April 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A knife, especially a carry piece, is supposed to be a go-to tool, a dependable object that gets the job done 100% of the time. This knife I am reviewing is NOT that kind of object.
The Camillus CUDA looks cool, and when I took it out of the packaging, I had that same tingly feeling that I get when unboxing just about any new gadget. I had seen Youtube video’s of this knife’s deployment mechanism. I was sold: AUS8 steel (that’s supposed to be good, right?) and looking like a total badass for 40$?!?! YES! Unfortunately, I had been caught in Camillus’ marketing gimmick; this knife is a total piece of crap.
November 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Last semester’s student uprisings were a pretty big deal. I think everybody can agree on that. At the head of the this big deal, the representatives of the student movement were put under the media’s spotlight, and extensive coverage of student union-initiated activities were presented at every news outlet. The camera is something powerful: it adds 20 pounds, it never forgets, but most importantly it fortifies one’s hubris. If the ensnaring glare of the lens caught Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (GND), the CLASSE’s ex-spokesman, only he will truely ever know. However, some of his wacky declarations certainly point to the fact that he did succumb, most notably his repeated calls to disobeying court orders. Since then, he has been bitchslapped by the long arm of the law: accused of contempt of court, found guilty. Recently, he has announced that he will go against this verdict in superior instances on accounts of the fundamental right to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and freedoms.
I’d like to reiterate a couple of key points before I get to the point:
- His first attempt to legitimize his call to disrespecting the law was built on the idea that it went against the student’s right to union activity, picketing and all. In fact, there legally never was such a right, the law on student unions not explicitly recognizing any such right. These principles were cheaply copied over from legal works recognizing worker’s unions, which are a whole different ball game. None of this seems to matter to supporters of the student movement, because once an organisation dons the name of union, it’s natural rights, ie: every single legal concession ever made to union since the beginning of the history, must be recognized by the state. At least according to them. Why? Because anarcho-syndicalism is why: no state can have a say on the righteous acts of a naturally formed union. This apparent desire for the loosening of the legal definition of a union is in itself a lack of respect for the law and the institutions which enforce it.
- By nature, solidarity is strong between union movements. So strong in fact that GND has received funding from unions to pay for his defence. I was unable to find either the amounts that this funding represents, whether or not members of the FEC-CSQ even voted on funding such a legal endeavour, and if they did, how many of them did. Transparency isn’t exactly a value highly held in this kind of organisation anyways.
- All of last spring brought to light, by accident most likely than not, a very old debate: that of the legitimacy of civil disobedience. In fact, the word came to be used so often in so many contexts that I boycotted it, and replaced it with shit-disturbing, partly for fun, and partly to promptly let it be known in discussions that I wasn’t very pro-student. MP Amir Khadir came VERY close to also getting charges for comtempt of court, when he claimed the legitimacy of civil disobedience in the case of injust laws, specifically Bill 78, according to the principles applied by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr in their respective struggles for fair treatment. Directly, this was an absurd attempt at drawing parallels between completely different contexts. Indirectly, it was both enormous praise to the student leaders, and the perfect theoretical justifications for the continuing of shit-disturbing.
Coincidentally with the release of GND’s verdict, one of my university teachers distributed a complementary reading on the contemporary successors of Saint Thomas d’Aquin, in the form of Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmham Jail”. He did it mostly as a tip of the hat to American political thinkers,our class taking place on the day of the presidential elections, but I think that most of us immediately made the link to last spring’s events. From that handout, here is a short exert on the legitimate use of civil disobedience:
In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with the willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over it’s injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
I find in this passage wisdom which I have not witnessed in the declarations of student leaders, who were much more revolutionary in their aims. This is another reason why Khadir’s likening of the students to MLK is completely ridiculous: the intentions of the latter obviously wanted to use anarchy to their advantage, while to the former this is definitely not the case. MLK shows, in a self-sacrificial way, his utmost respect for the law and the institutions that enforce it, by willingly accepting his sentence as a catalyst to the enlightenment of his peers, an action necessary to the attainment of the greater good. The only likeliness between the students and MLK are the concepts of enlightenment and greater good, which were central to the student movement’s rhetoric.
