February 2007

My cat

February 1, 2007 - Categories: cat

My cat’s generally psychotic nature can be explained by the fact that
when we found her, she was this ant-covered starving little ball of
fur trapped inside our bathroom wall. She’s always been a little bit
distrustful, quick to bat at others. It didn’t help that my sister
liked teasing her and that I’m the only cat person in the house. As a
result, she has a well-deserved reputation for being snooty and more
than a little ill-tempered.

But she lets me blow raspberries into her fur, and she sneaks under
the covers and curls up with me when I’m sleeping. It’s been good
seeing my cat again. She was so scrawny when I arrived, but it’s good
to see that she’s gained a little weight during my stay.

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Home

February 1, 2007 - Categories: family

Most people take vacations to escape reality. I took this vacation to
get back in touch with it. It’s been a very good trip.

I didn’t see all the sights that the Philippines has to offer. I
didn’t do all the networking that I was thinking of doing. I didn’t
even meet all the people I wanted to meet. But I felt truly at home
here, and I know that when I go back to Toronto, I’ll feel at home as
well.

Where is home, anyway? Home is where you know people so well that you
can be fully yourself. Home is where you share people’s saddest
moments and their best ones. Home is where even the most frustrating
moments help you grow, and where the best moments make you soar.

Being with my barkada reminded me how *wonderful* it is to have deep
friendships, and how totally awesome it is when your best friends are
also best friends with each other. I’m still growing all those
friendships in Canada, but we’ll get there. Being with my family
reminded me that through all things, family is there. I don’t have
family like that in Canada, but I can love my friends.

I’m going to miss leaning over and giving my mom a hug, scooping up
my cat and listening to her meow half-heartedly in complaint, and
watching my barkada’s antics at videoke. But there’s a time and place
for everything, and I’ll be able to enjoy all of that again during my
next trip.

I’m flying off tomorrow, but I’m not leaving. When I arrive in
Toronto, I won’t be lost. I have two homes now. Isn’t it so wonderful
that I can experience the joys of coming home twice over?

When I go back to Canada, I’m going to keep trying. I’ll work hard on
my thesis so that I can graduate early. I’ll also work on my job
permit so that I can take advantage of the opportunities. I’ll go out
and meet more people so that I can mix more people into the group.
I’ll dare to live life and to share it with others.

Life is awesome.

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I won’t be part of the brain drain

February 1, 2007 - Categories: philippines

It’ll be easy for me to establish myself abroad. I have to keep my
ties to the Philippines strong. If I wait until I’m rich, my reasons
for caring won’t be as vivid. I might forget why I love my country
despite the smog, the traffic, the scandals. I’ll make sure I
remember. I’ll keep an eye out for stories that make me feel good
about the Philippines and I’ll keep looking for ways to help.

I pledge 10% of my income towards charitable causes. I don’t want to
stop at sending money home. I want to find a cause that I can be
involved in, that will e-mail me reports of the difference it is
making in people’s lives.

As long as the Philippines is real to me, I will also be fully real
and alive.

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Job search? Company search!

February 1, 2007 - Categories: career

I figured out what I really, really, really want to do as my next job.
I’m a perfect fit for it, and it’s a perfect fit for me. Now all I
have to do is sell my future company on the idea so that they’ll
create my position. I’m not searching for a job… I have a job
that’ll create a *lot* of value, and now all I have to do is search
for a company!

Watch. I’ve got Awesome Things planned. Here are my next actions.

MWAHAHA!

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All my bags are packed

February 2, 2007 - Categories: travel

Props to my mom for mad repacking skills which allowed us to cram even
more dried mangoes into my luggage.

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At the Hong Kong International Airport

February 2, 2007 - Categories: travel

I’m at the HKIA. I’ve snagged a sleep pillow from one of the airport
shops. I couldn’t find a buckwheat lavender-scented sleeping pillow,
but I guess that was pushing my luck. ;) I ended up choosing between a
Samsonite dual-cushion pillow and a standard-looking Korjo one. The
Korjo pillow won because I had *just* enough Hong Kong dollars to buy
it and I didn’t feel like converting money. This should make the
return trip easier.

So, what’s the plan?

I’m not going to get really good sleep. So much for my pimples. I’ve
broken out into pimples because I’ve been drinking too little water
over the past few days, but I plan to schedule an appointment with the
dermatologist as soon as I can. I tend to break out badly during
periods of high stress, low water, and little sleep… which is just
about every long trip! Ah well. =)

There are a few movies I wouldn’t mind catching. Marcelle will be
happy to know that The Prestige is available, and I’m definitely going
to catch that. I need to plan so that I don’t have jetlag, though, as
I have quite a full weekend ahead.

