Bank time

This morning I took my car to service. It turn out the problem I had is software bug in the transmission control system. The service center download a new firmware to my energy and the problem is fixed. I am surprised an auto have bugs causing the system to hang just like computers. I thought those mission critical firmware is througthly tested before shipping to the customer, I guess I am wrong.

Since I have to go to the service center, the plan of playing golf with Chris in the afternoon is cancelled. PMC is on the way home driving back from the service center. Since I have nothing to do I decide go back to work and save up some bank time. The office is really quiet, only a few people come back. I found I am very productive in the afternoon. I only stayed for 4 hours and the amount of work I finish equals to the work I can done in a normal day. In a normal day, I constantly get distracted by other people, going to meetings, answering questions. Today I can really focus in my work and get a lot more done in much less time. The productivity factor of working alone double compares to working with other people, provided that you don’t need support from other team members. Team work is only more efficient if the synergy effect has more advertage over distaction. Productivity is mysteriously lost as you add more and more member to the team. That’s why a very large team, such as departments in the government, can have negative productivity.

Engine problem

My car has an engine problem on my way home after dinner tonight. The ETC and engine warning light is on, I can feel the car is losing power in low RPM and the RPM meter is swinging up and down wildly. I turned off the car, waited a while and re-ignite the car. Luckily the problem goes away temporary after a few trial. I managed to drive the car back home having the same problem only once half way. The first thing to do next morning is call the Volvo service center and get the car fixed. I hope it is not a serious problem that won’t cost me a lot. This incident makes me wonder why can’t car be more like computer. When my computer crash, I can diagnostic the problem and even do some emergency repair myself. When the car dies, giving me the warning light is not very helpful. I don’t need the light to tell me the engine is not working properly. When something liek this happens, I don’t know what goes wrong, let alone trying to fix it. It seems no auto company emphasis on the ease of DIY repair on minor problem. The after market service is a milking cow for the auto companies, they won’t cannbalize their own revernue stream by making repair easier to do. I wonder, is there a market for the car hackers? If cars are like computers, I can assembly the car myself from the best components. When something is not working, I can swap out breaken parts with new ones. This would drive down the cost of car ownership.

P.Eng practice exam

I recieved the result for my P.Eng practice exam. I passed. The biggest hurdle to acqure my professional status is behind me. The remaining tasks are only paper work. All I have to do is kindly remind my boss to send out the reference letter then wait for the association review my application. Before I receive the letter from APEG, I was a bit nervous about my exam result. The questions are quite tricky and I have many uncertain answers. After I known the result, suddenly my attitude towards the exam changed 180 degrees. I found that it is actually quite easy. I have only spent two weekends studied for it after all. Probably me and another friend at work becoming a P.Eng inspired a few people. I know 3 friends applied for the up coming exam in fall. They studied much harder than me. They already start preparing the exam and reading the textbook now. I think they would have a higher confidence in the exam after hearing my sucessful stories. I heard that to be a chartered engineer in HK has more requirement than becoming a P.Eng in Canada. I havn’t read the details of the transfer system between engineering societies in different countries. I hope I can transfer my engineer title back to HK if necessary.

Civil wedding

This is the first time I went to a civil wedding. I have always went to church weddings in the past. Today it is the big day of Alfred and Jeannet. They have the wedding ceremony held in VanDusen Garden. They had setup a hugh white tent in the middle of the field, surrounded by trees and flower from all over the world. The ceremony is hosted by a lay wedding minster instead of a priest. Apparently the minster is not very professional, he forgot the bride’s name. The ceremony is really short, only the entering, exchange of vows, signing the paper and exiting. There is no boring preaching nor choir singing. The couple hired a trio band to perform some live background music, mostly romantic classics songs. In all the wedding ceremony I went, I like the Catholic ceremony most, followed by the civil ceremony and least like the protestant ceremony. The civil ceremony is very efficient but lacks the charm of a religious atomsphere. It is just too plain. The protestant ceremony usually turns into a personal talk show of the priest. The focus of the ceremony should remain in the wedding couple. The Catholic ceremony just has the right dose of every element to make a perfect wedding. However, I do agree that have the ceremony in a botanical garden or on the beach side wedding is definitely better than having inside a church, unless the church is a romantic ancient cathedral.

Yard work

Last year when we went to World Youth Day, we had a fund raising auction dinner. One of the auction item is the whole group served as slave labour for the winning family. Today we came to fullfill our promise. Our task is to do yard work. It is the most horrible backyard I had ever seen. At the back of the house, we couldn’t see the sky, vines and trees block all sun light, it’s like a jungle. The grass on the ground is at least 2-3 feet long. There is a small hut with junk hiding behind, but no one can in get there until we cut the plants blocking the way. We have to cut down all but two trees, clean up the yard so the owner can rennovate the backyard he inherited from the previous owner. We worked physically labour the whole day, . We even have to use chain saw and slaght hammer to take the down big tree and the hut.
It takes 4 loads of a Ford pickup truck to deliver all the garbage to the garbage dump. We are all exhausted at the end of the day. The owner is really please since it is the first time he saw the fence since he bought the house. I havn’t had that much excerise in a long time. The owner really got his donation worth the money. Afterall, it is nice to together with the WYD group. The yard work is tough but it is quite fun doing it together as a group.

