Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book review, it's been a while.

Recently, I acquired this book :

much thanks to Ooi Kok Hin for delivering it to me from the states in a really cute little parcel. Appreciate it. 

Firstly, I should probably state my biases : I generally prefer English reading materials, and very rarely do I actually purchase any reading materials voluntarily. I write primarily in English, and if you ask me to write a proper Malay essay right now I'd probably fail terribly. 

Some of these articles were written by my friends, i.e. people I actually know in real life, or, I suppose, people I've known over Facebook that I have been in contact with over the years, or at the very minimal, have seen their names on Facebook due to their Facebook activities, ahem. There may be one or two that I really am not familiar with. Part of the reason I actually bought it is because it's a compilation of my peers' writings, and also, because I was curious, and sort of in awe they'd got their works published, something I'd wished for myself, but I doubt my writings were really that good, even if they were publishing-worthy, it'd require a lot of editing. 

Anyhow, about the book, it's all in Malay, and yes, being inadequately equipped with the knowledge of the nuances in the language to allow me to produce any remotely artistic or coherent pieces in Malay, I was impressed with the quality of the writing, and I suppose I am still capable of appreciating the cerpen's (short stories). I've always loved and preferred fiction and stories. Stories convey meaning a lot more differently than an opinion piece would. It's something about how the information is presented in a flowing narrative and the extra reflection you end up making at the end of the story in piecing those information together. And I suppose, for lack of a better description, fiction is a lot more "light" and easier to digest. My favorite, if I had to pick any, was the one about the homeless man in the cold, I guess I was affected by it the most because I'd seen those kind of people in the dead of winter before. There's a few more, but I kind of liked them equally as much but religious contemplation pieces have a special place in my heart, and they seem well-written to me, coming from someone who isn't actually that articulate in Malay writing. Out of all the anecdotes, there was a single one that touched on homosexuality, spoiler alert, which was really bold, because I personally haven't read anything of that sort in Malay, but I don't know if it had enough depth of a raw experience to judge if it was effective. wallahualam. but okay, I didn't see that coming. Adilla, you get a special mention, has two pieces in it, but I've read those before in her blog (was it?) but it was still equally as good reading it a second, third time over. And oh, one sarcastic piece made me laugh out loud. 

There's a lot of philosophy sprinkled in between, or at least references of it, or mention of names. If you're not familiar to philosophy, you'd probably at least googled those names on wikipedia and get a rough idea of what things they wrote about to warrant a mention in those prose. Some of the names mentioned, I've at least heard of them before, thanks to my Ethics complementary electives course in second year, yay. It's the first time though that I've actually read a book with shades of philosophy written in Malay which felt a little weird. I don't read enough of philosophy to comment on it, but I love that there are actually people with varied reading habits. Growing up, I don't really know that many people who would pick up a book on philosophy, but I've enjoyed googling about those other names I don't really know about, and yes, I do enjoy googling random stuff in my free time. 

Some writings seem like musings, like it was a stream of consciousness pieced together. I admit my writings do end up being stitched up pieces of my thoughts too. All in all, there were varied writing styles. Each piece had its own individuality and nothing felt similar, even though a couple few touched on similar themes of religion, education, humanity and such. 

All in all, it was a good read, the book was really light and felt just the right size to fit in the hands, even as a one-handed read, which I tend to do with my books, because heck, engineering textbooks are so thick and heavy, anytime I get my hands on a smaller-sized tome, I'd just hold it one-handedly. It didn't take me that long at all to finish it, about 6 hours tops. It's interesting to read about the thoughts my peers have.

I'd say give it a go, it's not your usual collection of short stories/essays. Hopefully it gets those cog wheels turning. For me, a good book is one that makes you ponder and ruminate, and yeah, every person takes away different things from a book and form their own interpretations about it, which is always an interesting thing to share. Books are thoughts that creates other thoughts, and that's why I love them so much, even though I hardly have the time to properly read books nowadays. sighs. 

P/S: I'm pretty sure this deserves a thorough dissection, though I'm really just doing this while taking a break from the eng life, so yeah. Perhaps another time.

Some thoughts before I get insanely busy again

I realized I wasn't as idealistic as I was back in my high school days. I tend to retreat to the background, focusing on getting my share of the pie of reality. Maybe even indifferent sometimes. Or perhaps I was just uninspired ?

I feel like I'm on the cusp of that age where I can actually make meaningful change, realizing those teenage ideals, and that age where performance really matters and will determine what comes next for me.

I do notice though, some of my peers who I once spoke of ideals with actually carrying on with it, even initiating movements, while some remain in the background, and some other peers, who, during school, didn't really tried standing out as much, but have started their own movement. It's surreal.

There's several groups in which my peers choose to gravitate to, especially for those studying overseas. I must mention the UK, the middle east, which have very prominent student organization activities.

Well, I suppose, every individual has their own reason to participate in such activities and I do not wish to be critical of it. It could be for kicks, to kill time, to enhance their credentials on their resume, spend more time with friends, networking, or even for sincerely believing in furthering their cause, whatever it may be.

Back when I was in school, the elders often warned us youngsters of being in a vulnerable position at this current age I'm in. Exposed to God knows what doctrines, by God knows what groups.

So far, I've been observant, but I am impartial to any groups, and I don't endorse anything, not openly, yet. Though I do lose out in the networking/resume-building/socializing aspect of it. I wonder if it was a wise move.

And it's funny even in my observations, I see my own circle of friends choosing their own groups of friends and acquaintances, how their circle has evolved out side of our old one.

Though, to be honest, it's nice to be part of a group with like-minded individuals who are actually on your wavelength whom you can share your thoughts with and they'd get you. I'd craved for such company all this while, though at the same time I was glad I grew up with different kinds of people, and often I ended up being the oddball and frustrated that people don't get me, but on the bright side, at least I learned some semblance of tolerance and openness from the experience.