I’m going to land in Toronto at 8:50 PM, so I should be awake for
maybe 12 hours during the flight. So four hours of sleep at the
beginning, maybe a little more because of all the interruptions, and
then I’ll spend the rest of the time watching movies and writing.
And drinking plenty of water and walking around, too.

Ah, timezones…

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They’re just material things…

February 5, 2007 - Categories: life

… and I shouldn’t get attached to them, but it’s frustrating coming
back to find stuff missing: two of my Corelle bowls, three of my
saucers, five of my mugs…

The suitemate who habitually took my china out of the suite not only
is no longer here, but was also the one who gave me such a hard time
before.

I want my own place.

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I can afford to raise my rent

February 5, 2007 - Categories: finance

Is the experience of being able to live on my own worth the loss of a
little compound interest? I haven’t parked that money in long-term
high-growth investments. I think the experience will be a good
investment, and getting into it earlier rather than later will ease my
transition.

Hmm. Okay, target: move out in April with all the rest of the
students, unless I can find a nice place already. Should ask Graduate
House when I can move out.

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Democamp was lots of fun

February 6, 2007 - Categories: democamp

After I unpacked and put away all my stuff, I headed to No Regrets to
catch Democamp, Toronto’s awesome techscene get-together. I missed the
Democamp scene while I was away!

Project Who’s Who is underway. We’ll figure out what to do with all
these photos soon.

I think the coolest thing to come out of this is that we’ll adopt Will
Pate into our group. He’ll like hanging out with them, and we’ll like
him too. He’s a geek with a great sense of humor, and he’s around our
ages. Yes, we’ll assimilate him if he lets us. =)

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Hmm. Problem.

February 6, 2007 - Categories: life

No adapter for cellphone.

No alarm clock.

Hmm.

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I have so much reading to catch up on!

February 6, 2007 - Categories: school

This is good. I think I’m going to be an introvert for a while. So
many books and blogs to read, so much to write…

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Made my own lunch today!

February 6, 2007 - Categories: cooking

Brought two grilled cheese sandwiches that I made this morning. This is good. I should time it next time…

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Day 1

February 6, 2007 - Categories: school

My thesis is getting off the ground. Yay!

I’ve *so* much to catch up on. I don’t have to make up my own
exercises to learn more about sales and marketing. Right now my
instincts are telling me to catch up on Enterprise 2.0 (*so* much has
been going on!); to live, breathe and eat it, and to write as much as
I can.

Now is no time to rest. =) Let’s rock.

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What was I thinking?

February 6, 2007 - Categories: school

Why on earth was I feeling frustrated with my thesis? One day on the
IBM intranet, and I’m full of energy and raring to go. I can’t wait to
prototype that search engine, and I can’t wait to see all these Web
2.0 concepts in action. I love being around such awesome people, and I
can’t wait to figure out how to make this my day job!

I have to move fast, because the swell is building and I want to
catch the wave…

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Level up!

February 6, 2007 - Categories: life

My kitchen cupboard is organized again, or at least as well-organized
as it can be given that I have to cram everything into one cubic meter
with three shelves. One of my decisions for 2007 is to buy organic
whenever possible, and thus upgrade my quality of life.

I picked up organic toothpaste from the Noah health food store near
Bloor and Spadina. Standing in front of the shelves, I was overwhelmed
by all the choices, but one of the other shoppers helped me out. I
guess people in health food stores tend to strike up conversations
with other people in health food stores…

I also bought Burt’s Bees day cream. I’ve never used day cream before,
but it seems to be an essential part of other people’s personal care.
Winter is really drying, whether you’re inside or outside, and this
might help.

I’ve resumed the CookOrDie project, too. Today I had grilled cheese
sandwiches for lunch and creamy boscaiola for dinner. Look, I followed
a recipe for once! =) It’s really simple: fry chopped bacon and sliced
mushrooms in oil until golden, add cream and cook over high heat until
you can coat the back of a spoon (stir constantly!), add a chopped
spring onion and toss with pasta. It was a good meal. I’ll do it
again tomorrow to see if I’ve gotten the hang of it.

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Off the phone network

February 6, 2007 - Categories: travel

I seem to have left my Nokia phone adapter in the Philippines. If
you’ve been trying to reach me at +1 416 823 2669, please send me
e-mail instead. =) Thanks!

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Scored a power adapter!

February 6, 2007 - Categories: life

See, this is why I have two phones… one’s a backup! The Motorola
PEBL isn’t as nice as my Nokia, though, so if I can take a
no-longer-used power adapter off someone’s hands, that would be even
better. =)

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Fully booked

February 6, 2007 - Categories: life

Wow, I have social activities booked for the next two weeks. This will
be interesting.

