Education, Productivity, and Doing Something with Your Life

Earlier this week, I read something that aptly summarizes a lot of what I've been thinking about lately in terms of education, productivity, and doing something with your life. From the September 28, 2010 Cornell Daily Sun, I'm quoting Steven Zhang's opinion piece titled "There Is No U.S.," in full...
Open up any recent issue of the New York Times and you can be sure to find a headline on one of many Chinese triumphs often accompanied by another story on American woes.
It’s nothing new. While China is taking the lead in green energy technology, we are still entangled in a debate over the legitimacy of global warming. While their economy efficiently surges ahead — recently becoming the second largest in the world by surpassing Japan — ours struggles to return to its former glory. Even Thomas L. Friedman’s lamentations over our beloved country seem to be in overdrive these past few weeks. 
Shouldn’t we be worried? After all, it is us against them. West versus East. Democracy against Communism. They are two nations stuck in an inescapable zero-sum game. Therefore, must not we, proud Americans, do everything we can to protect America?
Not necessarily. It’s a pity to see that our politicians have still not faced reality. America’s clout in the world is slowly fading away and we — especially our Cornell seniors who are entering the job market — have to adapt. Just take a look at the biggest names participating at the recent career fair. Hoping to work on Wall Street? You might have better chances of finding a job in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Shenzhen, a city in China I bet you never knew existed. Asian cities are rapidly rising in the Global Financial Centers Index in the past few years and will eventually overtake their Western counterparts. Not interested in finance? For engineers, General Electric is the second largest multinational corporation in the world and is becoming more and more reliant on foreign workers. The ratio of U.S.-based workers to non-U.S. based workers was 1.15 to 1 in 2001, down from 4 to 1 in 1990. In fact, its largest research and development center is located in India. Similarly, General Motors, though our government owns around 60 percent of the company, sells more cars in China than it does domestically. Hoping to work in the hotel business? The largest hotel chain, the Intercontinental Hotel, is based in the United Kingdom and has established 25 hotel schools in China in hopes of tapping the talents of the country’s youth. 
The world is not just flattening; it’s shrinking. Just look at our University today. We have people from every corner of the country, from every inhabited continent. The figure that we should be focused on now isn’t whether we have students from all 50 states but if we have students from all 194 nations. For undergraduates, international students comprise 8.7 percent of the student body. That means almost one in every 10 students you see on campus is from another country. The figure is even more startling for our graduate and professional schools: One in three graduate students is an international. The political borders and geographic barriers are slowly falling.
What does this mean for us and our futures? First, it means we have to unhinge from the belief that the world is centered on us — America. And we have to start to realize the world is larger than what we see on CNN, that there are more happenings in the world outside of Iraq, Lindsay Lohan and political sex scandals. It is imperative that we abandon the comfort of our insularity and reject the illusion that our nation is still at its prime. The fact is that a post-American world is quietly becoming realized and it is a world in which the term “nationality” will become more and more obsolete.
Secondly, it means that the solutions to problems — finance, education, politics, environment — will no longer find their roots solely in American ingenuity, but in the exchange of ideas between cultures. Most likely, it won’t be an American who will solve the looming energy crisis but a medley of scientists from all corners of the globe who have collaborated with eachother.
And finally, we have to realize that this trend is not reversible. The United States is not a monolith that acts in uniformity. It is composed of free thinking individuals, each pursuing opportunities to get ahead. As the world becomes more interconnected and opportunities abroad become easier to access, Americans will become attracted to them, which will only lead to greater accessibility, generating a self-perpetuating cycle. But it isn’t a bad thing. As long as we Cornellians are prepared and flexible, we can certainly excel in the age of globalization and should not be too worried about our employment prospects. There will be demand if we look far enough.
At the recent United Nations summit, China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao claimed, “China’s development is an opportunity to the world.” Empty rhetoric or not, China is in a position to surpass our economy around 2020, and once it does, we will be forced to engage the awakening giant, as well as other rising nations to our south and west. For us Americans — whatever that means anymore — it is time to think outside of the red, white and blue box.
Article found at http://cornelldailysun.com/section/opinion/content/2010/09/28/there-no-us 

iPhone 4 and POTD

Early Morning Sun on Campus
The future of POTD... Well, it all started not because I wanted to make a stunning or portfolio-worthy photo every day. Instead, I wanted to practice composition and photo techniques that I can learn and apply. At first, I limited the camera I was using for POTD to my simply point-and-shoot camera. Then, I lost track of my purpose, got overzealous, and started shooting with my DSLR for POTD photos. Then, I got lazy.