Though I feel like over the years, I've really mellowed and perhaps, giving into my current situation in trying to find my place in the real world, I've probably stopped being as idealistic as I was in school, but sometimes, coming across groups of peers speaking of the things I once mused does remind me of the good days and gave me hope there are perhaps other people like me, or other people who believe in the same cause I once fervently did, and are making a change, or at least, materializing those ideas.

So, would it not make sense for me to reignite that old flame within me and join a cause that I believed in ? Is this not the chance to make a difference, to pursue one's hearts desires with like-minded people ? I don't know why I am holding back. I don't know why I remain skeptical. Or maybe simply passive ? Or disinterested ?

Truth be told, until I find some sort of sense of settling down in this uncertain reality, I don't think I could really occupy myself with other thoughts. I know, it doesn't feel like the best way to live, being constantly in a state of anxiety, but I guess it's just the survival instincts that keep you on your toes, and I'm not really one to go with the flow of things.

So, yes, this may not be my most eloquent post, but I've been meaning to write this for quite a while but I couldn't bring myself to pen it down. There were several times I'd open a new blog post window, type, backspace, retype and end up discarding the draft. I couldn't actually put it in proper words, but once I started writing, it just flowed.

Alright, I guess for now, there's not really a resolution to this thought, but I'll keep it where it is for now. I'm not going to make a stand until I find my own footing.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Summer Introspection. An End.

So, the new semester's officially started, and it almost feels bittersweet. I'm back in the grind and I'm anticipating the sweat and tears ahead that await me for the last two semesters I have, inshaAllah.

I can't believe I spent a full 4 months of not doing anything academic or career-related in Canada (not that I've ever had anything career-related in the past summers). It feels surreal because just last summer I was telling myself that I'm halfway through, now I'm almost done.

First two months was basically the Vancouver trip which I've put off blogging about, Bruce Peninsula trip, last minute bonding with the graduating seniors, and recuperating from a brutal third year which I really did stretch myself to my limit. I'm about to do that again for the capstone and this weekend I basically have to start crunching my mental cogwheels and come up with a plan and a direction, not to mention reviewing all the math I left behind for 4 months as it looks like 4th year will be full speed ahead with no more first few weeks of review, and all the labs will be turned up a notch too because it's project-based and not on a "follow instructions and sketch what you see in the oscilloscope" basis anymore. 4th year will be the real test, as my third year labs has still been of the "follow instructions and sketch what you see in the oscilloscope" kind.

On top of all that, I have to keep up with datelines, which I really hate. And the inevitability of facing the future, after the cycle of coaxing myself that I have to go through all this suffering and early mental preparation for the sake of a better future, and putting off making any decisions thinking that I'd still have time. No one is holding my hand this time, and I'm being thrust into the unknown.

To emphasize the solitary-ness of this path I now walk, I came onto campus grounds, most of my friends has gone to internship, with little to no familiar faces, and again I'm thrust into the unknown.

Though, to be honest, I'm torn being wanting to where I really want to be, and desperately wanting to survive what reality demands of me.

I hope that God give me strength that I could stay on top of it all, and get through this.

Second two months of summer was basically fasting, staying home, playing games, and the last two weeks was purely hanging out and revisiting the places I'd been way back in my first summer in Canada, though in retrospect, this is only my third summer. So, it's not that many summers. However, my memories of the seasons usually bleed into each other and whatever I did in any seasons almost seem indistinguishable, and interchangeable. 

I've always aimed to work hard in all my time that I had here I formed a tunnel vision, and only after the end of this summer I realized how many people I've taken for granted, thinking I still have many seasons to go, and several whom I realized I haven't spoken to for a whole year, and I panic thinking I'd only have a year left, and it's the year I'm supposed to be in even more of a tunnel vision as I make the last sprint to the finish line. This is where I have to put everything on the line, and give it my all, I don't have time for anything else. Youth is for working hard so you'd have a good life when you're old.

I have to find where my heart is. Am I taking it too seriously ? It is the time to take things seriously ain't it ? Have I not been taking it seriously all this while ? 

Summer has ended and I'm left feeling a little uneasy as compared to my other summers. Did I just let it slip away ? Did I spend it well ? 

Had I always been living here, summers just come and go, you miss this summer, the next one's always coming, but no, I am not given that luxury. I am counting seasons and I am in uncertainty, as I personally hadn't been able to clearly visualize myself being part of the grind back home, not that I'm saying that I deserve better and that crunching away in a foreign country is better, because "better" is relative. 

Have my three years of thinking and musing and planning and working away going to be for naught because I falter at the finish line ? 

I've always been alone all these years, but this is the most alone so far that I've ever felt, and once I step out of the university bubble, it's every man for himself, and I wonder if I'm ever ready for it. 

I know what I have to do, but I can feel my knees shaking thinking to myself I don't want to be the one who does not know what I'm doing. 

Here's to a new semester, Mac. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Gaming Experiment

I've never been a gamer. Ever. My dad has taught me well that games are a waste of time. Back in the days, the PC was off limits and I don't dare use it, but that was the time when laptops wasn't the norm and my pops would be using the PC. Now in the time of laptops, people are sitting in front of their laptops from the moment they wake to the moment they retire to sleep so the desktop is free for non-laptop-owning people a.k.a. kids who are not yet in university that own laptops for work.

Even so, I am not one to be so driven to play games either. My hand-eye coordination sucks and I quit at every difficulty stumbled, and the fact that I could "die" and be revived in games, sometimes leave me abandoning my game character to die to end the game without even putting up a fight. Even in my playing style I tend to recklessly rush in and hack and slash my way which is why any form of upgrades I select in the game is to enhance my character's health or shield or health regeneration.

