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Random Thoughts

27 February 2005

my website has moved ...

if you're reading this right now, chances are you've figured out that my website has been moved by rogers to a new URL. the site is still ad-free, which is good, and my webpage quota has increased from 10MB to 15MB, which is also good, but there is one problem: the new ftp server prohibits uploading of files with unrecognized file name extensions, for "security reasons". i understand the reasoning behind blocking uploads of files with the extensions .EXE, .VBS, .BAT, and so on ... but unfortunately, the extension .SGF is considered unknown, and hence also barred. <sigh> ... i guess this means i can no longer upload go game records to my webpage unless i change the extension of the file from .SGF to .TXT. thus, it will be the user's responsibility to change the extension back to .SGF after downloading in order to view the file properly in an SGF viewer.

future updates will be made here ... from what i understand, the old webpage will be taken off-line at the end of february, 2005. so, visit this new URL for all the latest information on little old me! also, if you notice any broken links on my webpage, please let me know! thanks!

21 February 2005

paris in springtime ... but would i get to enjoy it?

a few weeks ago i was informed by my team leader at work that there would be a 10% chance that i would be travelling to paris on business within the next 3 months. now, when i heard this, i wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad. i did enjoy my last visit to paris very much, and there were so many things i just didn't have time to do the last time i was there ... strolling along the left and right banks of the seine ... the moulin rouge ... maybe even spending an entire day inside the louvre to make up for the two measly hours i spent there last time. just being there would be a blast. but, the fact of the matter is that if i were sent to paris on business, it would probably be a 3 or 4 day trip, with me working something like 12 hours a day in some stuffy lab. it would be an extremely high-pressure situation where i would have to get malfunctioning software to work, "or else". i don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me. on the other hand, a trip to france would be a nice break from the everyday mundaneness of the office.

one neat little consequence of this possibility was that i received my corporate credit card, complete with a credit limit of $15000!!!!! ka-ching! but, i had to sign a form acknowledging that abuse of the card could lead to termination of employment. <sigh> ... guess that steinway baby grand will have to wait ...

20 February 2005

francis back in town!

last we heard of francis, he was boarding the plane in vegas on his way back to orange county in southern california ... well, today he made an impromptu visit back to toronto to visit us! also, this was the perfect opportunity to do what we hadn't done in over a year ... play big-2! we used to play pretty regularly before francis left to work in the states three years ago. we take the game pretty seriously, but first and foremost, we always have lots of fun (and dish out lots of trash talk!).

for dinner, we went to dante's italian restaurant in thornhill. the lasagna was great, but we ordered too much food - instead of ordering a party-sized pizza, we should have simply ordered a large. poor markus woke up at the restaurant during our meal and started crying - it was funny because he woke up another baby close by!

after dinner, we went back to thomas's place for one last round. however, after all these years, some things still haven't changed, in that at the end of the day, the usual winners won and the usual losers lost ... hehehe ... francis, come visit us again soon!

later that night, around 11:30pm, i was caught in a crazy snowstorm while driving home on the dvp. it was particularly bad around don mills where the highway twists and turns - it felt like driving in a big pool of slippery molasses. thank goodness i eventually made it home safely ... but there was nary a snow plow to be found on the entire trip home. the next morning, i heard that the toronto police had declared the dvp "impassable" around 1am. where were the snow plows?

18 February 2005

time to renew my car insurance ... but with whom?

about a year ago at this time, i wrote a long rant on the issue of car insurance in ontario. in my opinion, car insurance should be regulated, as it is in bc and some other provinces. i can't stand the fact that car insurance companies are posting record profits, yet still find the need to milk as much as they can out of the average driver.

so, today in the mail, i received the renewal notice for my policy, which is due to expire on april 15th. i heard the mcguinty government boasting about implementing a 10% across-the-board, province-wide premium reduction, but i sure didn't see evidence of that on my latest statement. yes, my premium is going down, but by a measly 3.5%!

given my five-star driving record, i think i deserve better, so i'm going to spend some time hunting around for a better deal over these next two months. i have no idea if i'll actually find something better, but at least i'll know that i'm not getting ripped off by my current broker.

also, earlier tonight i went with willem from work to a benefit concert called "welcome to our living room" at the bloor cinema, just east of bathurst. the proceeds went to the toronto public space committee - the organization is against using public space in the city of toronto for advertising and commercialization. i've been to concerts in large stadiums before, but i've never attended one in such a cozy, intimate atmosphere. of the seven solo performers, my favourite was bob wiseman. hmm ... the public space committee is having a general meeting on march 2nd at city hall. i'll try to drop by, provided i'm not too busy that day ...