At the light of this, here is my challenge to GND: suck it up. You spearheaded a movement which in it’s methods and aims was revolutionary, so of course repression from the existing legal framework was inevitable. Going into higher instances won’t work out: your actions, if left unpunished, open up a gigantic precedent that makes obedience to court orders mandatory. No judge will ever let you get away with that. So you have two choices.
- Fight till the end to ultimately lose, syphoning union funding left and right as you go. This solution is arguably not the best in terms of greater good: much could have been done with the money you have wasted in procedures, amounts that are in the end paid by the union workers through their contributions to the CSQ, and the public at large through their taxes.
- Quit being such a little bitch and go to jail like a man. Every revolution needs it’s martyr, and if you think highly enough of your cause, you’d do like MLK did and be that martyr by submitting to legal authority. The greater good, remember? Take one for the team. If you want to put on a show, ditching your lawyer asking for maximum jail time would surely cause a stir, but there’s no need to go through all that. Just get to the courtroom, state off the bat that you will be resorting to your right to silence, and STFU for the entire hearing. Serve your sentence, and enjoy your new-found status of martyred syndicalist, the Michel Chartrand of our generation. Surely your future employers will appreciated this credibility anyways. And hey, if it worked for ending segregation, it’ll probably work for obtaining free university-level education, right?
In times where you lose, the only difference between being a man and a coward is accepting full responsibility for your actions. Grow some balls and end this honourably Here in the land of no-fault, it would be fun to see somebody take responsibility, for a change.
November 5, 2012 § 1 Comment
Some objects just have an indescribable allure to them, a combination of looks and feel that just makes manipulating them feel right. If you’re an overall enjoyer of fine things, you probably know what I mean; knives, firearms, quality tools, engine parts, pretty much anything made of metal to exacting tolerances really, they all have this special something that makes one feel warm and fuzzy on the inside when holding, contemplating or using them. Watches definitely fit into that category of items, and ever since the theft of my father’s pass-me-down Citizen chronograph, I’ve scourged the internet for more information on watches, to the point where it has become kind of obsessive. The initial goal of my researches the replacement of a lots watch, quickly degenerated into the longing for acquiring a wide variety of watches.
My first purchased settled on a SKA347, a custom model refreshed by the owner of Motor City Watch Works for himself that went up for sale on a forum.
As far as Seikos go, this one isn’t exactly all-out custom, but the bead-blasted finish on the entire watch made it noticeably different from it’s stock counterpart. The looks were discrete, as they were with my Citizen, and the price was very right… I snatched it on sight. I’ve been wearing it daily for the past 10 weeks, and I love it. However, an unfortunate bike accident scratched the finish on the bracelet, and from that point on I was set on getting a daily beater, something lighter but just as solid, that I would customize to be more adequate for harsh use. The venerable SKX007 immediately sprung to mind as the perfect base for this project, as it’s durability and that of it’s predecessors being legendary. However, I thought the 007 to be a bit too crowded to my taste.
I got a little bit of inspiration from the Hamilton Khaki Field, a watch which was military issue during WWII and is still available today in a refreshed form.
Easily readable, minimal clutter, and a beautiful arabic numeral in a retro typeface at every hour; this is just what I was looking for. The only drawback is the fact that a new Hamilton’s price tag hovers around the 600-800$ mark, and that sounds awfully expensive for a manual watch, no matter how beautiful and well-built. Building a clone from an SKX007 would get rid of both of those problems.
First thing, the stock bezel has to go. This guy named David, of internet fame on Watchuseek, sells custom turned stainless steel bezels for the 7S26 movements, of which the SKX007 is one amongst many. It looks pretty damn good, here is a comparison, stock on the left, blank bezel on the right.
Obviously, the bezel on the 7s26 case watches is much thicker than that of the Hamilton, but the 45 degree bevel is reminiscent of the latter’s design in a way.