Recently, I've acquired my own console, and I had so much free time, it appealed to my reasoning that I might as well kill time with this, and I don't have to worry about overworking my laptop by playing high graphics games on it because I could do so on the console, and so, the gaming experiment began.

I tried a few games, but I was most addicted with Bioshock Infinite and Skyrim. I was addicted for real, I would play for a whole week for the whole day and then I'd realize my addiction and I'd suddenly stop. Currently I've stopped playing for a few days to get my life back into order in time for the school year.

I played Bioshock Infinite on Easy level, well, mainly because I wasn't confident of my skill, but I played the whole thing to the end. It's pretty much scripted all the way as it's based on a story line, so to know what happens next, you need to keep playing, and I guess it's like an interactive movie. The graphics were beautiful. I've never been a fan of zombie games because of 1) I'm scared of zombies 2) I hate the dingy decaying dilapidated deserted towns surroundings. Bioshock Infinite has a lot of open spaces, is well-lit, whimsical and colorful. I could just "walk" around in the game, sometimes I forgot I could even sprint from danger, while admiring the scenery around me, and I liked the characters in the game too. I just had to play it to the end to know the whole story and what happened to the characters. Of course, its plot elements and themes revolving around Science and Philosophy appealed my academic side, so, apart from pure fun and enjoyment, I enjoyed googling up the concepts after I play the game. It just hits the right bookish buttons in me, although on the gaming side I am really terrible at shooters. I'm a slash and hack type, and I don't aim very well while moving and taking cover. If it were a stealth kill shooting I'm probably better at that because nothing will be rapidly moving.

Skyrim's enjoyment mostly came from the fact that it's an open world and there's gazillion places to go to and gazillion things to do, and the scenery is insanely beautiful, although not as colorful. I could just not do anything in the game and watch the aurora in the night sky, but of course, some random beast would interrupt my sky-gazing session. And, you can freaking kill dragons and feel badass about it. Though, I could easily kill dragons but I die from a regular old sabre cat scratch -.-. Apart from the graphics, I also appreciated the work put into the AI's. Reading about how the developers tried to code in random events and what the vast characters in the town do to keep the game fresh or "organic" was the term they used was really interesting, and also, appealed to my academic side. The fact that you could interact with a character, make choices and change the character's disposition towards you is really interesting. Also, because of the extensive coding, the game gets buggy too, and the bugs are always fun. The only thing that probably disturbed me about Skyrim was probably the immoral things you do in it. Well, you don't have to do it in the game even though you can, but it probably won't get you far, and you probably just tell yourself it's just a game. Like, you can be a real douchebag and do whatever you want to an NPC (non-playable character), ranging from pickpocket to kill, just for kicks, but of course, if you commit crimes and you're caught, you could still go to jail in the game.

It's kind of weird how games get really violent, or are purposely violent. Yes, I am not in favor of the argument that games cause people to be violent in real life and inspire them to go killing, but it makes me wonder why are they made, mostly, to be violent. Why do people find the fun in violently killing characters in the game ?

There was one part in Skyrim, SPOILER ALERT, I helped out a priest, but in part of the same quest later on, I was supposed to lure him to a cannibal party. I had the option to either save him and kill all the cannibals or kill him and/or eat him. I couldn't possibly kill all the cannibals at that level cuz I don't do so well against magic-based opponents, so I killed a priest in his sleep, which already made me feel bad, and then, I had the option to either leave or eat him. If I eat him, I become a cannibal and I will be granted a ring that will allow me to eat flesh from dead opponents to regain health (which, of course, gaining health from killed opponents is right up my alley to make up for my impulsive hack and slash personality). So yeah, either ways, in real life, they would be terrible things to do. Maybe I'm just thinking too much because it's just a game, but even if it is in a simulated reality, the fact that you could make those horrible decisions which you probably won't do in real life can sometimes be disturbing, because you didn't have to do it, you were given an in-game choice not to, but you'd do it anyway either for the fun of it or for the rewards.

And the fact that people are trying to improve game graphics to make it look even more real, and gory, that's kind of disturbing too when the kill happens. Like, I can't take a kill that results in green colored goo spewing out as blood that seriously, but when human-looking things die it's a bit weird. Another weird thing I find is that I could face human opponents no problem, but when it comes to zombies it's a little creepy. Technically, if I went by that logic, I shouldn't be able to take killing zombies as seriously because they look less human than human characters. Then again, should only humans be morally disturbing to kill in games ?

I don't know why aside from the fun side of things, I'm putting on an academic moral lens while playing games. I guess, I'm not truly a gamer at heart as I still see it not purely for fun, but rather more as a study of human psychology and behavior when engaged in playing games. I guess technology does unlock a different dimension for human psychology to develop, because the virtual reality that is created in games can be made to mimic reality itself, but not quite.

Like when I stop to look at scenery in the game or "talk" to NPC's, you know they're not real, but the way you can appreciate the almost "real-ness" quality of the virtual world makes you want to "explore" it even more as if it really does exist in some kind of space or plane of existence. It's really weird.

Most people probably don't think this much about games than I do, or maybe I just miss reading or thinking or writing about philosophical stuff. I'm just. That kind of person.

Update : recently, my in-game spouse (yes, apparently you can get married) in Skyrim was accidentally killed in action. It's really weird how the finality of the "death" hits me when I realize how weird it is coming home to an empty house without having that character around for generic conversations. Apparently, it's pro-monogamy too and I can't remarry. It's so weird how things have transpired in this game and how it almost imitates concepts in real life that affects the player. Spooky.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Like Someone In Love

I really wanted to like this movie, but there were some aspects that left me troubled. What caught my interest was this all-Japanese cast in all-Japanese medium movie was directed by an Iranian. I was not familiar with any of his previous works. So, without delving into the synopsis or any review beforehand, I just went ahead with the movie.