16 February 2005

apocalypse ... now

everybody in canada who isn't under a rock knows by now that the 2004-05 nhl season has been officially cancelled. i used to be a huge fan of the nhl, but my interest in the league has slowly dwindled over the last 5 years. the problem is that the present product is sleep-inducing and not exciting at all. when i watch the 4-on-4 overtime, or olympic hockey played on the wider surface with no red line, or tapes of the old oiler teams from the 1980's, i see a glimpse of what the nhl could be. watching the new jersey devils play with a one-goal lead (neutral zone trap time!!) is only slightly more exciting than watching paint dry.

anyway, i digress. with this cancellation now becoming official, it is time for me to contribute my 2 cents worth on the matter.

i'm firmly on the side of the owners. i have no idea why the players turned down the owners' final offer, a 42.5 million cap with no linkage to revenues. maybe they thought that the owners would blink, or maybe they were instructed by the union leadership to reject the offer. but, the fact is that the players will never see that good a deal again. with the season lost, revenues will start disappearing. the "revenue pie" will only shrink even further. the next time the two sides come to the table to talk, the players aren't going to see any caps above $40M. furthermore, linkage will probably be back on the table.

i think that salary caps are necessary in professional sports, due to the nature of competition. one can take two approaches when devising a cba for a professional sports league - a capitalist approach, or a socialist/communist approach.

in the capitalist approach, there are no caps on salaries. each team in the league can pay its players whatever it sees fit, and keeps all of the revenues it earns. the problem with this approach is that, as in the business world, the big fish swallows the smaller fish. the so-called big-market cities have an inherent advantage over small-market cities due to added revenue streams, a larger fan base which results in more tickets and more merchandise sold, a larger television market which fetches fatter tv contracts, and so on. (for cities in canada, there is the added problem of the exchange rate when competing against american-based teams.)

under this approach, given that players adopt the capitalistic stance of selling their talents to the highest bidder, it is impossible for a small-market team to compete consistently against a big-market team. consider the new york yankees in major league baseball. brian cashman, the general manager of the yankees, isn't an exceptionally bright gm by anyone's standards. however, there is one thing he can do that none of the other 29 gm's in the league can - when it comes to attracting talent, he can outbid everyone else in the league. because of this, the yankees' margin of error each season is huge. they can afford to suffer serious injuries, have players suffer off-seasons, and still not be adversely affected, due to their financial resources. sure, a small-market team might get lucky one year and win it all, but these are short-term fluctuations, just as a gambler might occasionally book a winning session while playing roulette in the casino even though the house has the edge.

here's the problem with the capitalist approach, from a fan's viewpoint - who wants to watch a league where the same few teams are the most likely to win, year in and year out? new york and boston in the al east, or dallas, detroit, colorado in the nhl's western conference? is anyone as sick of the atlanta braves as i am? for teams to engage in meaningful competition in a league, one would hope that, as a precondition, all teams start out on an equal footing with equal opportunities for success.

what joy can be had in defeating an opponent against which one already held a significant inherent advantage? did the victory occur because you truly outperformed your opponent, or was it due to your inherent advantage? can one truly feel proud when winning via the latter method?

as a result of this system, fans in smaller markets lose interest because there is no way their team can compete with the big boys. hope continues to fade, with no guarantee that a better day will eventually come. the fans stop watching the games, they stop buying tickets. eventually the owner of the small-market team decides that the club cannot be run profitably in that city and decides to move the team.

do the players care? of course not. they only care that their skills are being sold to the highest bidder for the highest possible price. (and when they do sign for less to play, say, for their hometown team, they get a verbal lashing from the player's union.)

in the communist/socialist approach, the teams in the league agree to cap player salaries at a fixed number, so that the big-market teams cannot outbid the small-market teams. furthermore, the teams agree to share revenues with other teams, so that the entire league can grow and profit as a whole. the obvious model in north america is the nfl. in the nfl, every team has the same opportunity of success, every year. the new york giants cannot buy free agents to their hearts' content. the green bay packers are able to turn a profit in one of the smallest markets in the league. as a whole, the nfl is the most successful professional sports league in north america.

note that the communist/socialist approach does not mean that players get paid peanuts. the best players do get compensated fairly. peyton manning recently signed a humongous nine year, $99 million contract. note that the nhl's proposed cap does not limit an individual player's salary; rather, it caps the team's payroll.

well, i think i've said enough. as for when a deal is going to get done, i don't see a deal happening in time for the start of the 2005-06 season. this lockout could go on for a very long time. and, for the league's sake, i hope that the nhl doesn't come back until a deal is obtained that can guarantee the future stability of all 30 nhl franchises. the league owes at least that much to its fans across the globe.

15 February 2005

vancouver this summer?

i was chatting with my sister just now and she said that the weather in vancouver right now feels like spring in toronto! i originally planned to visit vancouver this summer, but since i went to las vegas over christmas, i don't think i can afford another vacation so soon. oh well ... if not this summer, then maybe next year ...

