Archive for January 2004

On being anal-retentive

Before every test in my OAC Algebra & Geometry class, there was this guy who would very slowly and carefully line up his calculator, ruler, pencil, and eraser at various positions around the edge of his desk, making sure that they were exactly parallel to their respective edges. Colin and I used to call him “anal-boy” behind his back, because my friends and I have pretty much always been like that – caustically critical of others (though generally not mean-spirited at heart), yet almost always too chicken to say anything to their faces.

Despite my “youthful indiscretions”, I’ve come to notice: 1) Everybody’s anal-rententive, just about different things; 2) It’s not always bad.

Throughout university, I worked with the same 1-3 people on all group projects, with very little exception. I’m surprised they stuck around for so long, given the terror that I am when required to put my name and/or reputation on the line. I can’t stand knowingly creating something that is clearly substandard. It’s funny, when starting a project we’d always go through the formality of dividing the work, even though everyone knew that there was a very good chance that I’d end up redoing their parts before submission. It got to the point where I’d either stand behind the people while they were doing their parts, “correcting them” as they went along, or I’d just do it while they sat and watched. I always felt bad about it, I don’t like trivializing the contributions of others, but I couldn’t help it. I realize now though that university is just a big sham. Profs are there to get free money to fund their research, undergrad students are there to pay money for the right to add some letters after their names. There’s no point in focusing on accuracy and correctness in assignments and projects, because the person marking them simply doesn’t care either way.

Work is a different story though. If something is not technically accurate and correct, it will always, always come back to bite. It may not bite you if you’re lucky, but it’ll bite someone, and that person will likely track you down depending on how many teeth marks they received. Which is something I hate – if I create something, the last thing I want is for someone to come back and say it doesn’t work right. “Do it once, do it right”, as we say at SlipStream.

I think that philosophy makes sense, and applies to any profession. I want the surgeon operating on me to be an anal bastard, cutting and sewing as precisely as humanly possible during that quadruple bypass so that I make a speedy and painless recovery. I want the carpenters, plumbers, and electricians building my house to be anal bastards so that there won’t be any household quirks that I will have to grow to know and love. Heck, I even want my garbage man to be an anal bastard so that he doesn’t spill random garbage bits all over the street while emptying the cans.

Likewise, the people using the software I write should demand that I be an anal bastard so that the software always does what it’s supposed to do, instead of say corrupting random webpages, losing email, or some other annoying thing.

Because of all this, I’m a terror at work as well. Just like with the assignments and projects, I’ve been known to completely scrap the work of others and rewrite it “properly”. Co-workers mistake this for arrogance, but generally have no complaints about the end result, so they let it slide for the most part. This is one of the reasons why I’m hesistant to ever be around my friends in a work envrionment – I don’t make friends easily, so I’d like to screw with the ones I have as little as possible.

People that know me know that I’ve wanted start my own business for the longest time, probably since about the middle of high school. It’s not for lack of ideas, but more a lack of knowing enough of the right kind of anal bastard. =P

Made in Taiwan. High Quailty, hand warsh.[1]

In last week’s Star, there was an article on the practice of Googling yourself and finding horrific things you said or posted in the past. Here’s one of my contributions to the lost cause in which my name continues to be associated with hopelessly geeky things. The last time I “Googled” myself, it was actually called “AltaVista-ing”, and my name was associated with some roleplaying Star Trek geek. So you can see why I haven’t really bothered to do it since.

Anyway, the subject of today’s post is pretty much from that Google thread, but with pictures! The full story behind it is at this URL, but here’s a quote that summarizes things quite nicely:

“According to the source, a scientist stole the formula for an electrolyte from his employer in Japan and began using it himself at the Chinese branch of a Taiwanese electrolyte manufacturer. He or his colleagues then sold the formula to an electrolyte maker in Taiwan, which began producing it for Taiwanese and possibly other capacitor firms. Unfortunately, the formula as sold was incomplete.”

The result being that many computer motherboards (and even some consumer electronics) manufactured in the 2000-2002 timeframe use these capacitors with the faulty electrolyte. After a while, they start to bloat and leak their goop all over the place. Not pretty, as seen in these pictures (courtesy of Bonnie’s motherboard):

Made in Taiwan. Bah.No, the busted caps have nothing to do with the use of non-1.5V AGP cards.Lelon, the mark of quailty.

