| December 2003 |

Leaving On a Jet Plane

Strangely, I actually felt happier the night before my last paper than after I’m done with all my exams; I was probably too tired to jump for joy after spending the entire night before our OB exam typing out my cheat sheet, which turned out to be quite useless since most of the questions tested on concept application rather than regurgitation of definitions.

Everyone is supposed to move out of residence by 5pm today. I decided to stay for as long as I can; Todd is kind enough to put me up at his apartment for the next two days before I fly to Vancouver, and I don’t wish to trouble him more than necessary. However, I must leave before noon tomorrow since the porter will be locking up the building. Now it’s a game of cat and mouse with my don Mike, hoping he doesn’t catch me while I go about my daily business.

Wan and I will be going on a two-week trip together this Christmas break. We’ll start in Vancouver and celebrate Christmas there; travel down Seattle and Portland, stopping by Eugene, Oregon so he can take a picture of the town which shares the same name as him; and end our journey in San Francisco where we’ll countdown to the start of a new year.

I’ll try to update SG Watch while I’m on the road, so keep a lookout for new postings on our latest adventures. Here I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas!

19 December 2003 · My Life · Comments (0)

Copyrighting CSS

My initial purpose for installing Mozilla was to do cross-platform testing on the design and functionality of SG Watch, but Mozilla proved to be a far better web browser than IE. Mozilla is visibly faster, more user-friendly (tabbed browsing is especially useful), and allows unauthorised pop-ups to be blocked. The roles of Mozilla and IE have now switched: Mozilla is my default web browser while IE will be used to for cross-platform testing since most of my readers still use IE.

Only after I started using Mozilla did I realise how mangled SG Watch actually looks on other web browsers; apparently float doesn’t work well in Mozilla. I finally found a way to position my sidebar content on the right using a combination of margins and absolute positioning after doing some reverse engineering; that is, learning by viewing the source codes of other websites.

There’s a huge debate going on about whether CSS should be copyrighted. While I’m not knowledgeable enough to contribute any substantial argument, I sure hope the Web remains an open-source paradise. Clay Shirky commented that open HTML source remains central to the Web’s success:

The single factor most responsible for this riot of experimentation is transparency - the ability of any user to render into source code the choices made by any other designer. Once someone has worked out some design challenge, anyone else should be able to adopt, modify it, and make that modified version available, and so on.

Consider how effortless it would have been for Tim Berners-Lee or Marc Andreeson to treat the browser’s “View Source” as a kind of debugging option which could have been disabled in any public release of their respective browsers, and imagine how much such a “hidden source” choice would have hampered this feedback loop between designers. Instead, with this unprecedented transparency of the HTML itself, we got an enormous increase in the speed of design development. When faced with a Web page whose layout or technique seems particularly worth emulating or even copying outright, the question “How did they do that?” can be answered in seconds.

I feel that copying someone else’s design (including code) wholesale and proclaim it as your own work is wrong; to make a profit out of something you’ve plagiarized is even worse. However, the line has to be drawn between plagiarism and inspiration.

It’s no crime to be inspired by Picasso and draw an abstract painting.

19 December 2003 · Web · Comments (0)

Redesigning with Web Standards

I was actually planning to use a fluid design for my new layout; that is, column widths will resize accordingly whenever the browser’s size is changed. Sanctuary is a good example of a website that uses a fluid design.

It’s evident that the author of Designing with Web Standards wields great influence in the web community when several prominent web designers promptly changed the layout of their websites to a fixed width design after Zeldman posted a link to Mike Golding’s article, which exalted the benefits of a fixed width design:

It is accepted in the printed medium that having a narrower text width makes reading large bodies of text easier and faster and produces a better understanding of the content. Broad sheet newspapers might be bigger and wider but that doesn’t mean longer line lengths, if anything the broad sheets use thinner and longer column lengths to help maintain focus on the content. Making your readers feel comfortable is a major factor in making a web site sticky, web designers are starting to adopt these usability findings.

I’ve been trying to keep up with the latest web standards ever since I made the switch from a table-based layout to a standards-compliant site using CSS. Besides the obvious advantages of using web standards, seeing SG Watch validates also increases my personal satisfaction as an amateur web designer.

As part of my redesign efforts, I’ve also changed the hierarchical structure of SG Watch; so please to update your favourite links to my website if you don’t wish to be greeted by a 404 error page.

SG Watch is still not fully functional yet; it was probably a bad idea to redesign my website during exam period, so please bear with me while I sort out minor glitches.

13 December 2003 · Site · Comments (4)

Career as Management Consultant


During our last OB class with Lori, Jeremy asked for her advice on how to become a management consultant like herself; it was a question that most of us had in mind too. The experience that Lori shared with us about her work as a management consultant caught our imagination: training top corporate executives in leadership; meeting with Citibank’s CEO; and earning millions along the way. It sounded like the dream job of every commerce student.

While we were taking mental notes about the recommended courses to take, Lori dropped the bombshell by saying a consulting job is not as glamorous as it seemed, and shared with us her life story as a management consultant.

Lori has to work more than 80 hours every week, meaning she almost never had a day off for the past 20 years. She gave a good analogy saying if Citibank’s CEO called you at three in the morning, you have to take his call regardless of where you are or what you are doing.

Her personal experiences were even more incredible. Last year, she had to attend a conference held in Singapore for three weeks; although she managed to get another professor stand in for her the first and third week, she felt that it was not in her students’ best interests if she missed the class for three consecutive weeks. So she took a 27-hour flight from Singapore back to Toronto during the second week, and while the plane was refilling at Pearson Airport, she rushed back to U of T to teach her class, then took another 27-hour flight back to Singapore. I’ve never met a professor more dedicated than her, who took a 54-hour roundtrip to teach a two-hour lecture. This also explains how she managed to accumulate more than two million frequent flyer miles last year.

I’ve always wanted to be a management consultant or financial analyst, and an 80-hour work week isn’t something that’ll discourage me from pursuing my dream. However, Dylan was right to point out such a hectic work schedule will lead to a lack of family time; and Lori did mention she went through a failed marriage.

But for now, I’ll keep my choices open by studying hard for my exams and getting good grades.

07 December 2003 · My Life · Comments (1)

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