On the road update

  1. It’s difficult to find the Interwebs in a Taiwanese household if the said household does not have  senior high school or college kids as regular residents.
  2. The above is my excuse for not updating this blog and the “picture log” thing I started a couple of posts ago.
  3. I have taken a bunch of pictures, met a bunch of relatives, and finally started to gain enough trust for my almost-2-year-old baby cousin to play with me and hug my thighs. 
  4. My physical unwellness has progressed from jetlag into an upset stomach from excess eating. I have also gained 1kg of weight in less than a week.
  5. I have forgotten the importance of sitting in front of the fan, wearing long pants to avoid mosquitos, and the rules of the road that resembles the fighting scenes in 300 – violent chaos in perfect concert. 
  6. I miss you.
  7. The Twilight saga seems to get better after you avoid (or become desensitized from) the silly, childish, annoying high school romance and accept the fact that, one way or another, you will have to waste 20 more hours of your life to finish the whole series. This sad realization seems quite similar to that after watching a few episodes of the O.C.
  8. I feel extremely lucky that the only cockroach I’ve seen so far is a dead one.
  9. I miss you so much it feels like I’m not completely here… things I eat, places I see, people I meet… I feel I can’t experience any of it fully because for anything I do, anything, I wonder: what would it be like if you were here?
  10. The coming Friday will probably be one of the most anticipated ones of my life. 

Sun Run 2009

Once again, I took on the Sun Run. After doing it in 2005 and 2006, I took 2 years break because there were always finals right after the Sunday Run, but this year… well, I don’t have to keep reminding everyone that my final exams were finished in 3 days.

This year I didn’t have much time to train… I spent most of my exercise time in the weight room, but I managed to run a f ew times in the past week to prime my body. Lack of training was not the only challenge; I managed to chat late into the night with a certain special lady whose name starts with T and ends with sodium (Na), and got myself 5 hours of sleep.

But the weather today was perfect for a jog: cool and cloudy, but dry. 

This is what the crowd looks like from the back at 8am.

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This is what the crowd looks like from the front at 9am.

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I was off to the side; the crowd of 50,000 looks even more impressive if you take the picture from the right place:

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Anyway, I ran pretty well this year. In fact, I felt so good that I thought I could run another 10K when I finished. 

The gear check this year is much, much more efficient. My brother warned me that last year he had to wait 40 mins to get his gears, so that I should run to grab our stuff as soon as we cross the finish line. I did. And I waited for less than 40 seconds, because they grouped the bags into the categories of runners (by color), and sorted the bags by number. 

So I headed into BC stadium for the sweetest oranges of the year. Seriously, they taste like heaven after 10K run. 

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And viola!!!

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Just look at Guy #14199. 

The bananas were ok, but after you stand in front of the oranges for 5 minutes eating at least a dozen pieces, you kinda have to move down the line.

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So I was happy:

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That’s a free yogart in my hand. I grabbed two. 

That’s all the time I have today to write about the Run. Next year I would definitely write more if Tina joins me 🙂 

She texted my results the next morning: 56:46. I honestly forgot my time last year, but I don’t think I improved this year. Next year, next year.

RC年終心得記錄

剛整理了一下這一年在RC累積的文件檔案,從暑假的交接會議出席名單、舍卡設計圖、到後來小淨夜市、園遊會的籌備文案等等,在RC的回憶片段接連浮現。明年海底朱要接大衛的棒當舍長,憑她在RC的經驗和討喜的人際關係來看,一定也是個可圈可點的好舍長。不過不少幹部畢業了,也有很多幹部會變得很忙,到了這個送舊迎新的時間,幹部群裡應該會換進不少新血。重要的交接會議我大概沒辦法參加(人在台灣呀!),明年的秘書人選應該也還沒確定,我就把一些心得放在這裡,一來記錄一下經驗,二來給大家做個參考吧。

 

先來講一些管理上的心得。

1.       在知道一個人很能幹之前,不要assume她很能幹,而是要花心思去摸清楚她的特長,然後讓她發展所能,並支援她所不足的地方。

在一個團體裡,每個人的長處都不同。有些人點子多,有些人效率高,有些人人際關係強,有些人能夠把事情的細節照顧得很周全。如果把事情分派下去以後就assume每個人都會把分配到的工作完成,而沒有去關心他們的進度或困難,只在他們事情做不完之後再拼命補救、甚至動肝火,都事倍功半甚至於事無補。