MSI was good enough to replace all the capacitors on her K7N420 board for no charge (except for shipping), a service for which some third parties charge about US$50. Both Tim and Hube had to go through the same process with their Abit VP6 boards earlier this year.

Incidentally, my board is also a K7N420, but doesn’t have the Lelon-brand capacitors. They also aren’t doing the whole bloat-bulge-goop thing either, which doesn’t explain why I’ve had strange instability problems and have also had to replace the RAM in my box twice. In any case, I’m now using Bonnie’s repaired motherboard, and she purchased a brand-spanking new nForce2-based ASUS A7N8X-VM.

So yeah, if your computer and/or computer parts and/or consumer electronics purchased in the late-2000 to early 2002 timeframe are doing wonky things, crack ’em open and check for capacitor goop leakage.

[1] In Hong Kong, there’s that street[2] where you can buy knockoff clothing like Polo dress shirts that have oddly coloured horse-logo embroidery. They come complete with carboard care tags attached, reproduced to the best of the pirates’ abilities. The tags are known to say things like, “Polo Raph Lauren… High Quailty… Hand warsh”.

[2] Last time I was there, they had this huge plastic bin on wheels full of the shirts, and there was the subsequent tourist feeding frenzy as everybody crowded around and reached in to get at the 2 for HK$20 merchandise (kind of like how little old ladies plunge headfirst into the watermelon bins at the supermarket). Perfect environment for pickpockets, and I was witness to some huge eastern European guy going ballistic over losing his tan coloured man-purse clutch (murse). What a loooooser. >:)

For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.

Just finished watching Lost in Translation. The plot doesn’t really have much substance – two complete strangers in a foreign country (Japan), drawn together by their common loss of direction in life. One, a 50-year old actor passed his prime and going through a mid-life crisis. The other, a young woman and recent Yale alumnus, who just married a celebrity photographer, and now doesn’t know what to do with her life. Not really a premise that you’d think would last an hour and forty minutes, especially considering how little dialogue there is.

The cinematography is amazing though. I’m not really one for the scenery of densely populated big cities, with their big neon signs and electronic bilboards, like Times Square in New York, and downtown Hong Kong and Japan. But Sofia Coppola and Lance Acord make it work. The whole movie seems to have this soft glow to it, kind of like the whole thing has been passed through some sort of Photoshop soften filter. I also like their use of reflections and mirrors, which seem to be a common theme throughout the film.

The pace and soundtrack of the entire feature are also very well executed. Given the aforementioned thin plot and lack of dialogue, there’s never any point in the movie where I sat impatiently waiting for it to move on to the next scene. Kudos to Coppola for that, seeing as this is just her sophomore picture, she must have picked up a thing or two from her father. Or maybe it was just all done in post-production, you can never tell these days.

Among the bits of dialogue there are some real gems though. I think my favourite scene is when they’re lying on the bed. The best bits of dialogue go something like this (the italic parts are what really stuck out in my mind):

Charlotte and Bob, at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Charlotte: I’m stuck. Does it get easier?
Bob: No.
Bob: Yes. It gets easier. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.

Charlotte: What about marriage, does that get easier?
Bob: That’s hard.
Bob: We used to have a lot of fun. Lydia would come with me when I would make the movies, and we would laugh about it all. Now she doesn’t want to leave the kids. She doesn’t need me to be there. The kids miss me, but they’re fine. It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.
Bob: It’s the most terrifying day of your life the day your first one is born. Your life, as you know it, is gone. Never to return.

Parking Spof Teef!

So, you think you can take my underground parking spot and get away with it? Think again, maroon coloured Ford Mustang, with license plate “ARCC 091”. I’ll post it on the Internet so everyone can see. Hahahaha!

Parking Spot Teef

It isn’t possible to order magazine subscriptions online

That’s the conclusion I’ve come to after three tries on three separate occasions for three different magazines. In October Bonnie tried subscribing to Jasmine, no charge to her credit card, nothing showing up at the door, not even an email confirming anything.

In mid-November I ordered a subscription to InStyle as part of a Christmas present for one of my sisters. Didn’t hear from them either, good thing I found other presents instead.

In late December, Bonnie tried subscribing to Toronto Life through the Preferred One Card deal. No response from them either.

Bah, clearly magazine subscriptions and the Internet were not meant to be. Do they really expect people to still mail in those stupid little subscription cards that are always postage prepaid only in the U.S.?