The whole movie involves a lot of still camera, no soundtrack, a lot of ambient sounds, characters sitting around and talking, a kind of minimalism reminiscent of movies like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset that I really adore. The first scene was interesting because you hear someone talking but the person wasn't on screen, and the whole frame was just a slew of people minding their own business in a bar. It's as if the camera was shot from a person's point of view sitting at one of the tables in the bar and you're tuned in to someone's phone conversation. Much of the other shots were also composed of "close" shots such that you feel like you're in the personal space of the conversation itself, , but at the same time, you're separated from it by window panes and others feel like you're eavesdropping. There's no panning shots typical of movies, no rolling hills or city skyline sweeps whatsoever, everything is experienced as a human observer or passer-by perspective, and yeah I guess I've been watching super hero movies lately, so I'd really notice the change of cinematography.

The premise itself was pretty interesting, but I felt with the relatively short run time, I really wished the whole movie was a lot more..finished ? I tried hard to be invested in the conversations, but some didn't really get to the point, although the character interactions are really interesting, especially the ones with three characters in the car, I felt that it was well done. It was tense. The first encounter between the female lead and her "client" felt like it didn't reach its potential, I wish there was a lot more to it because whatever they were talking about didn't feel like it established any dynamics between the two characters. 

Yes, the ending just blew it for me. I don't know if the ending was a deliberate artistic decision, but the way the movie ended left me wanting more, and it makes me wonder what the director wanted to achieve by making his audience elicit such a reaction, because a movie like this, in my opinion, doesn't need and most likely will not have a sequel. You will never know what happen in the end.

I'm usually fine with cliffhangers and open endings, but this ending just left me wondering what the director wanted to achieve with something that was barely establishing.. anything ? Was it just on a whim, yeah, I just don't want to finish this movie, or was there a purpose behind depicting the incompleteness of the narrative ?

Despite that major gripe with the ending, I did like how the scenes were composed, the character interaction and the story-telling, as well as the mood. It made me feel a little melancholic for some reason. It's just sad that the melancholy wasn't justified or explained or rewarded at the end.

Warning : Spoilers ahead. 

If I were to take a stab at the central themes in the film, I'd say, from the beginning to the end, the most stark would have been on the female lead's alternate identity. She's trying to hide it from her jealous boyfriend, and I was wondering if that was also the reason why she hesitated in seeing her grandmother since the voice messages that her grandmother left for her that she didn't respond to also mentioned seeing her picture, or a picture of someone who looks like her that suggested something of an escort service, I suppose. The scene where she was driven around the station, but not going ahead to meet her grandmother left me a little sad.

The second most stark thing would have been the roles each character played, or at least, the expectations of what each character would have if they were playing the role. I didn't know what to make of the purpose of the client, Takashi's wish to call on the female lead, Akiko. I didn't expect him to explicitly say it, but due to the really short single conversation that happened over night, which was barely even a conversation cuz the girl went straight to bed after (what the hell??). There was hardly any background on him either, to what led him to the decision to call on her. There were lots of comments about how the girl looks like his wife or something a few times throughout the movie, but it didn't say much to me. Was he just lonely ? Did he want a relationship ? Did he want her as a romantic companion or did he just see her as the "granddaughter" that people mistaken her for ? Not answered to the end, so I didn't know what to feel about it, although I felt sorry for him that she ended up not having any of his food. Yes, that's also another weird thing, he took the effort to make her food and buy wine and play music, in fact, I think, the only soundtrack throughout the movie. 

The only character played straight without any change in role-playing was the jealous boyfriend, Noriaki. From the beginning to the end, he was the constant variable, as the relationship between the old man and the girl changed from being client and call girl (and it's not even the conventional way such a scene played out too) to fake grandfather and granddaughter. 

I guess, in a way, the title Like Someone In Love, sort of makes sense, if you put the emphasis on the word "Like". It suggests that it only appears to be, when in reality, it is not. Who is the "someone" that is "like" in love ? Akiko ? Takashi ? Noriaki ? Akiko is in a relationship, but she doesn't seem too sure about it anymore, with her secret identity on the line and the possessiveness of Noriaki, and Takashi himself, who knows what's he really feeling inside. Only Noriaki is the only one to explicitly say that he is in love, with Akiko. It was as if Noriaki was the single character rebelling against the whole concept of the movie's vagueness and concealing identities. Who knows, if that was what was intended. There could be details that I didn't go too deep into. 

One scene that felt out of place was the short conversation, or rather, lecture, by Takashi's estranged neighbor who confesses to Akiko that she wanted to marry Takashi but didn't have the chance and is now only reduced to watching him from a small window. I didn't know what this scene wanted to establish especially when it is the final scene before the ending took place very abruptly right after. Who knows, she may have called Akiko Takashi's granddaughter, but then she went ahead and talked about marrying Takashi, maybe she suspects that Akiko is really not the granddaughter. 

Well, that was all I could get out of a single viewing. It's not all bad, just a little frustrating at the lack of resolution at the end wasn't worth the investment.

