Searching for that Quiet Place

The last few weeks have been pretty frustrating for me, and I actually realized it today after becoming personally offended by a request made at work.

It takes quite a bit for me to be personally offended. I can find things offensive without letting them get to me, and often let as much slide as possible before taking it to heart. Of course, there are some things that I take very seriously and it quite easy to push the right buttons, if you know which ones to push.

I'm not exactly sure why these frustrations build up over time silently. I seem to vent quite often about this, that and the other thing … it makes me think that I've become dissatisfied with myself.

From today, I am going to try even harder to keep things in perspective. The quality and completeness of my work falls considerably whenever I'm frustrated or offended, and this isn't good for anybody. I know that I've said this many times in the past … but I really need to control myself better. Although some Canadian employers might tolerate my attitudes and habits for a short while, nobody in Japan would let it slide … even the American-based organizations.

It has never been easy to hold myself back from a biting remark or well-placed comment, but at this point in life it's become clear that I am my biggest limiting factor.

At Telus, "Enhanced" Means "Less Reliable"

I've had the Telus Enhanced 1.5 DSL service since March 2005, and it's shared across a few PCs. On a good day, the maximum download speed would be around 140 KB/s, and it would usually average around 80 KB/sec unless I was getting the latest episodes of Daily Show and Colbert Report (my fastest downloading Torrents). This package has certainly had it's problems over the last year and a half as my landlord and I share this connection, and we both love to download (only about 10% of what we download is of similar interest, and these files are often put on a single networked storage device so we don't double-download).

Two weeks ago I noticed that the Enhanced 2.5 DSL package cost the same as my current service, and was being offered for $10 less for the first six months. Considering that my landlord and I had been fighting each other quite a bit that week regarding bandwidth usage and who could use how much during what times of day, this was a perfect solution. Although it would only be an extra 1 Mbit of bandwidth, that translates into roughly 120 KB/sec throughput.

I couldn't refuse, and signed up for that package.

The service was active less than 24 hours later, and I was thrilled to see my downloads were moving not twice, but three and a half times faster than they had been previously. My landlord reported that their internet experience was remarkably better even when downloading large files, and we were all happy. Alas, it was not to last.

Three days later, the internet speed dropped to about 40 KB/sec and stayed at that level for almost a whole week. This is a painful speed for anyone that has to share a network connection with someone who wants to see everything on 4chan. On a Sunday our connection started working properly again, and we were able to download at several hundred K per second. I thought that perhaps there was an upgrade going on at the local switching terminal, but no … because two days later the net connection dropped once again to 40 KB/sec.

According to Telus, there's nothing wrong with the switching station, and nothing wrong with their hardware. They want to send a technician over to my home to examine this, but I'll be charged $100 if they don't find anything. More often than not, I'm charged this amount because the technician doesn't find anything seriously wrong at any given time. Of course to add insult to injury, last Saturday the internet went out completely for about an hour and a half. From what I could gather at the time, the DNS servers not only slowed down, but died completely.

One of the things that has always bothered me is the amount of time it takes to load web pages. Even at 40 KB/sec, it shouldn't take 10 to 15 seconds to load a simple HTML document without any PHP, Javascript or what-have-you. This is typically due to DNS issues for sites that don't have heavy traffic demands. To test this, I switched my primary and secondary DNS servers to the OpenDNS servers.

What a difference.

Within the space of an hour I had noticed that all the sites I typically visit would load quite a bit faster, and several of the issues I had experienced with MSN Messenger and Java-rich websites had gone away. Unfortunately, this doesn't really solve my problems. My net speed is still terribly inconsistent. Some days I'm fortunate to get 100 KB/sec bandwidth capacity, and others I'm reduced to near-dial-up. I'm almost afraid of what the service will be like in a few weeks when all those new gifted computers come online with Windows Vista.

Vista will be hitting the DNS servers twice as hard as the current computers. With the wide-scale deployment of IPv6, Vista will be sending two requests whenever looking up a website or other internet address. If Telus can barely handle the traffic they have now, how will they handle this substantial load increase?

Sure, Vista will not be widely deployed for another 8 months to a year … but will Telus, a massive telecommunications corporation be ready in time? Considering their track record, I don't think so.

Prove me wrong, Telus. I don't mind.

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.