk every day.
  • cook something different every day

Somethings I want to do

  • Meet someone new every day. Start up a conversation with a stranger.
  • Do something for someone everyday
  • Become an early riser
  • Meditate every day. http://www.how-to-meditate.org/meditation-posture.htm/
  • Learn a new vocabulary word every day. check email

Other things that I may want to do because they make sense

  • Go out every evening. Go somewhere different each time, and do something fun — this will be a memorable month.
  • Make 25 sales calls every day to solicit new business. Professional speaker Mike Ferry did this five days a week for two years, even on days when he was giving seminars. He credits this habit with helping build his business to over $10 million in annual sales. If you make 1300 sales calls a year, you’re going to get some decent business no matter how bad your sales skills are. You can generalize this habit to any kind of marketing work, like building new links to your web site.
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Proud of you

December24

My parents usually drive their van down to Toronto to pick me up from my apartment and we would go have dinner at a restaurant. We are all very indecisive, as a result, we always end up in the same places. Recently, due to the development of my “problems” of not being able to eat meat, we scoped out a few vegetarian places to go to. Although that pretty much goes against every Chinese culinary rules, they still like the food there. Thank god.

The moment I step onto the vehicle, I would be swamped by a list of enquiries and comments. “How is school?” “How were the tests?” “You look thin” and of course “Where do you want to go eat?” and more recently “Do you want to drive?” and scarier “I read on your blog that […], and on your facebook profile […]”

I feel like sharing but to be honest, my life is bland. Sure I inject moments of excitements into my life. Most of the time however, it is really just comprised of me waking up, cooking, going to school, studying, coming back from school, sleeping.

I want them to feel my excitements but due to the deterioration of my Chinese speaking skills I often find myself looking for the words that just escaped from my vocabulary, or can’t express myself in ways I wanted to. This mutes me quite a bit, so I steer the conversation into things or events that we have common interests in, politics, cameras, books, etc. That does keep the conversation going, but I feel that they really want to know how I am, and I feel ashamed not being able to deliver that.

After we finish eating, we always have a formula to calculate how much tips to give, namely cost over 10 times one point five. Very geeky I know, but I guess that stays true to the engineering spirit?!

It’d be pretty late when we reach home. We’d all go about our own businesses, let it be watching TV, reading, checking out the new gadgets my dad bought, pretty much for the whole night.

The main part of this story begins the next day, and it has to do with my relatives mostly. The grandparents on my dad’s side lives with us, and my dad’s two sisters’ live not far from us either, all own some sort of suburban houses.

Copious amount of family, relative gathering and/or dining naturally follows, and at those functions many of the questions were directed at me. These questions can pretty much summed up in two categories. One, omg how did you manage to do so well in everything? and two, what’s wrong with you, why are you so crazy?
Allow me to explain this. How did I manage to do so well in everything? How did I get into engsci? How did I find a PEY job? How did I get free money from university? How did I manage to have time or the will to do extra-curricular activities? How did I have enough money to pay for the tuition, the rent, and everything else?

I don’t understand why these are so hard to achieve. Not to sound like an elitist or anything, but shape up, don’t pressume everything is difficult before you even attempt them. That’s a sure way to fail! How do you actually want me to answer these questions? Lay out every little thing I did in my life that somehow miraculously got me to where I am? or to simply say that everything is a natural progression (or outcome) of its predecessor? or to lay out everything that I failed at so you don’t feel so jealous or bad about yourself?

The truth is, I knew my starting position, I knew my end goals, a list of constraints and requirements, and some bonuses along the way. The rest was very much like a simple path. Yes these things are subject to modifications. I may not be exactly where I wanted to be 5 years ago, but I am more or less where I want to be now. Obviously I could have done better, I could have achieved more goals, nabbed some bonuses along the way, the point being, there is no magic, I am not a superman.

Now onto my craziness. None of my relatives understand me. It’s not their fault, it’s mine. I don’t feel like putting the effort into making them understand. This is a disconnect that I don’t mind. Again, not to sound like an elitist, but I am not a mainstream person. I rather spend $60 on a paring knife than a pair of Uggs. (that’s a bad comparison, I won’t wear them in public regardless, Uggs, ugly, see the similarity?) A lot of people are focused on making themselves look luxurious only to impress others. It makes them feel good when irrelevant people having good opinions of them. Many of them do not think spending on making their lives a bit easier is worth the money. Of course I buy expensive garments too, for the only reason that I like them. Otherwise, I wear value village or free t-shirts everywhere.