寫到這裡,突然覺得指揮一個團體有點像在下暗棋:你在翻開棋子之前不會知道她的強處在哪,而翻過來以後她的強處也要在對的地方才能夠發揮。越早抓到每個人的興趣、能力,越早將他們放在正確的崗位上,越能夠有效的指揮一個團體的運作。

 

2.       核心領袖(團)是決定幹部群成功與否的關鍵

經過一年的觀察,我同意在社團裡一個有擔當和熱誠的領袖是必須的。她在大家都累了的時候要鼓舞士氣,在大家忙的時候扛下做不完的社務,在需要做決定的時後果決了斷。花了我一年來同意這點,是因為我在SCI Team的時候是以完全不同的運作模式在辦活動的。在SCI Team,每個人都可以是領袖;只要你對一個活動特別有興趣,你就可以報名擔任它的 “co-chair”,號召組成一個committee,然後主導這個活動的籌辦過程。

社團跟這個很不一樣。社團需要協調的事情多很多,例如招新社員、跑贊助商、籌錢辦活動、跟政商團體社交、跟社員打好關係達到一個社團應有的團聚力等等,一大堆overhead是在SCI Team所不用煩惱的。這些事務是社團運作的一部份,也提供了只有玩社團才能學到的社會經驗。

這麼多事情,沒有一個優秀的領導團隊是辦不到的。社團不能說: oh oops, 今年沒有人有興趣設計舍卡喔,那我們不要用舍卡好了。」或是:「今年沒有人想辦club days耶,那我們不要招新舍員好了。」

讓幹部群分工合作完成這些不可或缺的任務之餘,還要保持幹部們的正面態度和衝勁,這就是優秀的領袖的功課啦。

 

3.       社團是大家的,而不是少數領導者的。

說了那麼多,都圍繞在領袖的題目上打轉。其實最厲害的領導是不用領導的,而是把社團的ownership跟所有的幹部分享。這樣一來,幹部做事就不是為了應付領導的要求,而是為了社團利益著想而自發性的付出。這點說得容易,真正要實行非常困難。要讓幹部們有足夠的發言空間、掌握一些事情的決定權、提供大家發揮的舞台,並在一舉一動間留意領導階層跟幹部間的互動關係,盡量避免由上而下的溝通方式。有如「你是XX幹部,所以這是你的責任」的話是大忌。

 

然後說一點比較technical,跟秘書這個職位比較有直接關係的東西

4.       要善用collaborative的工具

一個大的活動總是由一大群人合力才能完成,像是負責食物清單、助手名單、遊戲準備、賣票紀錄、場地布置、人手分配等等,沒有5, 6個拼命的幹部是沒辦法顧全的。而這5, 6 個人在計畫或是準備進度報告的時候,會寫下一大堆文件。這時候一個非常重要卻也很容易被忽視的問題就會很快浮現:version control.

簡單講,助手名單可能每天都會更新,如果每次開會都寄一份新的名單給幹部,到最後每個幹部都會有6, 7份不同的助手名單。然後如果遊戲部門、食物部門、活動流程部門等等也每次寄新的版本,到要辦活動的時候幹部們就會有好幾十份文件可以搞砸了。

亂七八糟的版本是問題之一,另一個問題是:如果有兩個人一起負責一個部門,那這兩人之間互相寄來寄去的版本更是會多到嚇人。

解決之道?Google Docs是不錯的選擇. 大家用同一個文件,開會直接打開就是最新版本,也可以大家同時edit它,沒有誰等誰的問題。

但是Google Docs還不是理想。文件一多,我還是覺得它太散亂,不太好整理。而且每個人都要自己整理自己的Docs,效率很差。可以簡化version control又可以達到組織文件以供下一屆的幹部參考的辦法,是大家都可以輕鬆edit的網站。

Wiki最先跳進腦裡,必竟它的設計原則就是collaborative editing,但是好像大家都不太喜歡它的syntax(有點寫程式的味道)。一個看起來還不錯的alternative Google Sites,不過我還沒在一個團體裡用過,不知道如何。

 

5.       assume大家都是超級忙的人,然後因為貴人多忘事,所以要別人做事的時候要盡力簡化,然後保持最低的expectations

要多用力的簡化呢?約一群人團聚的時候(比如要辦活動或是幹部要開會),不但時間地點要強調,還不能assume大家都知道地點在哪裡,至少要附上地圖的連結,因為你不能assume大家不知道地點的話會自己去找地圖。最好是連結之外還能直接附上地圖的screen shot,因為你不能assume大家看到連結會去點開。

有這麼嚴重嗎?

