I haven’t done a table topic in the toastmaster meeting for quite a while, so I volunteer myself today. Today’s toastmaster meeting is more special than usual, because it is the club got chartered. We invited the district governor to present us the certificates, and PMC provided free lunch. The topic I got is a quote from Pablo Picasso, “Computers are useless. They can only give answers”. I think I did ok in the table topic, except that I totally forgot to mention 42 until I went back to my seat. For those who had read the Hitchhacker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you should know 42 is the answer to all the questions of life and universe, except that the question is not known. Later on when I mention that to my colleagues, almost everyone agree that I had totally missed the point of that quote. One of them haven’t read the book and seems puzzled about the importance of 42. The rest of us question his identity of being an engineer, we even threaten to take away his iron ring. I think I should download and watch the movie version of that book to reinforce my engineer nature.
When I bought my palm pilot a few years ago, I knew it is going to break down when the manufacturer warranty expired. So I spent $50 to buy the buyer protection program of future shop, hoping to get a new unit when my palm is beyond repair. The no lemon garuntee of the program suppose to give me a new one or goods with equivalent value if it has been repaired more than three times. My idea was to break the palm before the extended warrenty expire so I can get my money back. My palm has broken as I expected, probably due to statics on the interface IC. It turn out the warranty program of Futureshop is really user unfriendly. The repair time is unreasonably long, it takes them almost 2 months to get it to repair. The worst is the fine print of the non-lemon guarantee, it will only get replaced if it breaks down on the same problem three times, not just any three problems. So I have been end up visiting Futureshop almost once every few months to send my palm to repair and picking it up. Today I pick up my palm again, and I’m still one repair short from getting a new unit. In order to get my money spent on the extended warranty worth, I have to break the palm again. The best way to break any electronic device is apply the wrong voltage and current to burn out the IC, and you can always blame it on power surge. Since I don’t have a palm for such a long period of time, I get used to live without a palm already. I remember at some point back then, I thought I couldn’t function without a handheld device. So I’ll probably get something else with the reimbursement from the extended warranty. Does it really worth going thru all these trouble to get the worth of the extended program? Probably not, so I had decided I will never buy the extended coverage from future shop again.
I am very exhausted today. After the auction dinner last night, I have to get up early at seven thirty this morning for another fund raising event, car washing at St. Paul. I think the word volunteer work or WYD promotion as a more appropriate description. The money we made today is nothing comparing to last night. We worked for the whole morning, and only washed 30 cars while people were attending the mass. Divided up the donation we got and the man hour we had spent, it is about the same as the minimum wage at McDonald’s. It could a team bonding event, but we are already seeing each others too often. St. Andrew is a pretty small church, the mass is not even half full, and most attendants are seniors. I worry that the church may get close when those old folks pass away. I didn’t fall asleep during the mass, probably it is because my body was still in working mode in between the car wash. Instead of listening to the homily, I was think about the idea of car wash as fund raising in general. Car washing is the most inefficient fund raising event I had participle so far, the return simply doesn’t justify the hard work. However I can see the other side of this event. It give the kids some outdoor exercise, working really as a team instead of having separated roles, and it seems always fun to play the water hose. I guess I’m too old for all of that and the manual work is too demanding. The worse part is I can’t stand the dirts on the car once I start cleaning it. The people should only get what they pay for, not the as my own car type service. Thus we end up spending a lot more time making the car really clean than doing a supposedly half hearted job. Yet, I think car washing could be a good idea for teenagers trying to do something together. If I have kids, I’ll encourage them to suffer in at least one of those events. Out of all these fund raising events I had went through, I start to appreciated the value of higher education. It is a good lesson to learn how the less fortunate people make their living in the hard way. I think it is just immoral in the society let people do all these lowly works. In my ideal world, all these unrepresented tasks should be taking care of by robots and computers. Humans are left to work on the most important and most value-added jobs, the advancement of science and technology.
I was being a sales last week and I became a waiter this week. Tonight is another fund raising event for the World Youth Day. It was an auction dinner. I don’t really like this idea when it first proposed because it takes too much work. Indeed there are lots of preparation work to get the sponsors and tonight is really tough. I had never been a waiter before in my life, and I’m sure I don’t want to be one ever. I am originally assigned to take care of the drinks counter, which is probably the most easy job, all I have to do is sit there and hand out pops. Some girls are assigned to serve coffee and tea, they have to walk around and refill the guests. It turn out that is much more demanding than expected as the pot are quite heavy and people drinks alot. In order to give a good service, I end up helping out the girls to bring water, coffee and tea to the tables. The guest even thought I am actually the one who is responsible for their cups. Walking back and forth on the floor, remembering who wants what kind of drink is not fun, and worse I have to wear a smile all the time even though I hate pouring drinks. Comparing to the clean up after the dinner to restock the dishes, stack the table, this brainless manual labor seems much easier, at least I can keep my brain activity to the minimum. The Bible said thou shalt serve others, I seriously doubt the practicality of that teaching. Serving others and pretend to be graceful is one thing, but serving others with a true heart is quite different. I can understand the professionalism in the exchange of service and rewards. But who would truly serve others and why would they want to do that? Other than having intangible rewards return spiritually, there really make no sense to serve others. Helping your friends or be kind to a stranger once a while with no commitment are honorable charities that give you a good feeling. However serving others full time are beyond all reasons. Even thought those are mostly harmless nice people, their actions don’t follow logic and are unpredictable. Thus they have the potential to become very dangerous lunatics.