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Torture

February 7, 2007 - Categories: philippines

Reading Dominique’s blog post about “Deal or No Deal” made me feel terrible about television shows. Marcelle told me about Wowowee, too… How twisted do we have to be in order to derive pleasure from watching the agony of the poor?

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Progress!

February 7, 2007 - Categories: school

The Ruby on Rails web programming framework is just plain amazing. I
added maps to my search prototype. The code was really simple! I’m
almost a week and a half ahead of schedule on the interactive
prototype. I’ll focus on the backend for the rest of the week so that
I can run that performance study…

Very happy girl.

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I have finally caught up with LJ

February 8, 2007 - Categories: life

At least for now. No longer a delinquent friend… yay!

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Competition and cooperation

February 8, 2007 - Categories: geek

JJ Ferro pointed out this inspiring story of how technology can make a
difference and how competitions can lead to cooperation.

Challenge finalists team up to aid typhoon victims
One of the great benefits of participation in the Challenge is the
sense of community and mutual trust that develops among the finalists
especially. That sense of belonging is the basis of a collaboration
between two of the 2006 finalists

When a typhoon hit the Philippine province of Bicol in early December
2006, challenge finalist Jay Vincent Plaza of HotCity Wireless wanted
to help, but, while he knew how to deploy wireless networks to replace
the damaged telecommunications infrastructure, he needed tools to
connect donors, volunteers and victims to solve the many problems that
had arisen.

As a finalist in the 2006 Awards Jay remembered another finalist, a
disaster response project from the Health category that had an
application for exactly that purpose.

That’s the best story I’ve ever heard about competition. =)

E-Mail from Jj Ferro

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The paperwork is easy!

February 8, 2007 - Categories: canada

I passed by the International Student Centre to ask about work
permits, and I’m thrilled to report that the process of hiring me will
be *really* easy for Canadian companies.

Because there’s a special category of work permits for international
graduate students (how convenient!), Canadian companies can treat me
like any other Canadian when hiring. They don’t have to do an
extensive job search or be of a certain size. They just have to decide
what they want me to do.

The permit allows me to work in Canada for one year. Applying for a
proper work permit after that should take me around four months. The
six-month performance review is a good time to get started on that
paperwork. The second work permit will allow me to work for an
additional two years. When I have more work experience, I’ll easily
qualify for a skilled worker visa, which will let me become a
permanent resident. The government will credit a maximum of one year
from non-permanent residents, so after two more years of permanent
residency, I’ll be able to apply for citizenship.

So I’ll probably complete the process four years from now: 2011. I
will be 27 years old, maybe 28. Yes, that sounds like a good plan.
It’ll open up more opportunities for me, and I can use those
opportunities to help others.

I still love the Philippines, and I’m glad that I can become a dual
citizen instead of giving up my Filipino citizenship. I’m looking
forward to being one of the examples of people who manage to bridge
both worlds.

My next step is to apply for an off-campus work permit so that I can
start work before I graduate. This will be handy after I finish my
thesis, because I can do a maximum of 20 hours of work while waiting
for the rest of the university paperwork to clear. By June I need to
have a chosen job offer firmly in my pocket.

Hmm. I woke up my network a little early, then, but that’s okay. I’m
the kind of person job ads are rarely written for. It’s early in the
year. People can start planning for me. That way, when I’m ready, they
can create a position if they don’t already have one!

There’ll be no lack of things I can do in Toronto. The only thing is
to find the best fit: the best fit for the company, and the best fit
for me. I know I can do the technical stuff. I want to learn more
about the people side of things: customer relations, public relations,
sales, marketing, and even management. I can learn new technologies
and tools through experimentation and from documentation (and
source!), but people skills are the ones that will really make me
wildly successful. =)

Life is good.

Housing

February 8, 2007 - Categories: life

I have decided to stay in Toronto for the next few years. I want to
get used to living somewhere. I’ve packed up and lived in a strange
country—twice. Now I want to try becoming a pillar of the community.

Now that I’ve decided to stick around, I can consider long-term
housing. I passed by the student centre for off-campus housing. I was
pleased to see that the advertised locations were generally cheaper
than those advertised in newspapers. I’m looking forward to taking
advantage of these great resources!

The person at the student centre said that April and May are when all
the boards are full. If I wait until then, I’m sure to have much more
choice. On the other hand, I can start seriously looking soon (after
my NY trip!), but only take a place if it’s seriously stellar.

I think I’ll slowly inch my way up the renting ladder. I’ll start with
a budget of $800-1000, and I’ll give myself a raise in a year (which
is just about the right timing anyway). The cost of moving shouldn’t
be too high, especially as I’ll be moving around in the same city.