A raw stainless casing may be hot stuff around town, but the sheen is not something you want on a military-style watch based on the Hamilton. Luckily, MCWW offers Cerkote treatments, and I think “Desert Sage” looks pretty. Cerakote is supposed to be one of the most long-lasting coatings out there, so chances are it will take the beatings I am inevitably going to administer to this watch. Here’s another SKX007 in desert sage, with stock bezel and another face sourced from the Seiko parts bin.
How tacticool is that? The face isn’t doing it for me though, as I’d like a black face and stock black chapter ring to stay on the Hamilton theme. The SNK427 / SNX427 is another Seiko based on the 7S26 movement that has a Hamilton-look face, with what looks like the exact same typeface on the numerals, just what I needed.
It’s a bit disappointing that the numeral’s aren’t lume-painted, but in the looks department, I think this is pretty much spot on. This face might be hard to come by though, as they were (are?) much less poplar than the Seiko 5 in the same style. Getting a real tritium face for the 007 is apparently difficult, although it looks cool as hell.
The absence of Seiko branding and the presence of the radioactivity symbol makes for an ever closer resemblance to the Hamilton.
A domed sapphire crystal would be the icing on the cake, tying up the whole Hamilton theme, but depending on the condition of the base watch’s crystal, it might not be necessary. Of course, strap will be of the olive-drab NATO variety.
The plan is to get the watch and the flat bezel before Christmas, swap this part out myself, then wait for both mod part availability and additional funds before shipping out to MCWW. I’ll be sure to post pictures of updates as they happen.
Note to the owners of these images which I borrowed without explicit permission: contact me if you want me to take anything down. None of the images are hotlinked, but I still want to make it clear that I had no intention of infringing on your content.
June 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Apple’s talk at WWDC last Monday was a very expected event, without a doubt. As it turns out, the iPhone 5 wasn’t announced, and besides iOS 6, I felt like it was mostly the new Retina display-equipped Macbook Pro that stole the show. After all, it is quite a big deal… despite not being on par with pixel pitch on the new iPad (aka v3, I hate that stupid name) or the iPhone, the new display brings laptop display pixel pitch to a new all-time high. That’s all fine and dandy… right up until you figure out that that they’ve compromised pretty much everything other than the screen to be able to use the Retina moniker on this new product.
The problem with the new Retina MacBooks is that it’s Apple’s cockiest products yet. As iFixit has reported, it’s probably the least repair and upgrade-friendly notebook every produced, with NOTHING being easily user-upgradeable, and damn-near every component soldered right onto the motherboard. For the consumer, this means that buying AppleCare is almost mandatory, seeing as nobody wants to be the proud owner of a 2000+$ brick if anything happens after the 1 year base warranty. That in itself isn’t what bothers me: Apple answered a demand for ever thinner, better laptops and in the end only the consumer can be blamed for creating a demand for such a ridiculous product. What’s potentially problematic is that Apple’s cocky move might just put them into a very dire situation.
Allow me to contextualize with a little anecdote. Having been an in-store technician for a big-box retailer for most of the last 5 years, I’ve seen the Nvidia laptop chipset scandal unfurl firsthand. I f I have learned anything from it, it’s that mass-marketing a product nowadays is a infinitely delicate balance between building a desirable product, and keeping cost to a minimum. Build something too solid and you’ll be outgunned by other more aggressive OEMs with lower prices, build it too cheap and chances are that you’ll fork over tons of money for repairs while killing brand loyalty within your customer base. The whole experience showed me just how much stuff goes into release a product and backing a it with a warranty: it’s a big business that involves lots of people, an impressive amount of red tape, and most importantly lots of money.
