What I'm Reading
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Saturday, July 30. 2005
Last night I gave my presentation and talk on the genocide in Rwanda and Darfur, and it went fairly well. I brought in my computer to do the presentation, because none of the church computers were fast enough to run it. Surprise surprise, during the multimedia presentation, my computer crashes, and I had to reboot. Luckily the presentation crashed right before Act II, and I had programmed a script to allow me to jump directly to Act II, so we didn't have to start from the beginning of the multimedia presentation again. I probably have to do some maintenance on my computer since my computer has been doing a lot of heavy lifting with all the audio and image editing/processing that I had to do for the presentation.
In either case, about two weeks ago, Pastor Geoff was saying that he was preparing a series of talks on human suffering, in particular, the genocide in Rwanda and Darfur. He asked if I could talk a bit about it. I thought, great, I'm not that good of a public speaker at all, and I had a project due, so lets see what happens. During that weekend, I blitzed though my project and finished it early. In addition, I came across an awe-inspiring sound track that I thought would be perfect for a multimedia presentation. So, I'm all in, I'll supplement my talk with a multimedia presentation. Great! The presentation will do most of the talking for me. (If you knew me from high school, you'll know that I share my ideas best through multimedia presentations, while sitting behind the scenes, that is my medium for expression and creativity.)
I think the most difficult part of the whole experience was choosing images for the presentation. I mean, it's about genocide after all. One has to filter through a lot of sad photos before finding the most appropriate material. Audience is also an issue because sometimes on Friday nights we have kids as young as 13 years old probably, so doing a presentation for all ages is somewhat difficult. It's a balancing act between presenting something that is true to what happened, and watering it down too much such that it loses its integrity.
Anyways, my presentation and talk went for about 20 minutes (5 minutes overtime), but it was well received I think. The multimedia worked great on the big screen along with the big sound system that the church has. The sound track sounded awesome in that space as the acoustical properties of the church are excellent. Mental note to self, when giving a talk, have a cup of water on hand.
I'm going to post a summary of my talk some time this coming week. If anyone's interested in seeing the flash presentation that I made, e-mail me or leave a comment, and I'll give you instructions of where to get it. I can't just embed the presentation in my blog because it was never designed for web deployment.
Pastor Geoff's talk afterwards was also very mind provoking, and I'm still digesting issues and thoughts that were brought up. All in all, it was a pretty good night. Thank you Pastor Geoff for giving me this opportunity to share.
P.S. Thanks for coming out to show support Natalie, it means a lot, and it made the task a bit easier .
Thursday, July 28. 2005
Tomorrow's the last day of classes, and I've finally got everything finished. Feelings of nightmarish fear subsiding, feelings of cautious optimism returning. Hehe. I'm feeling pretty good about this end of term though. I got my research paper back, and scored an A+ on it which is sweet. The prof only had a few written comments in the paper, one of them says, "Oh." I'm not sure what that means exactly. Does it mean, "oh?" As in, wow, I did not know that before. Or does it mean "oh" as in, uhhhhh I think this is incorrect.
My presentation for the paper went fairly well also. It's difficult not to measure yourself against others, but the guy that went after me completely bombed. He didn't have his powerpoint slides done, so he loaded up Microsoft Word, and used that for his presentation. His word document was basically his research paper that he had written, and he was reading paragraphs directly from it. The text was too small so no one could read it. What made it worse was that there was a questions period after each presentation, and the guy cut off anyone that asked a question. The prof had to correct him on a few points that he made, and had to summarize the presentation for the guy because the presentation was somewhat incomplete.
In either case, I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I have a project demo to give, and it should be an easy 100%. They gave us two weeks to implement this project, and it took me about two days to code it up.
I also finished my flash presentation on Rwanda and Darfur, and I'll be presenting that at my church tomorrow night. I'm a tad nervous about this one; this is probably the first time I've spoken publicly at my church. I'm not preaching though, the talk is designed to raise awareness. As a presenter, I always worry if the material I'm speaking on is appropriate for the specific audience. Am I using too much jargon in my talk? Are my words too big and complex? Do I look awkward and uncomfortable standing up here? Is my audience going to eat me alive during question and answers? etc.
We'll see how that goes.
