Getting things done with To-Do Desklist

So often does the computer become a lonely person’s companion rather than a tool to process information. I found myself aimlessly clicking my time away hither and thither on the computer without focusing on what I am supposed to do in this electronic box. Making a to-do list is one way of prompting action and avoiding procrastination. Unfortunately tools such as Tudomo, Task Coach and the popular web-based NXT are overkill for this purpose if they are not distractions themselves. Today, I found a nice tool called To-do Desklist and it does the exact thing as I expected: you create a list of things on your desktop and mark them as done when you finish them.

to-do desktlist.gif

Finally there is something better than the pen and paper to make a to-do list and get your things done.


Migrating this site to a new place

I am choosing a new place for this site. That’s means probably a few days downtime. I’ll restore this site once I find another vps. I will keep writing.

Update: my communication with the the vps provider of this blog does not work well. The provider refunded me a month’s fee for the preposterous downtime of September and ignored my request to refund a whole years fee and close my account.
Considering I have no time to migrate and configure a new vps at the moment, I’ll have to use this arrangement and bide my time for the next year to get another provider.

Misc USA

Capitalism and freedom explained in one minute

The following is a comment made by Gabe at Engadget. I like the incisive insights, so I gleefully copied it here:

Constant conflicts (economic or warfare) is necessary to maintain stability in our society. Capitalism necessarily expands to avoid collapse. It’s what Joseph Tainter called a “runaway train”.

The amount of attention given to, dogmatization of, and religious adherence to the idea of “freedom” might as well be philosophical slavery – anything that does not conform to an arbitrary set of criteria that defines “freedom” is automatically “evil” and rejected, regardless of any practical benefits it may have.

Knowing half of the truth and thinking you know the whole is far worse than knowing nothing at all. We can at least acknowledge and deal with our ignorance in the second case, whereas in the first case we become so secure in our biased perception of the truth it “becomes” the truth.

Who is Joseph Tainter

From wikipedia:

A professor in anthropology. His best-known work is The Collapse of Complex Societies. This 1988 book examines the collapse of Maya and Chacoan civilizations, and the Roman Empire, in terms of network theory, energy economics and complexity theory. Tainter argues that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity reach a point of diminishing marginal returns.

My take

Hope I can know more about Dr. Tainter’s theory. I would question his theory by asking this question: can a study of three civilizations be enough to prove the correlation between the burden of complexities and the collapse of a society? How would this theory be applied to the longest sustained civilization in China?

Life Misc

Insistence on Email and phone communications

Has it ever happened to you that your phone calls and email messages to someone go unanswered. What would you do? Thinking that person chose to ignore you and drop the initiation of communication, or trying to reach that person again? My recent experience taught me to always opt for the second option.

If you try to call someone and the phone is not answered, try other means to contact that person, be it sending email or paying a personal visit. A phone can go wrong in numerous ways and sometimes its owner is not even aware that their phone is not working. Or perhaps the person is traveling and forget to carry the phone. There are many possibilities for unanswered phone calls, and the last thing you want to do is holding a grudge believing that you are deliberated ignored.

The same applies to email communications. There are numerous reasons for not receiving replies for your email inquiries, and in most cases, it is not because of the receive choose to ignore you. As reliable as an email system is, glitches do occur and some electronic particles still go astray and fail to reach the destination.

Especially when you are requesting some information or favor through electronic communications, you may be inclined to believe your unrequited communication is an indication that its receiving end does not want to be bothered, and you give up. The right thing to do is writing or calling again just to confirm if your request has been received or not, and politely show your understanding if the person really can’t attend to your request.


Some loopholes in Cambridge BEC test

I had the chance to be an oral examiner for Cambridge Business English Test. I participated all the three levels: preliminary, vantage and higher. I noticed there are some loopholes in the test, and frankly I think ESOL could do better to make more money.

  • The biggest loopholes is the small repertoire of questions for speaking. I noticed during the exam that students seem to know the questions beforehand, and had made prepared versions of certain questions we asked. Some are even using the words from the backup questions in their speech. I guess this are some brain dump sites for used questions, and students can just use them to rehearsal. I also believe it is easy for students who have taken the test, to text message the questions to other test takers in the waiting room
  • During part II of the oral exam, one thing that irks me most is that test takers does not listen to their partner’s talk. They keep preparing for their small presentation, and when they are requested to ask a question about their partner’s speech, the frequent question would be: “Of the points you just mentioned, which one you think is more important?”. They deserve a markdown for cheating like this.

Anyway, I think English tests such as BEC, IELTS and TOFEL are just cash cows. Why does BEC need three levels for a speaking test? Can’t it make the grade range from one to nine like IELTS’s? Most BEC takers are likely to take two levels of BEC, which I think is unnecessary. For IELTS and TOFEL, they can go fuck themselves for a short expiration period of the test score — two years. They should make it five years like GRE test scores. I don’t think my English will drastically become poorer after two years, actually it is the other way around. The only reason I can think of is IELTS and GRE wants to make more money on a faster cycle.