*Aside: I have time to watch movies now. Not sure if I like this or not.*

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Truth About Stories Book Reflection - class assignment

Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative Book Reflection
Nurul Matkamil 1160337

At the beginning of every chapter, Thomas King would start off with a story of the earth riding on a turtle’s back. The point he wanted to drive home with this is that when circumstances deny you of having even the right of identity, all you really have are your stories that you must tell to assert your individuality. It just goes to show that sometimes circumstances have not been kind to certain parties and some voices will go unheard if no one spares a thought to consider all interests equally. In the last chapter, he talked about the story of the wolf taking away the ducks’ feather after promising them “protection”. He relates this with the behaviour of the government making treaties with the native people to “protect” them, but in reality, the legislations were there to monitor them, strip them of their land and erase their race by setting regulations to define who is or not an Indian. This is a profound illustration of how societies seek to control who gets access to what privileges or to resources creates an invisible majority.
This issue is especially prevalent in the health industry as some patients are made to go on a waitlist while some are denied treatment or access to diagnosis due to limited resources and having to prioritize who gets medical service first. Usually, either the legislation or the medical institute administration would have to make the call on how to distribute their resources for their patients. Sometimes there aren’t as enough drugs or imaging devices or doctors or beds in the hospital to cater to a growing line of patients, who may or may not need immediate treatment and diagnosis. So the hospital administration, too, cannot simply follow their best interests, and have to follow certain rules set by the government and think about the patients that they have to serve and treat. Since it is difficult to acquire enough resources to treat all patients, most regulations resort to putting certain criteria on the patients who will be treated first, which may not be fair, as whose rights is it to determine who deserves the first in line in getting treatment ?
As a biomedical engineer who works for a medical device instrumentation company who comes up with solutions for biomedical problems either by designing equipment or operating medical technology, one cannot simply turn away from the moral dilemma of catering to the best interests’ of the patients or users, but at the same time, certain legislations or protocols or conflicts of interests may hinder your efforts. This is because most of the time, the design you come up with has to comply with the constraints on the costs and the number of units that can be produced for a particular proposed design. Another complication that arises is the fact that for medical devices, especially implants, is difficult to find a one fit solution as it might have to be customized to each patient, this will increase the cost and not all patients can pay for it. Some government policies can have subsidies for such devices, but that is not often the case and government policies differ from one country to another. How one would resolve this conflict is by going back to the ethics code that both engineers and health care providers adhere to. The engineer, the PEO code of ethics and the health care practitioner, the Hippocratic Oath. In both codes of ethics, the main purpose is to serve the public interest and avoid doing harm to the people. If these interests can be conveyed cross-profession, they might come to an understanding of what is the priority in resolving these ethical dilemmas. In
some cases, due to a lack of communication, medical devices fail because both the health care practitioner and the engineer don’t appreciate the different requirements for the medical devices and this will endanger lives. Both professions should constantly communicate with each other and call attention to any unethical decisions. At the same time they should also listen to what the patient has to say and understand the predicaments the patients have to best serve them. Cost analyses to ensure that the medical device instrumentation is feasible can be done with economic evaluation techniques, and must be done with participation from all professions and input from the patients’ needs to ensure that it meets requirements. What the government can do is to make the policy-making process more inclusive so that they can get input from all the stakeholders as they go about it.
Of course, all of this would only happen if all parties are willing to listen to each other and to respect each other enough to not infringe each other’s’ rights. It is important to know what the different interests of each stakeholder are and find common ground for a win-win situation. After all, we don’t live on this world alone. If we stop listening to others and exclude them from the policy-building process, their voices will go unheard, and all they have left are just stories which may or may not even be heard.

A Short History of Progress Book Reflection - class assignment

Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress Book Reflection
Nurul Matkamil 1160337

Ronald Wright poses three of Gauguin’s questions: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? He then proceeds to answer them by telling society to learn from past civilisations that fall victim to “progress traps”. These progress traps are a product of the obsession for the advancement of technology which in the end, caused the very down fall of the civilisation as these advancements proceed with little to no consideration on the impact it has on nature and society.
One such example of a progress trap is the Mesopotamian civilisation that improves its crop production and soil fertility by using the advancement of irrigation technology that diverts the river flow of the Tigris and Euphrates to water other barren parts. So, due to more coverage of area that they can water, the civilisation grew. However, because of the design of the irrigation went against the natural flow of water, this resulted in disruption of current and leaves behind salt as it is not drained properly, making the soil more basic and eventually destroying crops as the soil is no longer suitable for plantation. The Mesopotamians tried to remedy this by substituting wheat for barley, but eventually, they ran out of land space because at the same time, ziggurat construction was on the rise as a symbol of status. This obsession to control nature with the advancement of technology and the flaunting of status from grandiose constructions is part of the human hamartia. Human beings bring about drastic landscape changes as they build cities, the same way the Mesopotamians change water flow with their engineered irrigation system. In rapidly growing city-scapes, constructions occur at a fast rate due to the demands of an increasing population inflow into the city and an abundance of resources. However, some of the construction could suddenly be halted due to a lack of resources, or the project’s financing has been stopped, or that the construction posed a danger to surrounding communities. In the end, these constructions ended up being abandoned half-finished until someone decides to tear it down. Not only is the surrounding community and environment affected by the pollution that the construction produces but it also does not make good use of the land since the abandoned construction will be there for a long time when the land could have been used for something else. Debris from an unmaintained uncompleted edifice will also lead to more pollution and become an obstruction that leads to uncomfortable living environment. Such projects show that there is a lack of long-term planning and a failure to consider unexpected circumstances as well as a lack of consideration of how the project would affect the surrounding community and nature. As an engineer, when one is tasked to design an edifice or for any general projects, one must come up with multiple designs and compare their feasibility. At the same time, all these designs must put a lot of stakeholder interests into consideration as possible. So, before making a call on which design will the engineer will follow through with, the engineer must ensure that the decision is well thought out. This can be done by understanding the different interests of the stakeholders and how the proposed design will affect these interests. According to the PEO code of ethics, it is most important that the engineer must prioritize the public’s safety when practicing their profession. The design must also be sustainable and produces as little pollution as possible. However, these interests would often come
into conflict with the client’s interests as well, since most of the time, there is a limit on how much money they can pump into financing the project and the deadline for the project. At the same time, the project must also comply with local laws and regulations. In order to resolve these conflicts of interests, the engineer must actively consult the stakeholders to understand as much as possible what their interests are. The engineer can also consult the PEO code of ethics to ensure how to prioritize obligations and come up with the best ethical judgment, or what is the right thing to do in times of conflict as suggested by the code of ethics. Any unethical judgment should be called out to the clients and discussed to find a better alternative that would come to a win-win situation. Other than that, the engineer can also come up with as many design alternatives as possible and use analysis tools in both engineering and engineering economics to find the most cost-effective, yet well-rounded solution to a problem. After proceeding with the project, there must also be consistent follow up to address problems that crop up as well to ensure that the project goes to completion while adhering to ethical guidelines throughout the whole process. In conclusion, an engineer must bear in mind that the obsession with the advancement of technology can fall into progress traps if the process goes unchecked and does not consider the effects it has on all stakeholders. This inability to foresee potential unexpected consequences will lead to a large scale undoing of the environment and the society. Therefore, it is important to understand how each stakeholder has different interests and how these interests come into conflict and come up with a solution that could resolve this conflict the best way possible.