Monday, July 25. 2005
This weekend I had the lovely task of working on a programming project for a software engineering course. What's even more fun is that it had to be done on campus because the course requires proprietary software that's only installed in a certain computer lab. For the record, this is one of my pet peeves when a course requires students to use a tool that's only available on campus, and the tool can't be accessed remotely by computer. It means I can't work on an assignment from home.
In either case, working on campus on the weekend is extra bad because nothing is open on campus. There's no decent places to get food on campus, and if you don't have a car, it's a greater pain to actually get food as you have to travel off campus. Bus service on the weekend is intermittent at best as well.
So Sunday 8pm, I finally get a chunk of my software to talk to a neighbouring computer properly using CORBA (don't ask). I'm extremely hungry at this point, and I have a craving for Tim Horton's, so I go to the nearest Tim Horton's.
Normally when I think of Tim Horton's, I think of your stereotypical Canadian wearing plaid sitting around sipping coffee, reading a newspaper, and perhaps debating politics with some old guy. This should be the case as Tim Horton's is one of our country's greatest institutions.
When I arrived at Tim Horton's, I looked around and thought, "My God, it's all Asians!" It's 8pm which is NOT the peak time to be getting food, and the place is full of Asian students hanging out and doing their homework. It's wierd because I've never seen anything quite like it. While I was eating, I was able to brush up a little bit of my Mandarin as I listened in on a number of conversations being carried out in that language. I think the best sentence I heard was from the table next to me, "Wo jue de zhe assembly code bu hao," which translates to, "I think this assembly code isn't good." It was a bunch of guys studying assembly programming (programming language used for microchips and microcontrollers) for CSC 230 probably.
Anyways, I didn't know that Tim Horton's had become the hip place to be if you're Asian. Clearly, I haven't been notified by the powers above, and I have adjusted my meeting places as appropriate j/k. I've been looking for Asians in all the wrong places .
Saturday, July 23. 2005
Last night I watched Hotel Rwanda, and I'm still digesting it. The film was a real eye-opener, and very relevent to what is happening elsewhere like Darfur. It is probably one of the best films I've seen this year. If you need a synopsis of the movie, check my last article about Hotel Rwanda. The following review is not spoiler free; however, the things that I "spoil" are already recorded in history, and they're widely known. I'm commenting at a high level on this movie, so you'll have to decide if you want ANYTHING spoiled about the movie.
One of the most horrific things about the genocide is how quickly society degenerated. Literally overnight, neighbours started killing neighbours based on their race. In the movie, one of the journalists was asking a person about the roots of the conflict, ie Hutus VS Tutsis. The journalist looked over to two women at the bar, and asked what race they were, and one was a Hutu, and one was a Tutsi. To the journalist, he couldn't tell the difference. Apparently the only difference is that one race has a slightly wider nose. Other than that, they are indistinguishable. In either case, society is scary when anarchy breaks out.
Another creepy thing throughout the whole movie is the Hutu radio station. It was used to promote hate and propaganda. It was also used to coordinate and direct machete wielding gangs to different targets in the country. The radio station was essentially the central command and control structure, people would call in to report where Tutsis were, and the radio would direct the gangs to those areas. In the back of my mind, I was wondering why didn't the U.N. jam that radio station? It would have been relatively safe to fly an airplane with radio jamming capabilities over the country, and it would probably not violate the peacekeeper's mandate of not engaging the enemy. I did a little background research into this, and apparently President Clinton denied Dallaire's request for a radio jammer because it would be too expensive. Radio jamming costs $8500 per hour per plane. I'm going to cynically cite President Clinton's famous policy of, "it's the economy stupid."
A part of the movie that made the West look very bad was during the evacuations. The killings had already started, and the UN peacekeepers were low on supplies, ammunition, and men. Belgium, the only Western power that had peacekeepers on the ground had withdrew its soldier because 10 of their soldiers had already died. Then, like a miracle, a thousand French soldiers appear to reinforce the country. The Africans are glad to see the reinforcements; however, their hopes are shattered as they find out that the French aren't here to stay. The French soldier's mission is to extract all European/Western citizens from the country. There's one scene that made me angry. They show all the Western tourists get on a bus that is secured by the French, and they're going to leave the country. A bunch of Tutsis want to leave the country as well, but the French say they can't take anyone else except Western citizens. As the busses depart, you see this one European lady with her dog in the bus. I thought to myself, my God, that dog's life was valued more than the life of an African, that is how much the West cares about Africa .
