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A mature expression of freedom follows the discernment between desire and need. It follows then that liberty must follow education, not the other way around.

Presidents’ Colloquium on Teaching and Learning

Every professor–certainly every engineering professor I have ever had–should go to this. The event is advertised here (unfortunately no permalink to the event) and discussed here. The theme underscores, in my opinion, one of the greatest failures of Western post-secondary education: students are allowed to, and sometimes even encouraged, to “work the system of evuation” instead of “striving for excellence and pursuing knowledge”.

On Observation of Difficult Languages

Writing Python all day and then tying to make a “simple PHP script” when I get home really emphasizes that PHP has become just… inconvenient.

Durban Review Conference 2009

So, the Durban Review Conference II commenced today. According to the Telegraph, Canada was among the USA, Israel, Italy, and Australia in boycotting the conference. When I first read about this, I found it a little confusing since the conference purports to be focused on anti-racism. However, the first conference was apparently rife with anti-semetism and was so offensive that the United States walked out on the conference half way through.

Here’s what Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxime Bernier, in announcing Canada’s choice to boycott the event:

Unfortunately, [the 2001 Durban] conference degenerated into open and divisive expressions of intolerance and antisemitism that undermined the principles of the United Nations and the very goals the conference sought to achieve…I had hoped that the preparatory process for the 2009 Durban Review Conference would remedy the mistakes of the past. We have concluded that, despite our efforts, it will not.

In addition to producing irrefutable evidence of the event’s hypocrisy by citing its agenda, the Telegraph’s article also alluded to the UK’s disappointing choice not to boycott the event alongside its Western allies. An interesting move.

Also contrasting the Western boycotts is the list of NGOs in support of the event in 2001 available here, and the reported list of major NGO attendees which includes Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and UNICEF.

I don’t pretend to be well-informed enough to reserve judgement on the Canadian, English, or NGO decisions made here, but it certainly seems like, once again, the world’s leaders need to learn how to get along. If repeating the mistakes of Durban I is not the answer, then another conference on a more balanced set of issues and perspectives should be held by the UN in cooperation with its member nations. From the sounds of it, Canada made the right move to back out, but non-cooperation isn’t enough; problems don’t get solved by pointing at the solutions that aren’t working. I am interested to see what gets published on the Iranian Prime Minister’s opening speech today.

I’ll write more on this later I’m sure…

//Mark

Template for UW E&CE Work Term Reports

So, I spent a bunch of time getting this template setup, so I figured I should make it available. If anyone finds any errors in it, please let me know. I am hoping that over the next two years the department will spend its time on more important things than tweaking the details of the work term report specifications, and I won’t have to update this too much.

Big scary disclaimer thing: Just to be clear, users of this template cannot hold me responsible for any errors in this template if they result in a problem with your work term report. I don’t know whether one would be required to cite me as having contributed to a report that uses this template, so answering that question, as well as (potentially) including such a citation is also the responsibility of the report writer. Basically, I am offering this to save people time, but if you’re the one writing the report, you’re the one responsible for the report and its contents.


Notes on using the template:

  • I used MSOffice 2007 fields for a lot of information in the front matter. The nice thing about that is that when the information is repeated, I included a reference to the first appearance of the information. I got lazy later in the document and you will just see examples, not example-text-within-a-nice-text-field.
  • Make sure you are not in Design mode when you create a new document using the template, it messes things up and is prone to producing inaccurate field values.
  • If you see something like { REF SomeName }, that is a reference to previous data entered using a text field (or Control in MS lingo). To ensure that everything is accurate, I recommend making sure you have filled out all previous fields first, then use the right-click menu Update Field, then use the right-click menu Toogle Field Codes. The same applies to front matter tables and lists.
  • If you run into problems with references, it may be useful to know how I made references to text fields (Controls). First I created the text field and named it. Then I created a Bookmark that refers to the value of the text field. Then I inserted References to the Bookmark wherever I needed the data again.

I guess that’s all there is to say about the template. I hope others find it useful. Again, if you find any errors, email me or post a comment to this post. My apologies to those who use OpenOffice or previous version of MSOffice; I don’t have time to write a template in every office suite out there.

//Mark

Macleans latest messages about teens

So, I sat down to write a post focused about a recent Macleans cover story on non-rebellious teens, but before I dive into that, I’d like to point out that it seems Macleans can’t make up their mind on the subject. Googling “macleans teens” brought up this article, a dilute version of the larger article in question that focuses on Christianity vs. Atheism + Islam trends, this post, announcing the larger article in question, and a very different article suggesting that teen pregnancy is now cool. On one hand, there’s something to be said about reporting from different sides of the fence to reduce bias, but on the other hand, there seems to be a lack of coherence.

In any case, the print article I originally alluded to says some things about teens today that apparently many experts find surprising. The gist of the article is that teens today are drinking less, smoking less, having less sex, valuing their families more, and, as an aside, there are fewer Christians, more Athiests, more Muslims, and more (as the statistical world insists on calling it) “other religion”-ists.

Reginald Bibby, the leadership of the survey squad that has been questioning teens for over two decades now, makes an important point that youth today, while experiencing greater freedom than preceding generation, have been through many of the hardships that come from abuse of that freedom such as fragmented family life, divorce, etc. Bibby suggests that the bad habits of their parents has increased teens’ resolve to correct the collective mistakes of a society that was, in its previous generation, tinkering with new freedoms for the first time.

I think that Bibby’s point sheds light on a greater ideological error in prevalent thought. Freedom does not inherently corrupt, and furthermore, it is a part of humanity’s coming of age to collectively come to appreciate that liberty and happiness emerges from the mature and responsible exercising of freedom, not the flagrant abuse of it.

It’s refreshing to see that systematic studies are exposing youths’ capacity to accelerate the process of a morally advancing civilization.

New fees on electronics: a new love/hate relationship

The other day I took a return trip to Canada Computers. The new LG monitor I bought for my wife’s birthday was defective and I wanted to exchange it for a similar Samsung model. Unfortunately, I was met with two unpleasant surprises when I arrived at the shop. The first thing was that the problem with the display wouldn’t reproduce for the guys in the shop, resulting in a small restocking fee. The second surprise was that in 24 hours I’d had the monitor, Ontario instated a new fee for purchasing electronics, which almost doubled the damage on the restocking fee in this case.

To be clear, when I found out the reason this new fee is being put into place, I was pleased. The fee is a part of the new Ontario Electronic Stewardship which aims at making the disposal of electronics more environmentally friendly. Of course, more careful disposal is more expensive, but I am happy to pay for such a noble environmental effort. As a tech guy who frequents computer shops, I’m sure I’ll be paying this fee more often than many; I hope some of it gets reinvested in awareness of the program so that more people paying for proper electronic waste disposal actually use it.

//Mark

Hello world!

Welcome to The Eclectic v2, an early sign that I have finally broken down and invested in hosting that I don’t manually manage myself. My old server is on the verge of kicking the bucket and I can’t afford to replace it right now. To compound the issue, if something serious went wrong with the server’s operation, I definitely don’t have time to fix it right away, and as some of you may know, I was hosting others’ sites as well.

For the time being, I have decided not to move old posts from my previous blog to this one. If you would like to see the old posts again, please feel free to contact me.

//Mark

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