Samething happens when I spend a lot of money on my hobbies. For these I have been branded as frivolous, wasteful, not money conscious in general. It is partly justified if the brand-ers are saving-savvies, but they usually aren’t. They spend just as much or more, on things that are purely for show. That grinds my gears.

The above are my opinions, and I can list out all the counter-arguments. I am not trying to “convert” anyone in anyway, in fact, we need people like above to keep our frivolous society functioning, and keep my lifestyle like it is.

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Thoughts

December22

My mind is always clouded with many irrelevant and sometimes random thoughts, but in recent times my thoughts seem to have converged onto a few general topics. They aren’t meant to be deep or inspirational or relevant to anyone besides me, but I’d like to share them non the less. These points are not argumentative, I am not trying to prove a point. I am providing a framework of thinking, for myself and others.

1.) The existence of god


I feel that the general trend of knowledge transfer happens after one believes he/she has gained enough understand of the topic to transfer that understand to the next person. This works very well for man-made topics. In a broader sense, we all live in this internally logically consistent sphere where our inventions all fit together nicely. Thereby our interpretations of what we came up with (past tense) are accepted as the truth. Therefore we can transfer, say 1+1=2, to our students. There is no room for interpretation until you get to a much higher level of education, where there is not an established interpretation (thus moving out of the past tense phase). It works out to be this way because only at this level of maturity do people have the ability to interpret meaningfully. Topics I am talking about are math or science or religion or others that we made up.

One question that was asked “I am asking if you believe in people’s interpretation of god, but I am asking do you believe in god?” I like this distinction very much so. There have been many shift in what the society believes as the absolute truth. There have been periods where religion was the absolute truth in many regions of the world. Where religion is believed by everyone. Then there is now, which religious beliefs are based on choice, whereas science is firmly universally believed.

Are we taking a more civil approach to purging? Sure, we don’t call it purging anymore. We don’t crusade around anymore. (for those who love Dan Brown’s novels, we don’t go around branding four elements on priests or scientists anymore) On the surface it’s all good but the problem is more fundamental. Why does there exist a pope? According to source, the pope is the Bishop of Rome and as such, is leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Early popes helped to spread Christianity and resolve doctrinal disputes. Gradually forced to give up secular power, popes now focus almost exclusively on spiritual matters. Papacy was created to address the lack of a central figure in the catholic Church and to reduce repetition and redundancy. Now, if he focuses solely on spiritual matter, and if spiritual matters are entirely subjective, what is the benefit of having another human being influencing your decision or your beliefs? Is subjectivity the problem? or the fear of generation of new idea the issue?

Now, does science need such a centre figure? or is there one already? is one needed? or is free-form thinking more productive?

By the way, many other religions don’t have a centre figure, and different diocese may form their own beliefs and thoughts without pressure.

2.) The root cause for human crises

For example, we attribute this financial crises to mortgage-backed securities defaulting, resulting in a cascade of bankruptcies that eventually led to consumer’s loss of confidence and the recession. How did defaulting of mortgage-backed securities and sub prime mortgages lead to a recession? How does people lose confidence over things they don’t understand? Or do they lose their confidence precisely because they don’t understand. This is what I don’t understand. How many of us actually invest besides 401K or RRSP (which are nothing but tax shelters)? How many of us have significant savings in our debit account? How many of us have 0 credit card debt and how many of us go to payday loans? Many of us do not take risks because we don’t understand the implication or too scared. Further, we seem to be incapable of “investing” into funds with 100% positive returns, e.g. a savings account, or into paying off credit card bills (that’s a guaranteed ~20% return you are losing if you don’t pay).

That stupidity aside, are we feared into not believing in the market. Like I said, not many of us understand the meaning of mortgage-backed securities. Why did we stop spending money then? No idea. If mass media doesn’t exist, would we still have this recession? I don’t know.

3.) China – problem? solution? both?

