What's Wrong With the UN?

Much like Stephen Colbert, I'm forced to give a tip of the hat and wag of my finger today. The UN has called for an investigation into the human rights abuses by "universally respected experts".

WTF? Why investigate something you already know? Seriously … this is like investigating why grass is green.

The situation in Sudan has been building for years. There are two million refugees that have been displaced, tens of thousands of women and children gang-raped, and mass murders. This has happened so many times in the last 50 years, and each time, the world has just let it happen.

I've had alot of respect for what the UN has done in my lifetime for millions around the world, but I'm very disappointed by the constant lack of action played by this "world council". It seems that whenever anything deemed as morally wrong is committed on a grand scale, the UN bitches and moans but never follows through on any real action plan. Sanctions wouldn't really do much against a country like Sudan as there isn't much of an international economy there at all. I highly doubt anything short of physical retaliation will actually reduce the violence and human injustice that is plaguing that nation.

I hate to say it, but the UN needs to be more like the US in terms of military strength and reaction time. If there is injustice, it should be stomped out before it gets out of hand. How many millions need to suffer before the world takes notice? How many women and children need to be brutalized and scarred before someone defends them?

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Kofi Annan and several dozen other representatives at the UN. But I am extremely disappointed with the unworkable "process" that is followed in the halls of that building.

Advanced civilization is over 7,000 years old. In that time we've conquered the earth and sent out probes to examine the universe. We've fought wars like children, and saved countless millions with selfless acts. We agree that we're all human. Most of us believe that we should all have the same inalienable rights and freedoms. It's time to defend these ideals and send a message to the world's leaders: "Play time is over. Grow up, or get out."

Ten Days to Go!

Only ten days remain until I make my second trek to Japan. I can hardly wait, but I'm oddly calm about it.

In order to ensure I don't get too lost while travelling from Tokyo to Gifu, I've been studying a set of instructions provided by Reiko. They're pretty complete, telling me what to look for and which ways to turn, so I shouldn't have much trouble moving about.

My new luggage should be okay for all this travel, too. One of the concerns I had was whether I could easily carry the wrapped gifts in the suitcase without tearing the paper, or damaging the contents. After some simple testing, it seems that the tote is the perfect size for what I needed to accomplish. I'll make sure the packages are set in such a way that they can handle the rough handling I'm sure they'll receive at the airport.

I was not able to get my hands on a cell phone capable of WCDMA transmission, however, this should be okay. I was considering getting a new cell phone from eBay or one of the phone dealers in Parker Place, but decided against it for the moment. It would have been nice to have a phone do everything I needed for several years, but my current phone is less than 12 months old … I couldn't justify replacing it for the few trips I'll make to Japan every year (even though after this trip, I will have spent 24 days in Japan this year -- that's 6.5% of the whole year!).

Hmm … when I look at it that way … it's almost worth it …

Either way. If I really want a cell phone while in Japan, maybe I could purchase an unlocked one from there. It might be cheaper than trying to find some high-end Nokia or Motorola sold in North America, since WCDMA usage is really a narrow market globally.

Either way, I think I have everything I need. This is going to be a great trip. I don't have the stresses and uncertainties like last time, and I don't have any unfinished business waiting for my return. The way things are going, I might just find an employer in Japan who's willing to hire me and help with the paperwork required to work in the country!

Well … here's hoping, anyways :P

I Was Never That Young

The other day I had received a letter from my sister Christine in Ontario. I had asked her to send a few pictures of me from the past, since I don't have such things, and Reiko wanted to see them as well as use them at our upcoming wedding. I've tried to avoid having my picture taken while growing up, as I never really saw the need to remember my appearance from times so long ago. Now that I see a few of them, I can only say to myself "I was never that young".

Except for two of the pictures taken when I was under a year old, I remember much of what occurred the days each picture was taken. There was a photo from Canada's Wonderland in 1982, shortly after I had closed the car door on my thumb. Several photos from 1985 appear (including the one on the left) which were taken shortly before my memory became more photographic…

It's almost funny to look back at these photos and have the ability to recall most of the day. What I was thinking, what I was feeling, and even what I ate for dinner. For most of my adult life, I've found a sharp memory to be more of a curse than a blessing. But when I think about my thought processes from 20 to 25 years ago, I can put myself in the shoes of a child today.

