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Category: Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

What’s the idea?

The University of Waterloo Entrepreneurship Society hosted the: “What’s Your Idea Week!” in the final days of September this year. Ideas were abound and students eagerly absorbed tried and tested methods from both, amateur and veteran entrepreneurs alike. Pretty much, a lot of hand shaking, back patting and an all-around feel good atmosphere. Whereas an entrepreneur could have spent those precious hours towards his project, a lot of time was wasted pandering in the SLC to the already inflated egos of startup wannabes.

The toxic “young genius” persona lingered in the air for several days after. I’m sure several busybodies were left with a taste of self-importance in their mouth and had a rejuvenating experience to dedicate the next few days to some productive outlet. However short lasted it was, good for them; the real talent can be seen in the long haul of dedication towards a calling. Those set vividly apart from the quick burst workers who constantly require praise and applause. Put on a suit, host a site, engage, maintain a presence, sell, sell, sell.

Canada’s next Silicon Valley doesn’t lack in flashy suits and arrogant gaits. It lacks in cooperation, team work and community centered business. Are you creating a social media platform that is way cool and totally revolutionary? Good for you. Do you have the next big idea in alternative energy? Fantastic. Have you figured out why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch? That’s actually pretty impressive. You should go on national television with that one. The point is: create something meaningful, don’t let yourself be fooled; don’t surround yourself with those unwilling to say words like, “no and you suck, you have a bad hair-cut, I don’t like the way you smell frankly”. It builds character, it builds integrity and sometimes you need to be brought back to earth.

Regardless, if you spend your time postulating your imminent wealth with others, rather than contributing some form of effort towards the greater good of innovation and scientific discovery then reevaluate your motivations. Money is a fantastic thing; it’s multi-coloured and has astronauts on it — the $20 bill at least. It’s an abundant resource unlike honesty and passion.

If you’re passionate about something, if you dearly wish to change the world, then you will be willing to dedicate your life towards it. If you’re just looking to make money, than you know what, an idea week is probably all you need if you’re smart. People have gotten wealthy in less time than that. If there’s passion in UW and if there’s any chance of some revolutionary discovery at this institution, it very likely won’t be found in Entrepreneurship studies.

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Surveillance: a Liberal Perspective

by Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

PM hopeful Justin Trudeau has propelled himself into the spotlight once again. Arriving at the SLC on the 10th of September, he was greeted to a liberal cheer-fest. Already a better public speaker than during his leadership debates; his rhetoric is almost as well-groomed as his hairstyle (almost). I entered a crowd of fan-boys-and-girls alike, just in time for question period. This was my first vocal encounter with a national politician and unfortunately for him, I had come somewhat prepared.

I was eager to ask a question regarding national surveillance and government data collection, but somebody beat me to it. It was time for me to improvise and revise. The question asked was along the lines of will the government’s involvement continue in data collection programs. Justin’s answer in a nutshell: yes, more than ever.

He did mention civilian oversight in government decision making (something Harper has almost entirely cut out of the democratic process) and the importance of a continued discussion about the issue. Not laws or reform, just discussion, more particularly discussion between corporations (such as social media giants) and the government. His mention of corporations was an interesting one, but still nonetheless a failure to address the underlying problem.

It is well known that Google and social media websites knows an uncomfortable amount of information about us. His point was: that businesses use this information to generate a profit for their shareholders, not like our benevolent government who uses it for our own ‘security’. He continued to say that the government has a responsibility to ensure our security in a wider world due to an exposure to risk. A lot of talk about discussion, yet he failed to actually discuss the issue at hand.

When we sign up to any website or agree to use a service online, we are presented with a document called the “terms and conditions”. Although, many of us fail to read this document, it is widely available on all major platforms. In the terms and conditions, a lot of legal terminology is used to explain what kind of data they collect from you and how it’s being put to use. If I understand correctly, when you enter a voting booth, or become a citizen of this country, we are not presented with a terms and conditions as to what is being done in the name of our security and what sort of methods we are subject to. No, we have to hear it from somebody else, like our friendly neighborhood, Edward Snowden.

I politely raised my hand and after he commented on my tie (it was a nice tie, thank you), I asked him exactly this, “You said civilians approve to the collection of information by corporations and the government has a responsibility of security to the population. But as I understand, when you sign up on FB and social media, you approve to a terms and conditions. How would civilian oversight, show us the terms and conditions to our government surveillance and data collection?” Now, I was expecting an evasion but not to the magnitude he gave me.

A slight frown appeared on his face and in a defensive tone he cut me down in a single sentence. I couldn’t have been happier about the answer; it was exactly what I wanted. More than I wished for actually, it was a gift to solidify my disdain for big party politics. According to Trudeau, if you vote a particular party into government, you approve to whatever measures they take to ensure your security. So there you have it voters, if you vote Liberal, you approve of continued data collection.