I found taking care of Charlie, the golden retriever of Pat, is quite time consuming. I have to remember feed him every morning before I go to work and go home early to feed him dinner. Since he is very bored staying home all day, I try to walk him every night. Walk the dog is more time consuming that I had expected. Just want to the park close to Pat’s place and back takes over 15 minutes, and it would take more time if I let him run around in the park. For time when I’m around, Charlie is very lazy. He usually lays in front of the window or TV doing nothing, and very slow in responding to my commands. It is very easy to recognize dog’s facial expression to tell whether he is happy or sad. After this experience of living with a dog, I’ll definitely think twice before getting my own dog in the future.
There is another round of layoff today in the company. We had already lost track of the number of layoff, it maybe the fifth or the sixth round. It is not affecting the Headquarter in Burnaby at all. Over 60 engineers are let go in the Santa Clara design center, which is over 2/3 of the design team down there. It’s mainly due to the company decided to exit the custom MIPS core business, therefore we no longer need their expertise. We can foresee the closure of that division when we use the licensed core from MIPS instead the custom core in our own product. Upon hearing the news around lunch time, our usual group have a concern on the fate about Suzanne. Lucky that later in the day, she sent an email to all of us saying she is safe. From my experience and what I heard from other companies, it’s always more secure to work in the corporate headquarter or at least the regional main office. Tiny remote sites often become the first victim of downsizing.
Today continues the painful process of installing software. I get most of the software installed, and I realized I forgot to copy two very important pieces of information from my old hard drive, they are my firefox bookmark and palm desktop contact list. I wonder why can’t all the software save their data in one centralized location, so I only have drag one directory every time I update my system.
Fortunately, I am able to recover the data from my harddisk after running fixboot, fixmbr, chkdsk /p and fdisk /mbr on the recovery console from the Windows XP CD. However, unfortunately, the OS is beyond repair, I can’t even start file explorer or even go online. To reinstall my computer, I have to find some disk space to host my data while I reformat the harddisk. So I end up buying a 200GB harddisk for backup, and since I am going to open up the case, I got myself extra 1GB of RAM. Now my system has 1.5GB RAM and 440GB harddisk space in total. I’m planning to use the new harddrive and the 512MB RAM in the MS cheap computer though. I still haven’t decide whether should I take advantage of that deal, but will see how it goes.
To save time, I’m going to install the essential software. I found I had installed way too many software that I had not even used once. It’s a painful and unproductive process that I want to go through as soon as possible.
On a side node, when I was messing inside the case, I accidentally pressed the stand-by button of the cable modem and I’m not aware of it. I called the support line to make myself look like a fool for asking why the internet doesn’t work when the cable modem in stand-by mode. While I was waiting for the tech support, the system always play meaningless messages. I find a very stupid one telling the customer who has problem with their internet access to visit their support website. Duh! If I can visit the support website, I won’t be calling this number, go figure.
Finally I received my dual LCDs at work after waiting for almost two months since I had talked to Uncle Bob. Colleagues gathered around my cube today and check out the dual LCD setting. I am not sure how to measure the productivity increase using dual displays, but it definitely much more convenient to use. The moral of this story is that you will get what you want if you keep asking for it and ask it to the right person.
My windows machine is dead and it keep rebooting itself. I suspect some files of the OS is corrupted since it won’t even boot into safe mode. The only option I have is to re-install windows. I hope the windows recovery works so I won’t lost my data. Sigh.. I don’t have much time to re-install all the software.
Today I spent almost the whole working on Worth Youth Day fund raising again. All those fund raising events taking too much of my time, and the amount we get back really won’t justify all the effort. Anyways, we are selling lots of stuffs in St. Mary after masses. I’m taking care of selling the T-shirts. Pat designed the T-shirt, the light color one looks pretty nice, but the dark color one don’t turn out too great. The T-shirt selling system is very confusing, so I end up have to run up and down stairs a lot to get the color people want to buy. I guess we sold almost 200 hundred T-shirts over the weekend. Since the T-shirt are donated by someone, all the money go to the WYD team. In a few weeks, we have to distribute the T-shirts, I can foresee it would be more chaos than today. From today’s experience, I know I would never want to be a sales, especially clothes sales.