Hopefully I'll remember this when I get to raise children in the future, but I am forced to wonder just how much someone can remember? How much of our lives can we keep alive in memory? Not just the big events that might have happened, but the little mundane things, too. Remembering each time you've eaten a taco, or laughed at a TV show. Over time we should forget these things, right? Wouldn't life become dull and boring if we remember doing everything several dozen or hundreds of times before?

I shouldn't complain. The photographs my sister sent prove that I was indeed "that young", and I remember quite a bit from my really early childhood (3 years and up). People say that when you have kids, it's like you're living twice. Hopefully this memory will help me remember everything that happens in their life, and to ensure I never make the same mistakes again.

I Really Shouldn't Wrap Gifts ...

Today was the day I finished my Christmas shopping. Still plenty of time before the big day, too!

I managed to find some great photography books with Japanese captions at a small book store in Richmond, as well as a little something I thought Reiko might enjoy. At the same time, I had my specs fixed (the left lens had developed a pretty noticable crack) and even managed to find the perfect suitcase for my upcoming trip.

While at the mall, I happened to find some pretty cool wrapping paper. There were two patterns that I really liked, so I purchased a roll of each. One is metallic red with some felt-like paper on it, and the other is a nice metalic red with a star pattern. It seems that in the last six or seven years since I last celebrated Christmas there have been many changes to the art of giving gifts…

Wrapping presents is something that I've never been really good at. Typically, whenever I'm presenting a gift that means something, I have a store wrap it for me. It's not because I'm super lazy (per se), it's just that I can't wrap a gift in any presentable manner.

When wrapping today, I came to the realization that I should have probably found a gift-wrapping station at the mall and asked them to do it. I don't think I managed to get one package done properly.

I've seen how people do it. I've listened to their tips and tricks. I've even done "practise runs" to make sure that the finished product is presentable and attractive. All for naught.

Reiko is likely going to keep the wrapping paper as well as the contents, as both are considered gifts in many Asian nations. This means that she'll see all the folds, the refolds, the unfolds and the "oops" folds that I managed to make. Sure, it'll be good for a laugh, but I wonder if she'll let me wrap presents in the future?

Maybe I should have just gone with gift bags …

Stopping for a Moment

Much respect for James Kim.

After spending 9 days in an immobile car, James Kim went out in search of rescue for his family. I never met Mr. Kim or read any of his work at CNET, but I have the utmost respect for any man that will venture into a situation knowing the dangers to save his family. This is the act of a true hero.

Almost Done the Christmas Shopping

It's almost hard to believe that there is less than two weeks before my trip to Japan, and I have almost everything I need. There are still a few things like a suitcase capable of surviving the travel and the gift I have in mind for my future family. But aside from these, everything else is pretty much taken care of.

Today I managed to get my hands on a nice 6 MP Canon camera (an A540 for anyone that wants to know). Hopefully this will take pictures as great as everyone says it does. And this weekend I'll be picking up some new clothes for my trip. It's been way too long since I purchased any clothing, and this will be a welcome addition to my closets. I think I'll stop by the airport, too. There's still one little thing that I want to bring with me, and I'd rather have it in my suitcase than on my person for the flight.

Things are certainly falling into place. Hopefully this will be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable vacations I've ever had. And with two weeks of real Japanese food, I hope to shed a few of these unsightly pounds …

Less Than 550 Days To Go!

The time has been decided, and June of 2008 will be the month Reiko and I will get married!

This should give us some time in order to get some things in order, like money and career paths. This should also give me ample time to learn the basics of the Japanese language. Unfortunately, even after all this time, I'm still a n00b when it comes to speaking the language … though I can understand much of the basics.

Now comes the fun stuff … choosing the location, the time, the setting and all the minuitae of the wedding. I'll also need to see about some kind of package deal to fly some of my family to Japan. There are some ways to handle accomodations, and I'll certainly aim to make it as simple for my friends and family as possible. I don't mind getting lost in a foreign country now and again, but I'm sure my parents would not be amused.

Of course with this being set, I guess I have the next item for my countdown. It's a good thing I designed it to handle 999 days …

The Power of Mutual Friendships

Today I ventured back to the city of North Delta in an effort to work out some sort of payment structure with the client I wrote about two days ago. In order to do this, I had to leave work early and catch the guy before he left for the day at 4 pm. This shouldn't have been too difficult.

However when I got to the store, his car was not outside. This wasn't a good sign. Since I was in the area anyways, I decided to go inside and see whether he might have just taken something else to work. Who I found inside, though, caught me by surprise.