I was surprised by the bluntness of his answer and can only think that it was the only question he was hoping to avoid, but maybe I’m giving myself too much credit. Maybe I just have a personal vendetta towards Justin Trudeau for rejecting my smartly worded questionings. My ego was defeated in the face of such a political giant and superstar, a distinguished veteran in the area of meet and greets. Regardless of my own opinion, when will we as Canadian people have an option to vote for somebody that offers actual change regarding issues that affect all of us? When will we as Canadians have the right to not be subjects of intrusive data collection methods by our own government? Justin, we are not the threat here, you and the government you support is.

I am not afraid

Author: Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

I blundered through my first year; in fact I enjoyed it so much I decided to give it another go. I come to you now as freshman 2.0, new and improved. My faculties have been dusted off, my program updated, and I return feeling better than ever. Fall 2014, here I come. I am not afraid.

Let me explain my first encounter with the big fish called the University of Waterloo. It managed to swallow me up and spit me out shortly after, covered in the slime of disappointment. I left a bad taste (and a hefty tuition) in the institutions mouth. Now to clear things up, I didn’t exactly fail any of my classes; I was forced to withdraw by a series of unfortunate events.

What began as a fantastic year, where I was eager, full of excitement and ambitious, quickly took a turn for the worse. I had begun the first year sprinting, diving into extracurriculars, exploring volunteering opportunities and even going to lectures beyond my scope of understanding. You can call it the naiveté of youth or just simply stupidity. Either way I was having a great time. I stayed relatively on top of my work load and followed through with assignments towards midterms. Then midterms arrived.

Midterms came and went. I frantically tried to salvage some dropping marks and then I crashed. Not figuratively, I literally crashed into another vehicle. So there I was having to deal with an accident, the unforeseen consequences of insurance and my faltering studies. I was beginning to sink deeper into the ocean of burdens and a weight was strapped onto my feet.

If this were a movie, I would have had a cinematic montage of recovery. Unfortunately each day went by as slowly as the rest and I kept sinking. Luckily, instead of just reacting, I acted of my own accord. Immediately after I crashed, I had warned my undergraduate advisor that this would greatly affect my studies. His concern and helpfulness guided me to a brighter ending of this story.

I went from advisor to advisor, explaining my situation, weighing my options, and dropping a few classes. Coupled with an accident, family and relationship struggles served to knock the final nails into my coffin. I was lowered into a six foot hole with a thud and I thought I was done for. I was going to be a dropout; somebody who tried and failed. I thought my world was ending and I envisioned a cynical old man who always talked about who he could have been.

Then, I was offered a way out: withdraw from your course load and begin anew. I was on track to fail a majority of my classes, so I jumped at the offer. My advisor walked me through the process, explained the required paperwork and even personally vouched for me.

My first request was denied; I required proof. I found myself in the registrar’s office gripping course override forms and an accident report. Shortly after, I received an email saying my withdrawal was completed successfully. I was out.

I would remain a student in the records and would have to apply for re-admission come July. Things finally began to relax for me and the weight was shedding. Unfortunately, I was going to miss a year, but I wasn’t too upset. Many people do not begin post-secondary education until they’re 19 and the experience has made me more realistic about my goals.

I took the time off to reorganize myself, work full time, and fix my car. The point is there’s always a second chance if you search for one. If I had remained silent about my situation and had not reached out to the many resources available at the University, I might not have had the opportunity to return.

I look forward to being back, to meet new faces and to offer a perspective for those who are in the same situation. If you’re a first year, you’re most likely feeling a combination of anxiety and hope; hope that you will succeed and the anxiety of possible failure of not meeting your expectations. Life will be hard on you, university will be hard on you, and people might be hard on you, but you don’t have to be hard on yourself. I sincerely hope that every incoming student enjoys their time here this year and if there’s one thing left to say it’s: do not be afraid.

A Human Perspective

Author: Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

For somebody who has literary pursuits,  there seems to be little to no creative writing initiatives outside of the scholastic sphere of Waterloo’s English programs. Historically speaking, major university institutions have a tradition of publishing journals, anthologies and generally promoting creative student ambitions. I can’t think of a better time to promote creativity in people than in a university atmosphere. Sure, UW’s English Society hosts poetry slams, but what about outlets for those who suffer from stage fright or rather prefer to write prose? There’s the recent literary magazine CODEX and a few club exclusive short-story contests (WatSFiC has its very own). Browsing EnglSoc’s WordPress, it seems as though their own creative writing gatherings are now defunct or rather in “remission”, so what can a student do if their institution’s very own English Society isn’t exactly promoting creative writing outside of its own faculty? There’s always the option of starting your own club, publishing your own work, or sending your work elsewhere. The creative aspect of any institution is as important as its technical half. Writers have contributed in countless ways to the benefit of society, laying the foundations to various intellectual movements and enlightenments. A writer can be a scientist or a writer can be an engineer, but most importantly a writer is a human voice; a voice too often silenced by machinations and statistics. Where is the human voice in Waterloo and when will it call out? 