Postdated Letter -class assignment

December 31, 2013
Dear Joel,
Before I tell you why I got an A in your class, I’d like to reminisce the first day of class. It’s always good to see where you began to appreciate how you got to where you are now.
I came to the first day of class, expecting what would be a typical ethics course. Supposedly it should add value to my personal conduct as an engineer and make me a responsible future engineer who is in tune with societal issues and one who designs for sustainability. I’ve had other ethics courses before, but memorizing a list from a textbook wasn’t really all that memorable.
However, your mouse trap fetish on the first day did make an indelible impression on me, and as I had hoped, you didn’t let my expectations down for the whole term in terms of serving up new perspectives and interesting lessons. My experience in your class was indeed a memorable one, if not, a personally life changing one. It certainly made me think about a lot more issues that didn’t occur to me to think about. It was interesting to see how these diverse issues finally tie in together like puzzle pieces at the end of the day to what makes up the society today. It was amazing to see how small things you’d shrug off or took for granted add up. This had made me perhaps a little bit more mindful of my actions and more appreciative of the people and the resources around me. I don’t dare say that I now know how the world works after this course, but it did help me understand it a little more from different perspectives, which was refreshing and a much needed change.
I didn’t only get an A in your class because I did all your assignments and handed them in on time, nor because I attended all your classes. I got an A in your class because I made an effort to internalize the lessons. I made an effort to make every moment I spent in the class to be meaningful, although I had initially said that my expectations of the class was “I’d wanted a break from engineering once a week”. This class surely had to make a meaningful impact on me, before I could make a meaningful impact to the rest of the society. Thank you, Joel, for giving me the opportunity to be part of a wonderful unconventional classroom experience.
Yours truly,
Nurul Matkamil

Carbon Footprint Challenge - class assignment

Reflection: I have honestly never done an ecological footprint of my lifestyle, neither considered doing it. I have vaguely heard of the idea, but I didn’t see any importance or urgency to do it. So, as I was doing the assignment, I was actually forced to consider every little thing I do in my daily life which I never really thought of before. Even small things like recycling, or the amount of meat you eat, and turning off the lights could contribute so much to your ecological footprint. I feel that if I had known everything in detail, it would have been more accurate. Based on the quiz results, my first reaction was well, “it could have been worse”, but it’s not exactly great either. Since we only really have resources from one earth, and already, my daily lifestyle is doing harm to the world, if everyone on earth decided to adopt it. That’s not even considering other people’s lifestyles that might be more exhaustive than mine. I guess it’s due to the fact that we live in a consumerist world which is demand-driven, using a lot of space, resources and energy, and where most of the stuff we buy is manufactured and easily available off the counter.

Two things suggested to reduce my ecological footprint: A lot of things are listed to help reduce carbon foot print, which I will keep for personal references. If I had to pick two, it would be to reduce animal products by half and purchasing products with less packaging, since I’ve pretty much tried my best to do the rest like recycling and energy-saving habits. In terms of setting up solar panels and energy efficient appliances that pretty much depends on the state of finance and at my landlord or household’s discretion. Traveling short distances is do-able. However, reducing animal products by half and purchasing products with less packaging would be the most difficult to do, as I do enjoy my meat products, egg and dairy, but this, in fact, was the most resource taxing as it requires large areas of land, resource and energy for farming, manufacturing as well as energy consumption in long distance transport. Eating food higher up on the food change requires a lot more energy and resources because you have to produce food to feed the animals you rear before you could eat it, and that requires even more resources and energy as compared to simply eating vegetables and fruits. Although it’s pretty much difficult to suddenly change your diet for something more sustainable, I guess, it doesn’t hurt to try. I could google alternative recipes for low impact food that could potentially be delicious. As for purchasing products with less packaging it’s also quite a challenge since most stuff come in packages nowadays for mobility and preservation or marketing purposes, but I guess that means that, if let’s say I’m buying groceries, then I could try to go buy fresh ones that don’t come in packages, as non-local produce has a large carbon footprint due to the fertilizers, land use and transportation, or I could put in a little effort keeping an eye out for biodegradable packaging.

Why I would/would not do it: Well, I did mention that I would give it a try. It wouldn’t be easy since you’re accustomed to your own lifestyle, but looking at how much my activities and consumption can affect the environment, I guess I have to give it a try. I also looked at the ecological footprint trends for other countries and I realize how important it is to adopt sustainable lifestyles as resources decline very fast while at the same time, ecological footprints are increasing. I would like to help reduce it, as I would want a sustainable environment for future generations.

Social Media Challenge - class assignment

Introduction: I decided to go for this challenge because my friends and I agree that I am a social media addict. I post at least 10 status updates on my Facebook and Twitter every day, and I never logout from both accounts. My mornings are spent checking Facebook at the waking hour. I’ve also had multiple social media accounts. I was hoping that going 7 days without social media would help cure me of this addiction and hopefully teach me how to use social media in moderation, as well as gain some form of insight.