What’s the immediate cost? Visiting places takes time. It’s good
practice for interviewing people, though. I can use it as an excuse to
explore neighborhoods, too. High-rises are better than houses for
this, because if I find something wonderful that I’m not ready to move
into yet, I can bookmark it and have a reasonable chance of getting a
spot.

Also, condominium rentals are more expensive than house rentals, but
they might also be managed better because the landlords have more
experience. There will be less negotiation, but that’s okay—at least
it’s pretty clear. I like the idea of 24h security and having control
over the entire unit instead of sharing a house with someone else, and
the condominium rules make it easier to deal with neighbors. Also, if
I give parties or have people over, then amenities might be nice.
Downside? The block design might be sad, and I won’t have as much
control over the interior as I’d like—but then again, I’m not
planning to do any renovations this soon anyway.

Clearly my inner self is keen on going for a medium- or high-rise for
now. I’ll ask about Graduate House’s moving-out policy. Then I’ll
start a short-term project: apartment-hunting. Two weeks for
information-gathering, two weeks for looking at places. If Graduate
House will let me give a month’s notice and still be flexible about
it, then I’ll probably be out by April 1. I’ve already paid for
February rent, and my deposit can cover March’s rent. I can actually
move out earlier if I’m willing to forfeit the deposit, but what’s
another month? It will fly by. So now is actually the right time for
me to be looking for these things.

A quick search of the rental listings shows that I can stay within the
the downtown rectangle of Bloor/King-Spadina/Yonge given my budget, so
I don’t need to compromise on location. I’m drawn to hardwood floors
and big windows, and I would love to have a bedroom window with plenty
of sunlight (only way to get out of bed!). I don’t smoke, so a balcony
or patio would be useful for me only if it’s large enough to have the
occasional outdoor meal. A studio or 1-bedroom would be ideal because
it’s easier to manage parties if I can keep an area separate. I’ll
take a furnished suite only if I can change the furniture gradually.

Right. I should jump and trust that there’ll be someplace to catch me.
I’ll plan to move out mid-March, so there’s time for me to settle in
or hit the panic button. Doing the move now instead of delaying until
graduation is good, actually, as that means I’m only making one major
life change at a time (and my postal address will be good during my
job search and everything!).

Yes, life is good when you have a plan…

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New plan

February 8, 2007 - Categories: life

Wow, when my life decides to go somewhere, it moves *really* quickly!

It seems more complicated than it is, but I *might* be able to do
something tricky if I can swing the very careful timing. It’ll be more
convenient than moving twice in a month, for sure.

I need a short-term storage company, some boxes, and a mover or a
really big favor. I can do this. I can make this happen.

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Okay! I’ve got it!

February 8, 2007 - Categories: plans
  1. Find boxes.
  2. Pack one backpack of clothes to take to NY.
  3. Pack one suitcase of clothes that I need if treating GH as a hostel.
  4. Pack everything else into boxes.
  5. Move boxes into Graduate House temporary storage (ideal), the other room (2nd option), or someone’s basement (may require huge favor)
  6. Shop around for condo rentals. Don’t panic; we have good backup plans.
  7. Move. Will definitely require huge favor.
  8. Throw house-warming party. Get new plates.

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Borrowed some time from my thesis…

February 9, 2007 - Categories: life

… to scour Toronto for an apartment. I wrote down the details of
more than thirty ads, called more than twenty places, visited as many
as I could before friction caused the inner soles of my shoes to heat
up and the bottom of my socks to thin out.

I’m thrilled to say that I found one: right across the street.

Life is going to be a _little_ bit tricky. I’m taking some big risks
here, but I both think and feel that I can take it, and my downside
seems well-covered. I’m biting off more than I’ve chewed before, but
I’m confident that I’ll either be able to handle it or throw it up
without injuring myself badly. =) That’s enough for that
metaphor, thank you…

I’m also slowly teaching myself more about risk, too. I have to.
Better to make lots of small decisions with possible mistakes than to
play it safe all the time and find yourself unable to cope with the
big opportunities that come up. I’m not dealing with huge
opportunities yet, but I want to be!

I borrowed time from my thesis to go on this adventure. Like any kind
of loan, I have to now pay it back with interest. I have a new reason
to not only do well on my thesis, but to do *really* well. And I
*hope* all the pieces fall together neatly, because as much as I trust
that I have a good backup plan, I like it when things Just Work…

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I just have to ride out the panic…

February 9, 2007 - Categories: life

Panic is natural. As long as I don’t act during it, I’m fine… I’ll
work out a plan somehow. What’s the worst case, anyway? The absolute
absolute worst case is that I either have to take advantage of the
university’s short-term immediate housing resources, or crash in
someone’s basement… Whatever it is, it’s going to be temporary.