With the Nvidia chipset fiasco, OEMs like HP (without a doubt one of the hardest hit) stacked all the odds against themselves. Ultimately the problem with these chipset is Nvidia’s design error, noteably the use of high-lead bump on their entire lineup as a cost-cutting measure. I won’t shed a tear for HP though: their insistence in flooding the market with these cheap Nvidia-based products in both low and mid-end notebook market segments effectively put a large percentage of their eggs in the same broken basket. This cavalier attitude with matters of risk management cost them a lot; for a total of just about 3 years, including the 12 additional months of warranty offered by HP after Nvidia admitted their fault, my store’s techroom has put 25$ in it’s pockets every time it has shipped a unit for repair, countless amounts of motherboards have been replaced, and copious amounts of customers were scared off of HP products despite our best efforts to convince them that newer models were unaffected. With repairs probably costing the OEM around 100-150$ each (25$ facilitation, ~75-100$ part, ~25-40$ labour & handling) and numerous repairs being a regular occurrence, it’s hard to see how an 600$ laptop can remain profitable for very long. And that’s just for motherboard repairs; one must consider that motherboards aren’t the only things that break. In many occurrences, the GPU / chipset overheating issues also caused the Wifi card to crap out… being an integrated card, this again warranted a costly replacement of the motherboard. To put it shortly, for a year or two, most of the laptops that HP put on the market were ticking time bombs.
Back to Apple. With the company now enjoying a cult status in the world of mainstream computing, Apple is now aggressively expanding. Because of this popularity, their procedures with regards to dealing with customer service issues is somewhat unusual: Apple stores are known to exchange products directly under standard warranty OR AppleCare if the defect is covered. They even go as far as to replaced physically damaged units for new / refurb units for a nominal fee which is more or less equivalent to the average cost that an authorized repair depot gets paid in parts and labour for a warranty repair. One thing that permits this is obviously aggressive demand for Apple products, old or new; people just don’t care if the product they’re buying is a refurb or not, they just want their laptop / tablet to have an apple on it. Another is the relatively good durability of Apple products, if you ignore certain specific issues that were for the most part corrected.
With the advent of the MacBook Air a few years ago and the introduction of the Retina MBP, Apple is putting this customer service model at risk by putting too much confidence in their products’ reliability. The problem is that they can only control their products’ quality to a certain extent, and that good design doesn’t inherently imply reliability. Event though their quick recall of defective products and pompous announcements of new products are conducive to forgetting them, let’s remember that the company has had to deal many times with defective products coming from 3rd party parts integrated in their products. Apple too has been faced with the Nvidia chipset / video problems, and the Seagate 7200.10 recall is also one to remember.
Now that almost everything is integrated to the motherboard, risk of facing severe problems that command complicated and expensive motherboard callbacks or repairs are multiplied many times over. Add to that the ever-increasing push for transistor density and performance, and it could very well equate to issues to which Apple possibly couldn’t answer with it’s usual method of directly exchanging products up front. Nvidia has had problems with yield on the 28nm, which opens up a door for potentially defective products. Intel is now on 22nm fab process, which required them to rethink transistor design: another potentially risky venture. I have no idea how Hynix manufactures their products, but they are clearly not safe from defective products either, seeing that Hynix based RAM sticks are replaced in my store on a daily basis in all brands of laptops and desktops.
What happens if any of theses components are discovered to be a common point of failure 6 months after the release date? Could Apple maintain their habit of exchanging products up front even if it means writing off expensive motherboards? In the event of a mass recall, could Apple turn around quickly enough to produced a revised revision of a product in order to keep it’s customers happy? And if they can, what happens to all those defective unit which would usually end up being sold as refurbs? Can Apple’s customer service model survive without this steady stream of replacement products which are essentially built from write-off “scrap”? These are all questions to which, being a simple end-link in the repair chain, I have no answers to. Quite frankly, this has me worried about Apple’s future if the “all-in on the motherboard” trend continues.
With all this being said, I don’t mean to disrespect to the highly trained engineers and other experts would probably understand the inner workings of marketing electronics much better than I do. However, I believe that OEMs in general need to keep their esteem of their products realistic, and realize that another Nvidia-gate is just around the bend for all of them. The smallest of cost-cuts or reckless business decisions by parts suppliers can quickly snowball into quick loss of customer base and corporate prestige. Much more so when you are selling all these risky parts in an integrated package.
Apple abandoning modular design for the sake of producing cutting edge products is what just might rob them of their ability to turn themselves around in the event of a mass recall, and while they might have the financial means to sail through the storm, losing customers in the long term is ALWAYS bad for business, no matter how prestigious a brand is now.