A quote that caught my attention was when the Canadian general yells out, "we're peacekeepers, not peacemakers!" This was when a gang of drunken machete wielding militiamen come up to the hotel, and the Canadian general orders his men to put down their weapons because they're not allowed to engage the enemy. The UN's policy of staying neutral in conflict is more important than saving the lives of innocent civilians, how screwed up is that?
The other chilly scene is when parents plan to kill their children, as they believe it is more humane than having them killed by militia who will slowly hack them to death. Very troubling reality that these people had to go through.
In either case, I think history is somewhat repeating right now with respect to Darfur. In Rwanda, when the general was asking for troops, ammunition, and food, the UN sends a "fact gathering team" to assess what's happening. The very same is happening in Darfur, the UN has deployed its might fact gathering team to Darfur. Rwanda was initially not labelled as genocide, but merely tribal killings. If it was actually genocide, the UN charter dictates that they must intervene. Tribal killings though, the UN can sit on its duff and observe from afar. Right now, in Darfur, they say genocide hasn't happened, it is merely ethnic cleansing. Dallaire demanded well-equipped troops as reinforcements, and all he got was a handful of ill-equipped soldiers from Bangladesh and Ghana (both third world nations). Darfur needs more peacekeepers, and all they have are a few hundred soldiers from the African Union (tremble before the mighty armies of the African Union?). What has the West done? NATO is flying African Union troops into Darfur, and that's it. So the West's contribution right now is a taxi service essentially, we give rides to people. It's like we learned nothing from Rwanda.
A part of me is struggling over diplomacy versus military intervention in cases of genocide (or whatever you want to call it). In foreign policy, we hate to hear the phrase "violate a nation's soveignty." For example, Sudan says it doesn't want any non-African troops in Darfur, but if we deploy our troops there, we violate Sudan's soveignty. With only a handful of African troops in Sudan, that's good news for the people doing the killings because the African troops are so poorly equipped and undermanned, that there's no way to prevent the killings. Is it ethical for the West to go in with guns blazing to stop the killings? Internationally speaking, it's considered uncool to invade a country and occupy it. If we go in, how long do we have to stay before the country is back on its feet? Are we willing to even stay? How many soldiers are we willing to lose? These are all questions that prevent us from doing the right thing in my opinion. Diplomacy is great and all, but in the case of Rwanda, they signed a freaking peace treaty and it did nothing to prevent the genocide from occuring. That peace treaty isn't even worth the paper that it's written on. I'm horrifed to learn now that it would have only taken 5,000 Western soldiers to stop the genocide, and it could have saved the lives of a million people.
In either case, I think watching Hotel Rwanda was a great experience. I'm still thinking about the movie all the time. For a movie that is about genocide, I thought it was quite tame. The director did a good job of balancing tastefulness, and violence to get the point across.
I'll end this post with a quote I saw from the movie, Tears of The Sun (a fictional movie that touches on the subject of genocide as well.), "Evil prevails when good men do nothing."
Wednesday, July 20. 2005
My young adults group is hosting a two part discussion about conflict in the world, in particular, the genocide in Rwanda, and more recently Dafur, Sudan. Part 1 of this starts this Friday night (July 22, 2005) at 8pm, North Douglas Church where we will be showing the movie, Hotel Rwanda on the big screen. The cost is completely free, and it is open to anyone interested. Bring snacks if you like. The movie will be the basis of part 2 of the discussion happening the following Friday (July 29, 2005), same time, same place.
Some of the things we want to talk about:
The following is a synopsis of the movie Hotel Rwanda from imdb.com:
Ten years ago some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of Rwanda--and in an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. In only three months, one million people were brutally murdered. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees, by granting them shelter in the hotel he manages.
I am personally looking forward to these discussions. I haven't seen Hotel Rwanda before, but all of my friends have told me that I have to see it because it's a powerful movie. I'm also told that there's a character in the movie that loosely resembles our Canadian hero, Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the peacekeepers in Rwanda during the genocide. (I had an article about Dallaire and Rwanda two months ago if you want some context.) For those who are squeemish, this film is PG-13, and I've been told that the movie is fairly tame especially considering that the movie is about genocide.