Earlier this week, I got my new iPhone 4. Interestingly enough, I jumped on the bandwagon only after iOS 4.1 had the HDR feature for the iPhone camera. And I love it!

POTD evolved from being a project to practice my photography into being a photo-journal to share with distant friends and family.

I'm proposing that, for the future of POTD, I will shoot primarily with my iPhone 5.0 MP camera. Post-processing will be done through several photo-editing apps on the iPhone, starting primarily with Photoshop Express. (Originally, I've been post-processing through Aperture on my Mac, which, as you all know, has become terribly slow.) I believe that this way, I can not only post in a more timely matter (and without such a long pipelined procedure), but also share more candid photos that are more accurate to the experience.

We'll see how it goes.

Photo of the Day 2010 on Flickr.

One of Each, Please

Apple.com Menu Bar

After the latest announcement, I had to do it. My iPhone 4 comes in tomorrow. Oddly enough, the number one feature I want on my phone is not multi-tasking, or voice search, or even the gyroscopometer (or whatever). I just really want the 5 MP camera and HD camcorder. Automatic HDR! That in itself sold me the phone.

I need one of each thing on Apple.com's menu bar. iPhone > iPad > Mac, in order of importance to me. My iPhone 3G is already more than two years old. My MacBook Pro is going on its fifth year. iPad with multi-tasking is amazing. And iPhone 4 just completes the set somehow. No more iProducts for at least two years, I promise.

50 Months with MBP - $1.80/Day

Some of you may know that my MacBook Pro has been slowly dying on the inside (literally) for about half a year now. After many instances of random shutdown and messed up startup screens, the computer will be 50 months old this month, September 2010. I first got it in August 2006, making it the first Intel Mac ever. It has lived through 3 major releases of Mac OS, starting with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

2.16 GHz Core Duo, 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 100 GB HDD

While it was covered under AppleCare two years ago, I had two batteries replaced, the power charger replaced, the logic board replaced, the LCD inverter replaced twice, the screen replaced, 1 GB RAM replaced, SuperDrive replaced, among four or so incidents. (I might be forgetting some.) All for free! Thank you, Apple. In all honesty, there was only two situations that really required service: 1) when the power charger cable burned, and when my screen was buzzing. Everything else, I must admit, was a little superfluous and only prompted action because I kept complaining. I'm pretty sure this is more indicative of really good customer service as opposed to shoddy Apple products. (P.S. I forgot that I got my entire MBP replaced the third day I got it back in August because it overheated and died. Shoddy Apple products? Maybe. Maybe it's just me.)

~$2500, including a free HP printer and an iPod nano 1G.

At about 50 months of use, that comes out to about $50/month, or $1.80/day in cost of ownership (assuming I stop using it this month). Compare this to a ~$800 Dell Inspiron E1505, a popular computer that 2006 high school graduates like myself get for college. It's used for only two years and is replaced by another, better computer. That becomes about $33/month or about $1.20/day for the Dell over two years. A typical user will then spend about $1000 on his next notebook computer. Bring these two computers to the 50-month time scale, we get $1800 (= $800 + $1000), over 50 months, i.e. up to the present. That comes out to $1.30/day for these two computers, about 50-cents cheaper than owning a Mac. So why even get a Mac? Seriously.

50-cents is an eighth the cost of buying coffee everyday (at an average of $4/cup/day). The daily cost of having a texting plan is about $0.57/day (at +$20/month for unlimited texting, via Verizon). 50-cents isn't all that much. I think it's worth the cost.

Now, I just need to dig up $2000 to get myself another MacBook Pro.