13 February 2005

ivcf 2005, and ... what might have been

today i found myself downtown at convocation hall, u of t, volunteering for ivcf 2005! this year, five different universities (western, u of t, trent, queens and mcgill) were represented. the concert itself was great - i thought the choirs from queens and mcgill in particular gave trememdous performances.

after all five choirs performed individually, they returned to the stage together at the end to perform the last few works together, as one large choir. during this performance, i started to think back to my days at uwo and i wondered how my life would be like today had i not dropped out of the phd program two years ago. well, had i not dropped out, i would have stayed on as a member of the uwo choir, which meant that i would have been a participant in ivcf 2005, instead of a volunteer. the real me and the hypothetical me's paths in life crossed today.

if i had taken the hypothetical me's path, i would still be car-less and condo-less today - there's no way i could afford such niceties on a student budget. i would never have heard about alcatel, and i would never have met any of the people there. i would never have went to europe and so on and so forth.

but on the other hand, i lost all of the experiences i would have had, had i stayed at uwo. i would probably have published an academic paper by now. i would have finished my comprehensive exams, started working on my thesis, maybe even had the opportunity to teach a course in theoretical computer science. plus, there's all the people that i would have met had i stayed, but never got a chance to meet. i often wonder who these people were and what kind of impact they would have had on my life.

some people say that we are the sum of our experiences. if that's the case, then real me would be a different person than hypothetical me. i often wonder what hypothetical me would be like, and just how different the two of us would be.

hmm ... i'm getting really philosophical. maybe it's a good idea to end today's log here.

09 February 2005

year of the rooster

happy chinese new year to everyone out there! best wishes in the year of the rooster!

06 February 2005

the agony of defeat

super bowl sunday saw us at boston pizza again ... but this time at the newly-opened restaurant at warden and steeles. proudly wearing my eagles jersey and eagles baseball cap, i walked in, hoping my team can pull off the miracle upset, but understanding that the patriots would probably win the game. and yes, the patriots won ... 24-21.

i was really disappointed with the eagles' clock management in the late fourth quarter. they showed absolutely no urgency on their second-last drive of the game. after making it 24-21, i really thought they should have kicked the ball away instead of trying the onside kick. with two timeouts, they could have gotten the ball back in decent field position (around their 30 yard line) with about 50 seconds to go ... which would not have been too bad a situation considering they only needed a field goal to tie. instead, they messed up the onside kick and got pinned inside their 5-yard line with 45 seconds left.

after the game, the media reported that mcnabb was very sick and it got to the point where he couldn't even call plays in the huddle. if that was the case, they should have taken him out! yes, i understand that he's the captain of the ship, but if he's sick to the point where he's hurting his team, then the coach has to do what's in the team's best interests.

lastly ... after seeing terrell owens' performance, my opinion of him has been changed significantly. i used to think of him more as a showboater and inventer of fancy touchdown celebrations. but, to see him put himself through all that rehabilitation, to come back ahead of schedule for the biggest game of his career, and not only to dress, but to be a significant weapon in the eagles' offense while silencing all of his doubters ... he has earned my respect.

05 February 2005

mandarin ... one year later

hmm ... it's been almost exactly a year since i took the mandarin class up in scarborough on saturday mornings. my progress in the language has stalled somewhat since the new year, and i think this anniversary would be a good time to pick it up again.

so, what i'm planning to do is to try to do some self-learning. i've already bought volume 2 of the new practical chinese reader from the u of t bookstore, which i plan to use as my text. each saturday, i plan to cover one chapter in the npcr2 and assign myself homework by learning the words in each dialogue that are new to me. i also read the dialogues out loud to make sure that i'm not falling behind in speaking ability.

i just went through lesson 15 and fortunately, due to my self-study last year, i already knew most of the words -- there were only a few that i had never seen before. so, hopefully this "course" won't be too difficult. and yes, i plan to give myself an exam at the end of this. if i can maintain my one-lesson-per-week rate, i should be able to finish volume 2 by the end of april. stay tuned ...

03 February 2005

uw go club revived!

after a lengthy sojourn from kgs, my online go server of choice, i decided to log in today. first of all, my rank had fallen to 1-kyu, but a couple of victories brought me back to 1-dan. then, i noticed that philip was also logged on, and we started chatting. he told me that the university of waterloo go club has been revived, and he's the vice-president of the club! you can check out the club's webpage here.

five years ago, when i was still an undergrad at uw, we had a go club running for two terms. unfortunately, the club dissolved when most of the members graduated. it's really hard to find new members when starting up a club, because the game isn't very popular outside of the far east. so, to hear that philip and his friends had managed to start up a new club with so many members was great news indeed. hmm ... since meetings are from 7-10pm on thursdays, i'm thinking of driving to waterloo after work sometime this term to meet the members, both old and new. it should be a lot of fun!

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