This is not a crisis.

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Found my checkbook…

February 9, 2007 - Categories: life

… zippered into the lining of my carry-on suitcase, practically
flush with the frame of the suitcase. That’s probably why I missed it
when I was unpacking everything. I checked every pocket, but didn’t
feel anything out of the ordinary. Small, flat, rectangular checkbooks
feel much like parts of suitcase frames!

Also, I’m getting *really* good at using breathing and mental
reminders to trick myself into not panicking (or at least to keep
moving forward while stresssing out)…

OKAY. Things are going to work out. The worst case is manageable. Now
let’s try to make the best case happen.

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Also, positive thinking means that…

February 9, 2007 - Categories: life

… you put “Find checkbook” on your task list instead of “Look for checkbook”. ;)

Little things matter.

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Is this what a trapeze artist feels?

February 9, 2007 - Categories: life

This is a fascinating feeling. I’m not sure if I’ve blogged it before.
There’s fear, yes. I can feel the stress in the tightening of my
ribcage, the shallowness of my breathing, the tension in my stomach.

But there’s also exhilaration at the prospects in front of me: not
just in terms of housing, but other things as well. Can I do it? I
*will* do it… but can I do it as well as I plan? Can I have it all?
So there’s that excitement.

There’s more here, though. There’s the fun I had with programming
competitions and puzzles and problem solving… Taking a knotty
problem, pulling out pieces of it, simplifying it until it’s
manageable, and then going for it. This translates into a methodical
management of risk.

And there’s my trust in the safety net, my plans for the worst case
scenarios.

One more: the acceptance of both future versions of myself: whether I
succeed or fail.

If I can feel this way with small things, what more when I can trust
myself with larger ones? =D Am I making too big a deal of it? I don’t
know; I’m certainly thinking a lot more about it than I think others
do. If I make a big deal of it but still manage to come through, then
that’s cool – this trains me to work under pressure and for higher
stakes even though my actual stakes are low. =)

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What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

February 9, 2007 - Categories: life

When people think of scary things, they usually think of flashy stuff:
sharks, heights, etc. The scariest things, however, aren’t those that
are outside you, but rather within you and because of you.

The next two weeks will be the scariest I’ve had because of the move,
because of New York, because of everything. I think I can do it (if I
can just stop blogging about it!).

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? What’s the biggest risk
you’ve taken? How did you prepare for it? How did you deal with the
results? E-mail me at sacha@sachachua.com, comment on my blog, or tell
me stories some other way – examples would help me keep sane!
<laugh>

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Snuggle

February 9, 2007 - Categories: friends

Today was just way too intense. A morning of calling, an afternoon of
walking, an evening of panicking…

I’m exhausted. I’m going to curl up with a stuffed penguin now. Talk
to you folks tomorrow.

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I have the awesomest friends

February 10, 2007 - Categories: friends

I don’t know how anyone can be so lucky to have such awesome friends.
If you’re ever a first-generation immigrant-to-be, here’s a tip: make
friends. Make deep friends. Best friends. Meet the kind of people
you’d like to grow old with.

I don’t know how anyone can be so lucky to have such awesome friends
in several countries…

Crafting day at the Gorey

February 13, 2007 - Categories: friends

Last Saturday was crafting day at The Gorey, where Quinn, Jed and
Leigh live. I created three pieces: a 3-strand faux rose pearl
bracelet with a magnetic clasp, a pair of chandelier earrings with
diodes, and a necklace with bells and seed beads to match the Ifugao
belt that I had turned into earmuffs. I’ll post pictures after I get
back from New York and finish move number one.

I like crafting. I can create exactly what I want instead of combing
stores until I find someone who’s quirky in just the same way as I
am… =)

Crafting with friends is even more fun! Quinn taught Alex and Eric how
to knit, and we spent a lazy Saturday afternoon just chatting over our
respective hobbies. Good stuff.

Random Emacs symbol: ediff-merge-files-with-ancestor – Command: Merge two files with ancestor.

Help getting on my feet = priceless

February 13, 2007 - Categories: friends

Last Sunday, I showed Wayne Young the
apartment I’m planning to rent. He’ll sign the contract as my
guarantor, so he should get to see what I’m renting. He’s a lot more
experienced than I am at evaluating places, The place had his
approval, which made me feel a lot better. His daughter also approved
of it, as the closet made a good hiding place. I owe him *big time*
for helping me begin the process of settling into Canada. I don’t know
how I could do it without his help!