有。而且就算你把地圖都放上去了,也很有可能有人會不但不知道在哪裡,根本連要開會也不知道,因為你不能assume大家會開信箱check email。所以你有重要的事情還要加一句 「收到請回答」,然後打電話給沒回答的人。

這種近乎於babysitting的溝通方式可能會讓你很無言/苦笑/不爽/沮喪/灰心/失望,而且做幾次以後你可能會覺得你在浪費自己的時間。這時候你就需要在方便對方和消耗自己興致之間找到平衡。通常在幾個月的適應期之後,你就會知道哪些幹部有心做事,哪些幹部無法commit,而你和幹部們建立好溝通上的信任之後,就可以慢慢把這些training wheels拿掉了。

不過你跟助手或社員連絡事情的時候,就要回到最低的標準,然後盡全力把他們需要讀的東西,需要做的事情簡化到極限。(比如如果能放連結就不要叫他們去搜尋,如果能copyemail就不要放連結,如果他們不需要知道就不要讓他們知道

 

最後列幾項明年的幹部都可以想一想的問題

6.       社團的定位在哪裡

提供社員一個交朋友的機會、讓同學們在這個大學校裡找到落腳處、屬於自己的niche?向外推展發揚台灣文化?還是賺錢累積資產然後不知道花在哪裡?

如要向外推展,活動文宣必須以英文為主,中文為輔。要踏出華人圈的範疇,滲入主流社會的媒體、吸引廣大群眾。這點LE的電影節做得真的太強,到主流的電台宣傳、在Vancouver各個角落大肆張貼海報等等,值得RC好好學習。

Target audience之外,辦活動的目標也要重新評量。不知道為什麼,大家好像都隱約把「賺錢」當成活動的目標之一,甚至是衡量活動成功與否的指標。一個簡單的問題我一直找不到滿意的答案:錢賺給誰花?

目前好像是沒人花。幹部自己當然是吃不到金庫裡的錢,就連辦完活動的慶功宴都要自掏腰包;但是我們辦活動最低要求是打平,如果能賺就更好,所以連社員來我們的活動也都被我們賺錢啊!也就是說我們累積的錢也不是回饋給社員的。

錢不給幹部自肥,也不給社員回饋,只能一直往金庫裡堆。越堆越多,都在給AMS(學生自治會)生利息的。

對於社團的定位,我爸提出了一個最直接的極端例子:如果銀行裡有兩萬社款,那前1000個人入社都發給他們$10紅包,後1000個人入社之後在年終的時候再領紅包,可能馬上就可以吸引2000個社員,直接晉升成UBC最大的社團之一。由於一半的紅包在年終發,所以社團還有充分的資產可以運用。而這一年來辦的活動、收的社費、能談成的贊助等等,有這兩千人撐腰,規模都可以比現在大810倍,到最後說不定發出去兩萬還能留下一萬咧。

我不相信有哪個社長這麼有種,敢這樣玩。而且一夕之間把RC擴大10倍,幹部大概會完全負荷不來而垮台。不過這個極端例子把社員福利、社員人數、社團財產之間的平衡抓進焦點,是值得探討的議題。

 

How a slowly crawling window made my day

What would you do if you screw up your girlfriend’s brother’s computer because you think you are super awesome with computers but actually aren’t?

 

I was hanging out at Tina’s place yesterday and Mark showed us a website that came up in our conversation on his desktop. “Here, you can see it on the TV,” he turned the TV on.

“The resolution is a little weird, but oh well,” he noted. It’s a wide screen TV, and a resolution of 800×600 does look a bit odd. It’s on cloned dual monitor mode with the computer monitor.

Being a smartass comp sci major as I am, I offered to tweak around to see if I can make it show up. I soon figured that cloned monitors must share the same resolution, and although something like 1280 x 720 showed up really well on the TV, it looks like someone squashed the screen from both sides on the computer monitor.

So I started to mess with “Extend my window to this monitor” function. Bad decision.

 

Somehow I managed to extend the monitor, set the TV to primary monitor, and set the resolution such that the TV goes blank. And that left me with a secondary monitor to play with – a desktop picture with nothing else on it.

If this doesn’t sound bad to you, I’ll describe the problem a bit more. The way to change the display setting back is to open Display Settings again, but when you open it, it appears on the primary screen. Which is totally blank. It’s like trying to fix your glasses with your eyes closed but worse: you don’t even know where your glasses are.