Report and reflection: 7 days of going without social media for me drove me into an existential crisis. Well, no, that’s exaggerating it a little bit, but the impact was felt because I was so used of having social media being an integral part of my daily routines as well as my interaction with people. It gets kind of frustrating when I can’t get the updates I want really fast and when I watch a funny video, or thought up of something interesting and I couldn’t share it with people. Haha. I’ve only had Facebook for about 4 years, and Twitter for two years, and Instagram for only a year, but within that short time, the two social media became so intertwined with how I live my life and communicate, or relate to others. I decided to go off Facebook, primarily, along with Twitter, Instagram, DeviantArt, Blogspot, Skype, imessage, google+, linkedIn, as well as texting from Sept 14, 2013 at 12:01 am to Sept 21, 2013 at 12:01 am. I didn’t put the cap on emails and calls because I still needed those for school work, but I tried my best to limit interaction as possible, only emailing or making calls for really important matters. What I realized was that I had so much free time without having those time spent on social media. I was more productive in getting things done; I stayed on task because there were less distractions. However, after I was finally done, I’d get bored out of my mind, and I didn’t know what to do on my own. On the downside, my time spent on youtube watching cat videos increased, and left me to wonder if I should have included youtube as social media. I stopped going on youtube the next day, but due to the free time I have, I started to actually hang out with some of my friends and talk, and I also signed up for stuff to do after school, like attending extracurricular meetings. I started on SELECT Tier 1 on Tuesday evening. I felt that I don’t really need social media to interact with some friends that I could actually see on campus. Face-to-face interactions made it feel more personal, although energy-draining for an introvert like me. However, it’s kind of bothersome when I couldn’t send a quick text to someone as I didn’t want to call them in the middle of a class, and I kind of had to go without Facebook to contact home, which is, Malaysia, but I tell myself, it’s only for a week. Overall, although I felt inconvenienced over some aspect of not having a really quick and easy way to communicate, I like the fact that I stayed on task and filled up my time by doing meaningful things. I also realize that some of the things that I post or do on social media aren’t really a necessity, but it’s more out of habit and for the sake of spending time on social media. I also spend a lot less time hung up on the laptop, so it spends a longer time being switched off, saving electricity. Social media is a relatively new thing, as I went through high school without any social media activity, it was only recently when I started Grade 12 and started university that it became so integrated in my life that it’s hard to imagine life without it, although I did actually live without it in my earlier years. It’s not so much that I can’t use social media in moderation, but it’s just a matter of mind over matter. If I set my mind to it, I could do it.

Perspective Change - Ethics class essay

I am sometimes grateful for the moments of solitude in a life where there is a constant influx of deadlines and to-do lists, because that’s when I get to sit down and consolidate my own thoughts and experiences. Sometimes, you forget to “check” yourself once in a while, as you keep telling yourself to move on to the next thing. Having ambitions and chasing grades is not a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean your perspectives in life should remain stagnant just because you don’t have time to think about it. 4AO3 classes so far has given me that space to stop and think of other things in life. In engineering, we have a top-down and bottom-up approach. 4AO3 is sort of a bottom-up approach as you take a step back and see where the individual engineer as a module fit into the rest of the system, which is the society, or the rest of the world. I could suddenly see the bigger picture of my role in the society. How my slaving away in circuit analyses is not just for the sake of it, but it is to equip me with skills that will get the job done for the bigger purpose of serving the society. For me, some of the most significant perspective changes come from the fact that I have to reconsider my lifestyles and my habits. It challenges my sense of complacency in feeling that nothing has to ever change in my life. Whatever that I’m doing now has always worked for me and didn’t need re-evaluation let alone change. For example, when I did my choice assignment on carbon foot-print, one of the suggestions was that reducing consumption of meat could actually help reduce the strain on the demand for produce; hence reducing land used for farming and could conserve resources better. I am a big fan of meat and I eat it whenever I can. I never really considered how much of an impact it would have and until today, I find it really hard to give up that part of my lifestyle. However, reflecting on the significance of a little sacrifice in giving up something for your own good and the good of others, gives meaning to other aspects of my life. For example, I profess to a religious belief and some rituals require fasting, which is a form of a small sacrifice since you have to abstain from food consumption for a period of time. Giving up an aspect of your lifestyle to embrace change can be a form of “fasting”. This small sacrifice makes you feel grateful for the little things in life as you empathize with the people who are a lot less privileged than you when you experience the loss of that privilege or luxury as you abstain. At the end of the day, all these things will eventually build character and make you come out a more humane and considerate individual. Another noteworthy thing is the fact that due to the breadth of the course and flexibility in the course content, I am able to rediscover my lost interests that I most probably put away in pursuit of academic performance. I have a tendency to tilt my work-life balance towards work, such that I am willing to sacrifice time with friends and family and even time for myself to get things done, and I make work a convenient excuse to avoid social obligations. Since 4AO3 is part of my schedule I guess I was sort of forced out of my usual work to think about other things. From the range of topics discussed and the freedom of expression of opinions on whatever topics made me remember the
things I would once be passionate about, especially during the TEDTalk assignment. Initially I found it really hard to figure out what I wanted to talk about because I spent all my time and energy on work and not set aside any for the things I was passionate about. In this term as well, I took the time to get involved with the SELECT program, and 4AO3 ties in nicely with this because in both activities I get to hear a lot of ideas and learn about other people’s passions that inspire me to find or rediscover my own. It teaches me that there is a lot more to life than just work and I realized how much I have let grades defined who I am exclusively and how much working for those grades took up my time that I could have allotted to myself to pursue other interests and build other skills, or seek self-fulfilment in other areas or to engage in other social settings. The diversity of the topics covered in class, from both the TEDTalks as well as the guest speakers also made me realize that learning can happen from any person since everyone has different knowledge and experiences to offer.
All in all, I was thankful for this experience. There is definitely some change in the person I was at the beginning of the term and the person I am now. Even in my denial that I have better things to do than attend an ethics class, without a doubt, even being present in class and listening to the lecture or the in-class discussions, it does have an impact on giving me an awareness to self-reflect and expand my breadth of thoughts. That, in itself, is enough to give a small but significant perspective change in me.