Space battles

Author: Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

The Waterloo Science Fiction and Fantasy Club (WatSFiC) is a lovable nerf-gun toting bunch that hosts the apocalyptic campus-wide Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) event. Apart from dodging Styrofoam bullets and flying socks, WatSFiC promotes short story contests, movie nights and book clubs. The club is one of the few remaining “”grandfather”” clubs, predating the existence of Feds and is an integral member of the student club scene at the University of Waterloo.

Such a rich and substantial student community that attracts new members each term should be held in high esteem by students and faculty alike. One would guess that Feds would dutifully promote and encourage club initiatives that bring students together. A short discussion with former club supreme chancellor Brook Jensen proved otherwise.

A lover of books himself and writer on the side, Brook helped to manage a shared club library during his second term as supreme chancellor. A humble library on the lower floor of the SLC, it hosted a variety of club materials (books, DVDs, board games, etc.) and served as a meeting space for members of any club. What an awesome idea, but where is this library today? Replaced by dreary offices and paid staffers, that’’s where.

Stored away in dusty storage bins and rickety metal-grated lockers, the materials remain untouched and out of reach, even from their own member’s’ hands. It is a tale of bureaucracy and space disputes not so uncommon in UW’’s history, a tale that begins with an email. A hastily written email and a declaration of dominance on Feds’ behalf; “”we need the library room for an office, let’’s meet for relocation”” was the gist of it.

Feds had received a huge blow at the time. With the onset of hiring new employees and increasing its influence, they had lost Federation Hall, their lair and operational HQ. Feds was hungry for space, particularly a space for a communications director/manager/person that was desperate for an office where a lot of communication would take place. Rather than the negotiation it was passed as being, it was an ultimatum.

The 8–-10 month period that followed was one filled with pleas and botched compromise. The democratic process had prevailed and Feds was “”moving forward with hiring employees and had nowhere else to put them”” how else could you communicate without an office? To the dismay of the various clubs interested in the library (Muslim Student’s’ Association, CTRL-A, Space Club, WatSFiC, and others), their efforts ultimately fell on deaf ears.

Feds’ position was the usual: that there is a lack of space in the SLC. As well, they argued that WatSFiC alone had too small of a membership to merit a space within the SLC.
The time was up and negotiations had failed, an eviction notice was posted and boxes were being filled. The clubs library was no more; it was to be dismantled and the desks were to be moved in. The materials were scattered to basements, boiler rooms, lockers and the trash, almost impossible to easily acquire. Yet Feds had its desks, communications, staffers, and wages.

Today, there still remains a need for a clubs library. Hopefully, the Federation and SLC management will see that not only is study space important to students, but social and club space is as well.

Academics Against Mass Surveillance

Author: Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

Recent leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden implicated the Canadian government in questionable surveillance methods and NSA co-operation, both during the G8 and G20 summits. These classified documents reveal an appeasing attitude towards NSA operations and “close co-ordination with Canadian partners”, more particularly the Communication Security Establishment Canada (the same CSEC who has access to CSIS, which has a history of recruiting on this campus). Now, one might think that such revelations would spark public outcry or protest, yet the crickets keep chirping and the government remains silent.

It seems as though no local or national measures have been taken to show opposition to privacy infringement or questionable information gathering. Yet such surveillance methods are not only a danger to us, or North America as a whole, but they pose a significant threat to the larger international community.

Academics Against Mass Surveillance is an international petition formed by four individuals from the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam. Although petitions are often scoffed at, a declaration of opposition is a necessary component for any push towards a change in policy. At the time of writing this article, the petition had hundreds of signatories from academic institutions all over the world: Germany (81), Netherlands (70), the U.K. (55) and the U.S. (30). Canada wass shamed in comparison, with only 9 signatories (including two of our own, Associate Dean of Arts Robert W. Park and Professor Ian Goldberg).

As a person who values his privacy, I was interested in any efforts our own community at Waterloo might be putting forward to maintain security while browsing the net. Interestingly enough, the Computer Science Club is known to host a number of computer security and privacy events. While the petition is now closed due to having reached a certain number of participants, students can still always take the important step of building their own security with the help of workshops like these. Security should start at home.