China is a great power in the world. It is competitive, it has cheap labour, what’s going on? Because of this free market, we are literally using china even though we know full and well that many of its principles and doings goes against what we believe in. Governments are steps on this ever thinning line between letting corporations to gain huge profit margins and letting China to have an overwhelming domination on global economics. Money is power, and China doesn’t exactly have a good track record in using power for good.

To use a crude example, we are like this person, forced to choose between fat free fruits and a huge bucket of free candies and cookies. The free market relaxes all the constraints previously places on both the conscience of the person and the size of the bucket.

To ask anyone in the western world if they would like to adopt Chinese’s human rights policy (or lack thereof), I bet 10 out of 10 persons would object furiously regardless what potential benefit doing so may have.

Even now we are falsely accusing Obama for having a socialist agenda, but we are on this path to adopt full blown communism without knowing it. Previously, we have many factories in China to make use of their cheap labour, awesome. Now, imagine many Chinese factories in North America, using our labour with their leadership, producing “made-in-canada” labels to be exported back into China as second class goods.

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Laptops

December15

I definitely have the urge to write today.

Topic of this blog item. Laptops.
Particularly, my current laptop, my past laptops, my no-laptop.

Before my first laptop. It was a desktop, dell. One of the first tiny form factors. My monitor, 19in, CRT, pickup from street curb. I taped cutouts from a magazine around the screen to cover the scratches.

My parents bought me a laptop when I was in Grade 11, it was a Dell Inspiron 6000, cost around $1200 and was kinda the not-xps but pretty decent model. I remember the moment clearly, the moment when we got this unmarked poop coloured card-board box in the mail. “Are they not suppose to at least send it in a nice looking box?!” I thought at the time. Non the less, it was an impressive looking 15.4in Pentium M silver machine. It had white trims on the edges and a black bottom. It was heavy to carry around, and I really didn’t have much use for it besides as a desktop at home. This was a time when Acer and Asus were just babies, netbook didn’t exist, and IBM thinkpads were still IBM thinkpads, this was a time when Apple, sony, IBM were ridiculously expensive, HP was nasty (still is), and panasonic and compaq were weird. Compaq doesn’t even exist now…

3 years ago, my parents wanted a laptop. I thought, hum maybe I can retire this dell to them. Problem was, I didn’t have any money. At that time however, I had a better idea of what I wanted. I have no desire to play games or do video editing. There was no point for me to get another laptop at the same model level. So I got a used IBM Thinkpad T41 for $350. The specs were almost identical to the Dell, except it was 13in and a lot lighter and slimmer. It got a low profile, matt look to it. No one liked the look, and no one believed that I would like it. In fact, I liked it very much so. It served me for a long long time before I considered getting my current laptop. I wanted to get a new laptop because this T41 was physically breaking down…

After using the T41, my mind was fixated to Thinkpads. Problem was, it wasn’t IBM thinkpads anymore, it was Lenovo thinkpads. I have been hearing mixed views on how the corporate change meant to the products.

Maybe I should list out what my criteria are

  • Drop resistant
  • Spill resistant
  • screen <= 12in
  • 8 hrs + battery life
  • Intel Core 2 Duo (This is my own bias)
  • not flashy / shiny

Why doesn’t my list contain any specs? It’s my belief that many average laptops have adequate specifications, and uping many of these specs aren’t expensive. Harddrives aren’t expensive, memory sticks aren’t expensive, CPU even, aren’t expensive. What is expensive is the attention to details, attention to requirements and goals. With a target market and builds around it.

Two specs I will mention however are battery upgrade and wireless card. Get the best.

This pretty much limits my options down to ultra-portables.
Who had them? Apple, Sony, Lenovo
Why not netbooks?
Netbooks are netbooks because they have intel atom, something I really didn’t like. I also didn’t like how all the netbooks felt like toys. The plastic felt cheap, the angles not defined.
Macbook air is nice, though I don’t feel that its cost is justified.
Sony is getting on my nerves. Their price tag never changed, their products never did as well. It just stopped evolving.
That leaves Lenovo X series. From my research, Lenovo made the Tseries more cost effective by reducing build quality, but the X series remained solid. They even added an aluminum roll cage in it.

That’s what I got. X200 wasn’t a cheap laptop. It was a good laptop.

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