An old friend of mine who had moved to Yemen two years ago was inside talking to the store owner (the one that I came to meet). Upon seeing me, Ahmed (my friend from Yemen) burst into a huge smile and greeted me loudly. The store owner, upon seeing this, changed his demeanor almost instantly on seeing this. We all chatted for roughly half an hour before Ahmed had to leave, and then afterwards the store owner and I got down to business. He mentioned that he's had some difficulties lately, and wanted to work out a payment plan.

Music to my ears.

This is going to save me so much time and hassle, as I was about to get the ball rolling to have others collect the debt for me. I managed to get three cheques (two post-dated to next year), and we worked out an understanding that once the second cheque cleared, I would give him another temporary licence with his software. Once the third and final cheque cleared, I would unlock his application completely.

It's amazing what happens when two people know others in the same community. Fearing that I might tell Ahmed or others in the area about his debt-skipping, this client was more than willing to work something out like a rational human. This was much better than the "Get the hell out of my store" reception I had grown accustomed to.

I can't be upset over the actions of this store owner towards me. Lord knows that my credit is not perfect. But this lesson has taught me several things about doing business with people, and with how debt affects business. I won't stop writing software for people on the side, but I will be extra careful about how payments are arranged and carried out.

Stephane Who?

It's now official: Canada's Liberal Party is just like the American Democrats after their downward slide 10 years ago.

A new leader of the party has been selected, and no surprise, it's a white male from Quebec. During the leadership race, several people took shots at the other contenders from around the country as they couldn't really speak French. However, this Stephane Dion can barely speak English … but that seems to be okay.

This is going to be yet another nail in the coffin for the Liberal Party. Since halfway through Cretien's second term, this party seems to have been crumbling under it's own ego. Now it's complete. I highly doubt this party will manage to accomplish anything worth talking about over the next decade, and the current blind faith-based leaders of this country will manage to alienate the rest of the planet after China gives us the middle finger. Way to go, people.

Canada doesn't need another white federalist Frenchman to be calling the shots, or a man who has the same ideals about God as George W. Canada needs some fresh blood from someone outside the political strongholds of Ontario and Quebec. Where are all the 2nd and 3rd generation people who's families came from other parts of the globe? Let's see a truly multi-cultural political party that can find common ground within their little group before venturing into the ever media-centric world of federal politics.

Why is it so hard to find decent leadership on this planet?

I Asked Nicely ...

Today I went to North Delta in order to collect on a debt, and unfortunately, it didn't go quite as planned.

About six months ago, I had written some software for a small business to keep track of several things they needed in various ways. We agreed at a certain price and signed a contract stating what they expected from me and when, as well as how much it would cost by the time it was said and done. I managed to finish several weeks early, and so I passed that savings on to the client, whom I had built a pretty good repore with during the week of intial beta testing. All in all, the total cost of the project was going to be about 80% of what we agreed on.

When everything was installed, the client asked to use the software for a few days to make sure it worked properly. Seeing no problem with letting the software be used before payment, I let them go ahead and decided to follow up a week later. This is when things turned ugly.

The client decided to ignore my requests for payment, and started to become beligerent whenever I would manage to catch him on the phone. When I would make the trip to his store (an hour and a half from where I live), he would either see me coming and hide in the back while his employees ran interference, or he would tell me to "get the hell out of his store".

Today's trek was a little different in that he decided to try and reason with me. This person said that he was no longer using my software, so shouldn't have to pay. When I disagreed and showed a copy of the contract (the original wasn't brought just in the event something happened), he became upset and ordered me out of his store.

Of course, the reason this client is no longer using my software is because the licence expired. Any software that I write has a 180 day usage licence. After the 180 days, the software will stop working until the project is paid for. Then it's unlocked and can be used on as many machines the client wants to have configured.

I know that in the world of business these things sometimes happen, but I have a feeling that it happens with me because I am not very intimidating. I'll ask politely for things until I've reached my limit, then I'll get someone else who can accomplish the task to go forward and finish the job. Perhaps it's time I find a partner who is strong both in sales, as well as collections. Lord knows I would never make a good collections agent.

I did learn something positive, though. My PDA can operate for shy of 6 hours when playing mp3s at 50% volume. This should be more than enough time while flying to Japan. Once I get there, I would much rather hear everything around me than block it out.

Monday I'll find a collections agent. With any luck, I'll have my money before the trip to visit Reiko.