May 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In this battle against tuition rise, the students have many things going against them, and right after the government itself, the second biggest shit disturber is without a doubt the inside resistance from certain students. Those students, whether ideologically opposed to the whole concept of this “Revolution Erable” or just simply fed up with not being able to study, have been turning to the courts since the Laurent Proulx case. Indeed, since the legislation surrounding the formation of students unions does not recognize the right to strike or the right to picket lines, many court orders have been issued to order the schools to resume dispensing class. It’s one thing to get a court order, but as the media reports, it’s a whole other thing to get that order carried out and respected. So far, some schools have remained shut down due to illegal picket lines carried on despite the order, and some ballsy teachers have went as far as to dispense their students of class out of their own initiative in support of the movement. This blatant disrespect of the law is a problem, a major one at that , with two causes: on one side the students, and on the other the teaching staff.
The problem with the student movement is that that their complaints on disrespect of syndicalism (and by their logic democracy at large) on the government’s part are based on the fact that they believe themselves to be a full fledge union, with all that this includes. To them, who seem to think that all the aspects of syndicalism are inherently applicable to any organisation that claims to be a union, there is no difference between a trade union and a student union. A strike is always legitimate if it was voted upon favourably by it’s members, picket lines are the natural byproduct of a legitimate strike and must therefor be respected, and anybody defying the strike, within or outside of the organisation is a scab. Unfortunately for them, in a legally constituted state such as ours, this anarcho-syndicalist vision of things is not only invalid, but illegal. As grown-ups, I am sure that militants from the student unions understand that they only need to be nice and obey the law when they want to; what I WISH they would understand is that choosing to disobey the law inevitably brings consequences: namely fines, imprisonment, and all that unpleasant stuff. This is my main critique of the movement as of now: their inability to accept the consequences of being self-proclaimed revolutionaries with an agenda based on civil disobedience. If your cause is important enough to warrant throwing bricks at the defenders of public peace, shouldn’t it be important enough for you to sacrifice a couple of ribs to a policeman’s baton?
Teachers are the ones that get it real easy in all of this. Many of them are members of the same big-shot unions to whom many student groups are affiliated, and consequently share the same vues on the whole issue of legitimacy of the student boycott. From my own experience with CEGEP teachers, most of them seem to have grown very fond of the Quebecois societal model of which they are now part of. Who can blame them for that, really?; biting the hand that feeds you is not a very intelligent behaviour. My gripe with the teachers isn’t so much on their manifestation of political allegiance , but rather the cozy conditions under which they have the leisure of doing it, in absence of any potential consequences for supporting the student movement. They have been known for cancelling class for phony concerns of security, respecting picket lines that have no legal value, and on several occasions have even using class time to fill the ranks of the student protesters; all this while receiving their pay in full, something guaranteed to them through generous labour agreements. In this series of events, teachers are inside men, mercenaries hypocritically bleeding the government from it’s very entrails while their student counterparts call out of the poor financial management of our network of public universities. Common sense says that if they aren’t in the classroom teaching, then they shouldn’t be paid; it’s as simple as that. But sadly, in this province, common sense does not seem to apply.
All in all, the most dangerous part of all this disrespect of our judicial system is the chance that we might be setting precedents. Public demonstrations are, within reason, legal and legitimate, but all that surrounds them and that is not must not be taken lightly. I’m talking about the illegal picketing lines and blocking off of schools to students in right to receive their education, and the disrespect of court orders by students, teachers and management staff. I’m no expert on the matter, but I’ve been told that in court-room practice, law is based on both written legislation and case law. I believe that the same thing type of two-sided conception of the law occurs in peoples minds: it’s one thing to understand textual law, but it’s a whole other to know the intricacies of it’s application. By not swiftly enforcing the law and court orders, the authorities are allowing a distortion of the population’s idea of the application of the law, a devaluation of our legitimate means to justice. If we set precedents now, what is to become of it with in other instances of the manifestation of popular concern? I’m all too afraid that if we give an inch, they’ll take a mile, and for that reason, police forces push on in ensuring that the law is observed.