I tried dragging random things from the blank screen to the secondary monitor. Nothing. I tried unplugging the TV and restarting, but the computer wasn’t smart enough to detect an unplugged monitor. I tried to boot into Safe Mode by pressing F8, but somehow that computer refused to do it.

And I went home, defeated.

Then I came back for Round Two the next morning. This time I called my best backup: the Internet.

After an hour of failing to boot into Safe Mode using F8, trying to use hotkeys on Display Settings because I can’t see it, trying to change msconfig blindfolded, trying to boot Safe Mode from DOS… none worked.

Finally, an idea struck. “If I can only move a window without using the mouse…”

And Google gave me the solution:

1.       Press Alt + spacebar –  this opens the window commands such as Restore, Move, and Close

2.       Press M – this selects the Move command

3.       Hold onto the direction arrows to move the window

I have never been more excited to see a Display Settings window when it slowly crawled from the emptiness of the primary TV screen into view.

 

And that is how an A+ comp sci student spent an hour to figure out how to move a window from one monitor to another.

Ready for summer: introducing… PICTURE LOG!

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I’m so excited to be done with my final exams. I immediately changed into summer shirts this afternoon. In my book, spring changes into summer whenever the last final exam is. 

Anyway, I’m going to experiment with this picture log thing that I just came up with. Let’s see how long I’ll keep up with this, and how it might evolve with time 🙂 Let’s just hope it won’t die out next week.

SOOOO EXCITED for this summer… the FUN is going to be OFF THE HOOK. It will surpass the highest level of AWESOME and enter the realm of LIFE-CHANGINGLY KICK ASS. 

Seriously, even I can’t foresee how much fun is going to hit me. You will just have to wait now.

A really pointless update that you shouldn’t read if you have better things to do such as studying for your final exams

1. I enjoy getting tanned while studying – – and I didn’t have to leave my desk. I just have to take off my shirt, put on my sunglasses, and enjoy the 17th floor sunshine. 

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(I don’t think a topless picture of my is appropriate here, although I’ve already shown some in a previous post…)

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2. I really look forward to finishing my exams in a couple of days. This is going to be by far my shortest exam period, lasting 3 days in total. I will finish all of my exams before my brother even starts. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO TO MY ROOMMATES??!!

3. The traffic to my blog looks like a patient in ventricular fibrillation recently:

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I have some hypotheses for this erratic visitor pattern: 

a) a mysterious visitor decides to visit my blog and read 60 posts every other day

b) the probability of some pre-meds looking up “med school mmi” and finding my site is about 50% per day, so on average, I get one happy pre-med on my blog every 2 days

c) I really want to make a 3rd point but I can’t. 

4. The total view count to my blog is 48,301 as I type. At a rate of 140 new views a day, we will reach 50,000 in less than 2 weeks. As I did before, I put up the view counter for all to count down with me! 

5. Ohhhhh get ready for a huge revamp when ZeroRatio goes SUMMER!!!

Computer bugs are not viruses… (end of SDS!)

After some hardcore programming last weekend (I stayed in the same room for over 12 hours on Sunday), we finally pulled off something that we were somewhat happy with. GWT is not the solution for a website, by the way; we agreed that if we were to do this again, we will do anything but GWT. 

Anyway, I’m too busy to write down everything that I’d like to document with regards to my experience coordinating a Student Directed Seminar. But I’d just like to take this chance and let my none-geek friends know: bugs are not viruses. When we say we spent 6 hours trying to catch a bug, it doesn’t mean we sat watched the antivirus software for 6 hours XD. Besides, generally us geeks are careful enough to avoid getting viruses, but most of us are doomed to live out our lives battling bugs after bugs.

So what exactly are bugs in programs? In the most general term that I can think of, bugs are what make programs fail, like typos and grammer errors are what make essays fail. Some bugs are as silly as a typo, which are generally easy to catch and can be avoided by more experience programmers, but some bugs are hidden in the complexity of the program. Yet some other bugs are just plain impossible to find (like how we can run the exact same program in one environment but not another, or some sort of concurrency issues). 

Viruses are kick-ass programs that probably don’t have bugs in them. Viruses are out to do harm to anyone’s computer, bugs only make users and developers develop hypertension. 

I hope that gives you a picture of what I did in the past few days. Basically, sat in front of my computer, sputing profanity at both the failure and success of what we do all day – bug squashing.