Layoff

My company just has another layoff today. The headquarter is safe, they only closed the Ottawa site. The CEO held a staff update but his talk is just the same old bullshit. I joked with my co-workers that I know how to say those BS too, maybe I can become a CEO. In the afternoon, the department VP host a Q&A session regarding the layoff. I asked him why don’t we pick Portland site, which is even smaller than Ottawa. He answered there are projects going in that site, so no plan to shut it down, but he hinted they are the next one to go. He also said the company outsourcing the project of Ottawa to India. Then I made a comment that this decision doesn’t make sense. We are taking in the Wipro guys on site, so we are essentially training Wipro’s employee. Why don’t we hire those guys directly and cut out Wipro as the middleman. He said hiring contractors has the flexibility to expand and shrink the work force. This line leads to a decisive blow to the VP from a question asked by Saskatoon. Saskatoon asked how come the expansion is in India and the shrinking is here in N.America? The whole room simpily busted into laughters. I forgot how the VP BS his way out, but it seems no of us is very convinced by his answer.

Later after the meeting, I talked the director. He agrees with my observation, the whole outsourcing to India doesn’t make long term bussiness sense. In a few years, the cost advantage of outsoucing to India will disppear as the salary of the Indian guys are catching up really fast. I can understand we want to hire the talents who happen to be in Indian. However we should hire them and retain them as employees. People and the knowledge inside their brain is the most valuable asset of a high-tech company. Training contractors simpily defeat the whole idea of hiring contractor in the first place. I also talked to the director how the company isn’t following the best management practices outlined “Build to Last” I am reading. He encourage me write an email to the HR VP to voice my concernss. I will do it after I finish reading the whole book. I will make some comments on the management partice backed by sound management theory, send it off to the executives and see what will happen. That sounds kinda fun.

Mandarin class

Tonight, I finished my mandarin for cantonese speakers level 1. My mandarin still pretty bad, I can barely communicate with a patient mandarin speaker. I think I had learnt the pronouncations of about 100 new characters in the class. I have to speak manadrin for 3 hours every week, that trained my brain to operate in mandarin mode. I believe to the key to learn a language is to think in that language. Many people have a wrong approach in learning a foreign language. They try to memorize the foreign words as a translation of words in their mother tongue. This will lower your language skill, since you have to translate the words all the time. The right way to learn is memorize the words as pure non-language concepts in the brain. You can associate nouns with the real thing, link verbs with the actual action, and adjectives with the feeling. For words with complex concepts, try to deconstruct them into simplier concepts, don’t just memorize the equally complex word in your mother tongue. I am a male, so my language ability is naturally limited. However, I think my theory of a second language sounds pretty reasonable. Maybe I should do some research on language teaching methods, see is there any philosopher of education agress with me.

Tales of two BBQ

Today I have BBQ for lunch and BBQ for dinner. The tenant of our office building has the annual BBQ today at lunch. We are not informed until yesterday, or we would not schedule BBQ party of our project in the same day. The whole team get off work early in the afternoon and head to the Jericho Bleach to have fun. I bought my kites. We were able to get the big areo-dynamic kite up really high, used up a kilometer of ropes. The smaller diamond kite is no luck, we were running back and forth on the beach, but still couldn’t get it to fly. I played frisbee with other team members and some others played beach vollyball. The whole team came to the BBQ party. We didn’t talk about work related issues, we just come to eat, chat and have lots of fun. I can feel sincerity among the team members, we treat each other as friends we would like to hang out with. Unlike the so-call team building exercise in the other department, which try to glue the team together artifically with some team building exercise. The problem of having two BBQ in one day is that now I can feel the “hot gas” in my thoart. I am afraid I will lose my voice tomorrow.

Passion for toys

This afternoon I had a good time with Kenny touring toy shops in Richmond. He is one of my friends whom I known in the most weird place. I met him in arcade and somehow became good friends, probably due to our love towards toys and anime. Well, he is more otaku than me. At least I don’t play japanese games nor self learn japanese just for ACG. We collect different toy series. He like super robot, saint saiya and I like military style mecha. Gundam is the common language between us. He is probably the only person I know in real life knows more about Gundam than myself. It is always a pleasant to see him. We can just talk about toys, anime and games for hours. Everytime he will show me Japanese hobbies magainzes. I already read the highlights from online scan, but it is a different kind of joy to read it on paper. We can even talk about each picture in details. I wonder how long we will continue be toy lovers. I guess I will keep collecting toy as a hobby financially permits. Toys defintely make nice display pieces. Unlike old fashion collection items just lay still, toys can be arranged to different poses. Unlike collection items only for decoration, toys have deep sub-culture background.

TTF friends

Tonight I went out to have dinner with friends in the TTF forum. One of them is visiting Vancouver from LA, so we have a small group of five people come out to meet each other. I discuss various issuses (a.k.a. blow water) with them in the forum for a long time but it is the first time meeting some of them. I heard the group in HK come out regularly and many become close friends. I am surprise to see friendship first start in the internet and flourish in real life. The TTF forum is not just a website, it is a community. People go there for various reason, some just hang around and leave, but many more choose to stay, make it their home in the cyber world. I become part of this community and accustom the people there. This kind of community services absolute no purpose except a group of bored people get together to have fun. Although it may sound quite unproductive, but I think the sense of belong is one of the key that attracts people.