This is why I am very critical of the proposed “special law” proposed by the government as a solution to the current crisis. Such legislation is not only totally unnecessary as the students have no legal backing, but would be quickly picked up by protesters as an overly authoritative, anti-syndicalist action by a government who is at wit’s end. Past laws like these applied to regular employer-vs-employee strikes have always seemed morally wrong even to my essentially anti-syndicate self, never mind to those who actually believe in the concept of unions. If anything, this law would add fuel to an already very lively fire.
My position on this situation as a whole is very simple: deep down, this whole debate boils down to a cleavage between each group’s fundamental conception of democratic institutions, responsibilities of governance and state involvement. With these matters, the status quo can only be broken by one thing. Elections. Hold on to your horses, they’re coming soon enough.
April 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Ten weeks later, the province-wide conflict between students and government over the rise of tuition is still raging on. In the beginning, it was strictly about tuition, because students unions are OBVIOUSLY not politically affiliated with any political movement, party, or trade union. But now, funny enough, the debate seems to have opened up to much wider questions of governance… or at the very least, some people seem to be very eager to make it so.
The almost-daily protests are quickly transforming into what they were doomed to become, an all-out revolution-themed shit-show, with abstract concepts like democracy, liberty, equality, and justice as a theme, but without any forethought to what those words actually mean. Many protests organized by student unions not only aim for accessible education, but are also calling for a “struggle for social justice” at large. Others have even had the arrogance to come up with the term “Quebecois Spring”, an outright disrespectful reference to the events in which Arab populations fought REAL opression. Of course, all this revolutionary talk wouldn’t be complete without dusting off our old complexes on our collective identity. An event has been organised in Montreal to discuss themes like our existence as a unique and distinct nation, an intelligent, resourceful people, how much capitalism sucks and how we are worth better; because you know, there hasn’t been enough of those in the past 50 years.
I find it ironic, and frankly a bit sad that we are repeating the same behaviours that got us in this situation in the first place. All these events that we were told in school to consider as capital turning points of our existence, those of the Quiet revolution, are repeating themselves. Exaggerated enthusiasm for “progressivism” (I hate that word, more on that later), the worship of our providence state as if it were some sort of god, the demand for free this, universal that, state-monopolies here, oppressive regulation there; from what I’m getting, this is what theses protests are going for. It didn’t work the first time around, what makes you think that it’ll work this time?
So, who is backing this up? The usual suspects, the left-leaning and nationalist intelligentsia. Because it’s awfully convenient. In a province of emotive electors and political incults, what better way to give your project some appeal than backing it up with a tale of epic struggle against the evils of the Canadian governement and the free market? The amorphous mass, the 5 o’clock news watchers, what better way to stir them into voting radically than to show them a televised revolution? This, to me, a disgusting attempt at transforming the inertia of legitimate popular concern into political capital of sympathy.
At first, I wrote this long, angry article about this situation, but I scrapped it. Because frankly, in the end, all of this agitation isn’t going anywhere. The socialists and nationalists are feeding the fire of protest with old junk they found buried in the back yard, our constitutional failures, our pathetic referendums, our angst and discomfort with our identity as North-Americans. That might work for a while but eventually, they’re going to choke the fire out. Despite our gaudy pretensions, our firm belief that we are worth better, we just don’t have the balls for a real social change, let alone a revolution. In the end, we are but backyard revolutionaries.
April 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
As a computer enthousiast, I have live the most part of my life dreaming of big computer rigs. Gigantic cases with massive airflow, push-pull fan setups on everything, LED-lit this and that, all that jazz. After owning progessively bigger and bigger cases, from a Thermaltake Armor Jr (standard ATX mid-tower) to a Rocketfish RF-FULLTWR (E-ATX compatible behemoth of a full tower), I have lost my interest in blingy modified cases, and have started to build my computers with minimalism in mind. For pragmatism’s sake, I traded big for small, and loud, in-your face styling for a more discrete, clean and timeless look. The form-factor of choice for my latest build being micro-ATX (mATX), I found that the Lian-Li PC-V354B fit the bill perfectly.