After I showed him the place, he taught me how to make tonkatsu. While
we were making tonkatsu, I introduced his daughter to
Cute Overload. (Cute overload!) Then we
played Brain Age on the Nintendo DS, which was tons of fun and which
made me want to write my own version for my Vaio. (I should be able to
get something like that going…)

It was a wonderfully relaxing Sunday evening. I’m so glad to share my
life with people like them. =)

Random Emacs symbol: mm-pipe-part – Function: Pipe HANDLE to a process.

Gwah

February 13, 2007 - Categories: life

I occasionally forget to drink enough water, particularly when a lot
of things are happening at the same time. Sometimes I need help
remembering, and sometimes I need help dealing with what happens when
I don’t remember…

Simon and I chatted after I got back from having dinner with a
Microsoft evangelist. I couldn’t talk for long, though. I needed to
nap. I meant to nap for twenty minutes. I woke up two hours later with
a bad case of cramps, eyes too dry to keep open, and a serious
inclination to stay under the covers and sleep. I texted Simon about
my worries that I’d be often sick alone in the new apartment, and he
called to insist on coming over and taking care of me.

I don’t know whether it was the thermal pack he heated up, the glass
of water he always kept full, or the hugs and the smiles he gave me,
but I felt much less miserable. I’m glad he got to do a little bit of
work, too. He left when my roommate came in so that he wouldn’t
disturb her, but it was nice getting pampered. =)

Random Emacs symbol: message-insert-signature – Command: Insert a signature. See documentation for variable `message-signature’.

At the terminal

February 14, 2007 - Categories: travel

My 6:30 AM flight to New York got cancelled because of the snow. I’ve
been rebooked onto the next available flight at 3:15 PM. I don’t mind
spending a day in the airport terminal, and it would be even better if
I can find myself a conveniently-placed power outlet to plug into…
AHA! What do you know: one right by the restaurant table I’ve
sequestered as my office for the day.

OKAY. We’re set!

I just have to text or call Don Marti so that he knows not to expect
me before dinner. I’d have preferred to be there for the first day of
the conference, but if life really wants to drive home the lesson that
you fly in early the *DAY BEFORE* in order to guard against stuff like
this, that’s okay. I’ve paid my tuition for this lesson, and I’m
learning more about how to deal with little things like that…

I’m going to get so much mail and writing done today!

No flights into New York today…

February 14, 2007 - Categories: travel

… and flying in tomorrow’s not going to be nearly as much fun, so
I’d rather fly some other time. S’okay – much to be done over here
too!

Random Emacs symbol: calendar-read – Function: Return an object read from the minibuffer.

Time to be selfish

February 15, 2007 - Categories: life

I can make a difference in people’s lives, yes, but if I direct that
energy towards improving my own, I can make more of a difference in
people’s lives later on. Everything has to be worth it…

Random Emacs symbol: muse-wiki-publish-pretty-interwiki – Function: Replace instances of `muse-wiki-interwiki-delimiter’ with

Tough decisions

February 15, 2007 - Categories: decision

I’m not sad. But I’m not thrilled, either. With all the challenges
ahead of me, I need to have net positive energy; I can’t even afford
neutrality. So as tough as it may be, I’m going to have to force the
issue.

Random Emacs symbol: nntp-with-open-group – Macro: Protect against servers that don’t like clients that keep idle connections opens.

Matter resolved

February 16, 2007 - Categories: life

After an intense week of conversation, the matter that had been on my
mind has been resolved. I think that things turned out in the
best way possible. Unbloggable details to be shared over hot chocolate
or cellphone; summary of decision to be posted on blog when finalized.

Random Emacs symbol: pcomplete-quote-arg-hook – Variable: *A hook which is run to quote a character within a filename.

The bin-packing problem

February 16, 2007 - Categories: geek

Every computer scientist learns, at some point, algorithms for solving
the bin-packing problem. That is: given a container of limited size
and objects of varying size and value, find the combination of items
that results in maximum value. As the exhaustive way of solving this
problem is, of course, exhausting, I choose the greedy heuristic: take
the items that mean the most to me and put them in.

So I take with me only the things with memories attached to them,
because those are the only things worth keeping anyway…

Random Emacs symbol: calendar-make-alist – Function: Make an assoc list corresponding to SEQUENCE.

Movie seating for geeks

February 17, 2007 - Categories: geek

http://xkcd.com/c173.html

I’ve totally done this. ‘course, I was a little too obvious about it, but hey… <laugh>

E-Mail from Leigh Honeywell

Random Emacs symbol: eshell/printnl – Function: Print out each of the argument, separated by newlines.