Firstly, I should make my biases clear, but I'm pretty sure it's obvious. I've seen the Sam Raimi trilogy and of course, I will be comparing it to the reboot. After all, the reboot came a little bit too soon after the trilogy. Most of what follows will probably just be my personal preferences and gripes. Warning, spoilers abound.

1. Peter Parker

I liked the doe-eyed Tobey Maguire more as the day-to-day Peter Parker. He's the nerdy, unsure of himself, normal guy. Andrew Garfield's cheeky boyish look doesn't make me buy the Peter Parker-ness. Andrew Garfield looks like he belongs to some teen series.

2. Mary Jane versus Gwen Stacy

I hated Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane. She's completely helpless like the traditional damsel in distress and sometimes her whining about her relationship with Peter Parker, seems, idk, petty, and sometimes she seems to not understand his predicament of being Spider-man and not being able to be there for her all the time.

Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy is just perfect. She dresses fine, looks pretty, and she's smart and assertive and she makes her own decisions. She knows about Peter being Spider-man and she's okay with it and she compliments him well. She's not just some pretty face for the hero to save.

3. Spider-man alter ego

I liked the Spider-man in the reboot better because of the wise-cracking and the emphasis on him being the "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man". I don't see much of that with the Sam Raimi trilogy. The web shooters were supposed to be DIY and not naturally made by Peter anyway.

4. Green Goblin

I was disappointed the reboot didn't follow the source material and start with Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin, and what the heck with the non-existent medical condition that isn't even half convincing ? It's as if the narrative just dropped the term, hoping the audience would take their word that it's lethal without even explaining how it works, and just so that it serves as the single motivation for Harry Osborn's descend to the dark side. Well, James Franco's Harry Osborn wasn't that convincing either, although he had a better motive of taking up his father's mantel after finding out who "killed" his father. Either ways, aesthetically, both Dane deHaan and Willem Defoe look good as their characters. Norman Osborn was killed the cannon way too in the trilogy.

5. Romance

Well, disliking Mary Jane = it doesn't really work. She seems a bit shallow and to the end it's like the nerd guy who got lucky with a hot girl and hot girl hanging onto nerd guy cuz he saved her life as Spider-man kind of relationship. Although, the romance narrative is told better in the trilogy. In contrast, it's way more dynamic, and I guess they were going for adorkable, kind of relationship with Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker in the reboot, which, I think, is the only thing done well in the reboot, however, sometimes, it makes me feel like it's out of place, like it should belong in its own romance movie some place else, not in an action flick. I bet if you just made one movie out of that chemistry, it's gonna sell on its own instead of having it being mushed together in a hardly cohesive narrative, but I'll get to that. 

6. Villains

It always works best when there's only one villain per movie to focus on, or at most, only two, but once you cram in three, like Spider-man 3 and The Amazing Spider-man 2, it's a recipe for disaster. As important as it is to develop the heroes' character, the villains deserve attention too, so that you don't simply have a fight where you're only rooting for one side, where you just want the hero to whoop the villain's ass simply because he's a villain. If the villain has a really compelling motive, you may end up feeling sorry for him and perhaps have conflicting feelings about the hero beating him up, or on the other spectrum, feel so riled up by the villain's evil-ness that you're on the edge of your seat hoping the hero triumphs. Under-developed villains leave you feeling meh, and not as invested in the fight scenes as you should be. 

Both the trilogy had their hits and miss, but the worst has to be the three-villain combo, but my beef was with the reboot sequel's Electro. He started off as not being a terribly bad guy, and to the end, he didn't get a chance to redeem himself like the Sandman did in Spider-man 3. 

7. Action scenes

I generally have no problems with action scenes, I could enjoy most of them, and perhaps being the newer movie with the latest in CGI (although to be honest, it doesn't look that different to me), gotta give props to insanely beautiful action scenes in the reboot.

8. Narrative, plot and story-telling

I felt the plot was more cohesive in the trilogy because of the linear story-telling. Uncle Ben's death was more sad in the trilogy and it followed through up to the third movie. In the reboot, it wasn't focused as much, but the unifying element of the first and second movie was Peter Parker's parents. I was hardly interested in the approach and I'm really sorry, the spider injected with Peter Parker's dad's DNA doesn't convince me too much. I wasn't that much of a fan of The Amazing Spider-man when it came out because I was still hung up on Sam Raimi's trilogy, but the narrative wasn't as bad as The Amazing Spider-man 2. There were a lot of mood whiplash through out the movie, and too many things were going on, which were resolved in a rush. If the movie had only focused on only Electro it would have been fine. I hate how at the end, the movie squeezed in one of the most defining moments in Spider-man's life. It should not have been there. I felt that squeezing it in the last moment didn't give it the impact that it deserved. It felt like a footnote to the overall movie. I knew it was inevitable, but I didn't expect it to be in this movie. 

Overall, both franchises had their hit and misses. Some things were done well in the reboot, but there's still a lot to work on for it to, I guess, be more memorable than the trilogy to me. 

In my books so far, the worst super hero movies has got to be Green Lantern, Man of Steel, and the X-Men films still remain amongst the Best in my list. Batman ? Somewhere in the middle, but it depends on which of the Batman movies you watch.

Next, my cinema trip would be for X-Men Days of Future Past.