Very Unfair Ending of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones 4 is a decent sequel to the previous three Jones series. Unlike Pirates of the Caribbean, the sequel named Dead Man’s Chest was the first movie that actually made me fall asleep in the movie theater.

I generally enjoyed watching Jones 4. However, there are two things in the movie with which I want to find fault:

  1. Does Shia LaBeouf have to transport his motorcycle all the way to Peru, and said a stupid line later in the movie “I lost my bike”. What is the point? Although he does handle his dagger with dexterity in a scene.
  2. The ending of the movie is very unfair. I mean, by contract, whoever returns the crystal skull will be rewarded. The Russian Colonel played by Cate Blanchett returned the skull through a series of arch-villain acts. Despite the means she achieved her goal, she should get her rewarded as was promised. But it turned out that aliens infused into her brain was too much for her to handle, and she blow into dusts.

    Wait a minute, aren’t the aliens supposed to be smart enough to know that too much knowledge will destroy her instead of doing the errand runner good? Still the aliens chose to destroy her by giving too much she could handle. Guess what? I think the aliens have just showed how untrustworthy they were, and no earthling would ever do the job for them again.


A Brief Review of You don’t mess with the Zohan

If you are a political liberal, a democrat, or an Adam Sandler fan, you are probably going to enjoy this movie, but probably hate the strongly accented English.

What you will see is a few superman-like, Hong Kong kungfu movies styles stunts, and the rosy wish of Peace and Brotherhood between Israel and Palestine. Although the matters in mid-east are not really that simple and easy, not like Zohan’s bloated masculinity and fighting skills.

The movie also pictures America as a land of dreams and equal opportunities for everyone, but you know it is not 100% true, right? It also sports some dirty jokes about Bush’s wife, Clinton’s wife and Obama’s wife, and I personally think it is not funny but obviously very political.

If Israelis and Palestinians are not real enemies, then who is? Look at the screenshot of the movie and terminate him whenever you find him:

Because he hates “Jews, the Arabs, the Blacks, the Yellows, the French, the Latins, the New York times, the George Clooney, the Hillary, the Obama, the whole foods, the Prius, the dogs in purses, the Orphah, the Ellen, the condoms and sunsets on the beach” according to the movie, and he works for the American cooperate interests.

Anyway, if you have two hours to kill and want to see Zohan the Incredible perform his sensual stunts, you will enjoy this movie.


A Brief Review of the Incredible Hulk and the War Inc.

For me Edward Norton and John Cusack look quite alike, and it is not until I watched the movie the Incredible Hulk did I realize they are different individuals. Edward Norton appears to be a right fit for dark and sad characters, while Cusack has a sunnier face. If you ask me which movie I like better, the Hulk or the War Inc., I would pick the latter.

The Incredible Hulk is a movie to watch in a lazy weekend and relax oneself, while the War Inc. brings you the liberal pleasure to ridicule the dirty war in Turaqistan, which is an obvious allusion to and a bitter reminder to the war in Iraq.

Both movies have some attractive actresses to boast: the graceful Liv Tyler and the elegant Marisa Tomei. Liv in the Hulk movie is a predictable character from a cartoon book, while Marisa is more true to life as a war zone journalist. I will be expecting to witness more charms of Marisa in another movie of her Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

These two movies have more to be desired. Hulk 2 is a monster movie lacking some human touches, and the War Inc., with a setting in the future, should be surrealistic in its props. But the surgical bombing mishit the target in the War Inc. is hilarious.

The Hulk movie also has Robert Downey Jr. appeared in the last scene of the movie, as if ascertaining the entertaining orientation of Hulk 2.


Job Prospects for Hospitality Industry

The best job prospects for 2008 – MarketWatch

As the nation’s employers gear up to start a wave of new-year hiring, the retail and health-care sectors are poised for the most public expansions, while the hospitality and export industries are angling for new employees as well, economists and job market experts said.

The hospitality sector also looks set for growth, said Sophia Koropeckyj, economist at Moody’s in Westchester, Pa., because “there’s been a lot of hotel construction and also because there are a lot of international tourists coming in to the United States.” The leisure and hospitality sectors are expected to add 1.9 million jobs from 2006 to 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. – Grads see brighter job prospects

A sampling of universities across the country suggests hot areas this year are health care, accounting, defense, education, hospitality, insurance and even consulting, which had shown a large drop-off in earlier years.


Overcome the Fear and Brave the New World

Today’s 101 Day Success Course from David Rayner reads:

Members of the tribe who wandered off on their own usually didn’t come back. Similarly members who tried to do things differently risked failure. Your subconscious therefore is pre-programmed to PROTECT you from venturing outside your comfort zone. It uses all sorts of tricks including procrastination and busyness (sic) and others that we are hardly aware of. The Gurus recommend for that reason that you work constantly on your Success Psychology, by listening to confidence boosting recordings and reading Success Stories! At the same time keep nudging your Comfort Zone.

Now it becomes ever clear to me that I must leave my comfort zone as quickly as possible. I need to start my adventure this year, and I have to overcome the fear of the unknown, before I am too old and too drained by the current environment.