Clarity

February 17, 2007 - Categories: love

Simon and I are no longer in a romantic relationship. And as much as I
have the urge to go back and try to figure out how to make it work,
the best thing for me to do right now is declare a one month
moratorium on relationship-related stuff.

Random Emacs symbol: tramp-smb-send-command – Function: Send the COMMAND to USER at HOST (logged into an SMB session).

My computer is groaning!

February 17, 2007 - Categories: geek

So I’m slurping the bookmark database into my laptop in order to do
offline prototyping, and it just can’t take it… Not enough memory, I
think. It’s funny how computers don’t really get slower, we just end
up wanting to do too much with it…

Random Emacs symbol: rmail-summary-line-decoder – Variable: *Function to decode summary-line.

Permission to be sad, sir!

February 17, 2007 - Categories: love

I went to the Gorey last Friday to visit Quinn and Jed (Leigh’s out of
town) and share what’s going on in my life. I needed company, and it
was the best place I could go and they were the best people I could go
to right then and there.

It’s incredibly cathartic, being given permission to be sad and
exploring my feelings with such insightful and accepting friends. They
shared stories from their experiences and helped draw out how I felt.
I felt sad, yes, but not for the initial reason that I supposed. At
the same time, they didn’t let me wallow in self-pity. They kept me
busy, happy, and well-fed (and full of chocolate!). Quinn wrote me a
beautiful letter, too, reminding me that while friends are good, they
are also a way for me to distract myself from what I may need to face
alone. Now that I’m back at Graduate House, I find myself more excited
about the future than I am sad or disappointed.

I moved to a new suite within Graduate House, and my Internet
connection here hasn’t gotten fully hooked up yet. I’m going to the
Gorey. Geek friends, wireless Internet, maybe even lunch and dinner
into the bargain… Sure, the lab’s just down the street, but the
Gorey’s worth the trip.

I’m so grateful to share this universe with people like them. I know
other friends would have loved to share that part of life with me as
well. There’ll be other times, other sorrows, other joys… and I’m
looking forward to all of it and sharing it with friends!

Random Emacs symbol: Custom-mode-menu – Command: Menu used in customization buffers. – Variable: Menu used in customization buffers.

A place to live

February 18, 2007 - Categories: life

I’m beginning to like the new suite in Graduate House. Sure, it was a
pain boxing up all of my stuff, carting them up one floor, and lugging
them down stairs for a total horizontal displacement of maybe 30
meters that included an impassable wall… but it’s nice having a view
of the Real World instead of the courtyard. I always felt as if I was
gazing at the navel of Graduate House. We didn’t get a lot of sun in
the old suite, so I kept my shades closed all the time rather than
have people see into my room. Now we face out, but at a decent height,
so I’m allowing myself to keep the shades open and the sunshine coming
through.

I’m excited about renting the new place, though. I just received the
financial statement from the bank. They got it to me in three business
days instead of 7, which makes me quite relieved as I had been cutting
the timing a little too close. I hope the university doesn’t shut down
during Reading Week, which I had also forgotten about, as I need the
letter of employment. I also hope that Wayne’s letter of employment
and financial statement make it through in time. I’m looking forward
to having my own place.

That said, I’m not too worried. If it falls through, that just means
that the world has an even better place in store for me. Maybe I
should keep looking instead of having my heart set on this one place.
I’ll do that when I have time again. I have other things to take care
of right now.

But it’s so nice to have the sun help me wake up…

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-article-strip-all-blank-lines – Command: Strip all blank lines.

Weekly report

February 18, 2007 - Categories: weekly

This week was more intense than most in terms of personal drama, but I
think that’s subsiding now as I’ve gotten the hang of things. I felt
as if I slowed down a lot in terms of research, but looking back, I
see this week as paying a short-term cost in order to gain long-term
improvement. This week I also came to appreciate my friends even more,
and I look forward to being even more a part of their lives as well as
reawakening and expanding my other friendships.

I usually advocate focusing on the positive, but this time I made
myself focus on the negative. It was an interesting exercise, and I
ended up filling a small slip of paper front and back with reasons why
it’s better this way. That makes it so much easier to focus on other
things, too… =)

Next week is going to be intense. I have an important meeting on
Monday. On Wednesday, I’m skipping a symposium on sustainability in
order to do a day of service, volunteering to help the hungry and
homeless. I cancelled my ski trip for Friday in order to spend more
time on paperwork and thesis, and to catch up with other friends. I
also hope to propose the ethics protocols for my experiment and hook
up the back end to the front end of my prototype.

Good week behind me, good week ahead… Life is good.

Random Emacs symbol: mail-extr-disable-voodoo – Variable: *If it is a
regexp, names matching it will never be modified.