I think this movie will also be quite an eye opener especially considering how much the news sanitizes its reports. More over, a lot of us are completely oblivious to what is happening around the world because the wars and genocide happen so far away. This should be a good opportunity to raise awareness about such issues. It is especially important as the Canadian government and parliament will have to formulate a strategy in dealing with Dafur when the Fall session starts.
Anyways, come on out this Friday. No one's going to try to harass you and convert you, it's a fairly casual night. Our primary audience is probably around 16-30 year olds for this event. Feel free to bring friends. Heck, if you're not interested in the talks the week after, that's fine, why not come out and enjoy a free movie? Worst case scenario, you can meet me in person .
Movie: Hotel Rwanda (PG-13)
Place: North Douglas Church, 675 Jolly Place, Victoria, BC
Time: Friday, July 22, 2005, 8pm
What to bring: Snacks if you like
Directions: We're near the intersection of Glanford Ave and Mackenzie Ave. Enter Jolly Place road through Glanford Ave.
See you there.
Tuesday, July 19. 2005
After the wake of London's terrorist bombings, Canada's top soldier issued a number of bold statement against the terrorists. The most notable statement is that Canada will be deploying JTF2 (Joint Task Force 2) against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. JTF2 is an elite special forces military group within the Canadian military whose existence was secret until the war on terror broke out. The group is considered on par with other special forces of the world such as the British SAS. The wikipedia offers more indepth information about JTF2.
From the CTV article:
Canada's JTF-2 soldiers will be heading to Afghanistan to join the fight against "detestable murderers and scumbags," the country's top soldier told reporters during a luncheon Thursday.
Gen. Rick Hillier put a more urgent, aggressive face on the Canadian Forces in his briefing, saying they're focused more than ever in protecting Canadians' interests at home and abroad.
"We're not the public service of Canada," he said. "We're not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people."
Prime Minister Paul Martin, speaking to reporters in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia Friday, defended Hillier's bold statements.
"General Hillier is not only a top soldier, but he's a soldier who has served in Afghanistan," Martin said.
"And the point that he is simply making is that, 'Look, we are at war with the terrorists, and we are not going to let them win.'"
It was the first time Hillier had confirmed that members of Joint Task Force 2 -- Canada's elite and secretive commando unit -- will be involved in combat missions against al Qaeda supporters and remnants of the former Taliban regime.
The terrorist bombings in London are proof that "we can't let up" in the fight against international terrorism, Hillier said.
The commandos will be part of about 2,000 Canadian soldiers who will be deployed in Kandahar by February in dangerous missions to hunt down militants.
In just over a week, 250 soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province. They'll be joined by Foreign Affairs officials, development workers and members of the RCMP, as part of what's being called a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).
Afghan officials have warned that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network is planning attacks against soldiers in the region.
I salute our military forces that are leaving to engage the terrorists in Afghanistan. Now if only Canada can bag Bin Laden alive, that would be bragging points right there. That'll show the Americans .
Friday, July 15. 2005
Well, tonight's youth group, The Oasis, had a potluck dinner event, which gave me a chance to transfer some of my accumulated theoretical cooking knowledge from the Food Network (best channel in the world) to actual cooking. Tonight's secret ingredient is ... (dramatic pause) FISH CAKES! This is probably the first savoury entree dish that I've prepared for guests.
I developed the recipe fairly adhoc a few months ago because I had this strange hankering for fish cakes. One night, my parents said they weren't coming home for dinner, so I'd have to cook. I looked in the pantry and the fridge, and I had fairly minimal things to work with. In either case, I was still able to whip up a batch for fish cakes with a few ingredients. The recipe has been tweaked a bit since its initial conception. The recipe is now version 3.0. Anyways, here's the recipe (more of a reminder for me so I don't forget):
Recipe: Tuna Fish Cakes
Cooking Time: Took me 1 hour, 15 minutes, but I'm a noobie. The time can probably be improved.
Yield: 2 dozen fish cakes (good for party situations)
Everyone seemed to like them. Who could possibly hate a delicious lightly fried golden brown treat? I served this with some homemade tartar sauce... ketchup would be great too. One thing that I could improve on is the presentation of the end product. I think if I used a circle cookie cutter as a mold, I could get more consistently shaped/sized fish cakes.
Tune in for the next battle in kitchen stadium
P.S. To the guy who skeptically asked if I actually made these, up yours!
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"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
--Albert Einstein (1879-1955), American Physicist
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