Barter Network Toronto

February 18, 2007 - Categories: canada

An article in the Small Business magazine led me to
Barter Network, a Toronto-based
business-to-business trade exchange that’s definitely worth checking
out. I’ve sent the paperwork for the off-campus work permit, and I
should look into how I can register as an independent consultant. I’ll
focus on my thesis first, of course, but this looks like a useful
resource and something to recommend to others…

Fine, I’m on Facebook

February 19, 2007 - Categories: life

I tried to stay away from Facebook for the longest time, but there, a friend managed to suck me into it… So there. Facebook me. =)

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-topic-list – Function: Return a list of all topics in the topology.

The water boar

February 19, 2007 - Categories: life

Neil Ernst blogged about Chinese astrology, so I thought I’d look my sign up as well. My father and I were both born in the Year of the Boar, which has just cycled around. I was born in the year of the Water Boar, 1983. The Wikipedia entry on water says, “Water is representative of intelligence and wisdom; however, an overabundance of the element is said to cause difficulty in choosing something and sticking to it.” The Pig, however, is supposed to be a conservative creature of habit that dislikes having to travel far from familiar surroundings… and I’m halfway around the world! =)

Random Emacs symbol: w3m-arrived-add – Function: Add URL to the arrived URLs database.

Toast

February 19, 2007 - Categories: cookordie

It seems very inefficient to use the Broil/Grill function on the oven
to heat up a peanut-butter sandwich, but this suite has three rice
cookers and no toasters. Go figure. =) I won’t have a toaster at the
other side yet, either… I’ll add a toaster oven to my wish list.

I’m a little uncertain about the prospects of living off peanut butter
sandwiches for the next few weeks. My mom told me stories of managing
it when she was in college, though, so it can’t be *too* bad for me.
I’m looking forward to having a proper kitchen, though! I will be very
slow and very careful about buying things, but I’m looking forward to
properly doing once-a-month or once-a-week cooking.

I hope to get the paperwork for the lease together in time. Thursday,
I’m going to run around and pick up paperwork. I’m looking forward to
eating more than peanut butter toast…

On Technorati:

Random Emacs symbol: minibuffer-window – Function: Return the window used now for minibuffers.

Emacs: 15 times multiplication table

February 19, 2007 - Categories: emacs

Wayne will get a kick out of the fact that I wrote a function to help
me set up Emacs to do a little of what his Nintendo DS does…

(Just you wait until I get speech recognition, sir!)

;; Create a flashcard-type file for the multiplication table until 15
(insert
 (mapconcat
  'identity
  (shuffle-vector
   (apply
    'vector
    (apply
     'append
     (let ((list '(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15)))
       (mapcar
        (lambda (a)
          (mapcar
           (lambda (b)
             (format "%d x %d = : %d" a b (* a b)))
           list))
        list)))))
  "\n"))

On Technorati:

Random Emacs symbol: mm-insert-part – Function: Insert the contents of HANDLE in the current buffer.

Toronto Technology Week!

February 19, 2007 - Categories: canada

Toronto Technology Week will be from May 28 to June 1, and I am *so* excited about it! With the Mesh Web 2.0 conference and the best of BarCamp and DemoCamp lining up, it’s going to be an amazing week. I know about it, and you know about it, but every geek in Toronto has to find out about it in time to make it to all the parties!

It’ll be my personal mission to spread the world and to nudge
interesting people to organize events around then. =D Can’t wait!

Random Emacs symbol: widget-menu-max-shortcuts – Variable: Largest number of items for which it works to choose one with a character.

Rediscovering the Graduate House reading room

February 19, 2007 - Categories: school

To my surprise, there’s a copy of the Battle Royale novel. That wasn’t
there before. And it’s great reading foreign papers. From The
Guardian, I learn that the British are upset about friendly fire from
US soldiers (which naturally gets hushed up in US news). From Haaretz
Weekly, I learn that the tiny community of Samaritans (who can trace
some 126 generations of high priests) has relaxed prohibitions against
marrying outside the community and taken to importing brides from
Ukraine in order to address inbreeding (there you go, the up side of
mail order brides). The Wall Street Journal is, of course, the Wall
Street Journal.

Ah, to rediscover this the month before I leave… I’m sure the
Toronto Public Library will have something similar, even if I have to
make myself reading dates at the reference library branch. =)

Random Emacs symbol: tool-bar-button-relief – Variable: *Relief thickness of tool-bar buttons.

Edgy

February 20, 2007 - Categories: life

I think I left my phone in my room. At least I hope it did – my desk
is a far better place for it than the subway. I’m also a little edgy
about the fact that the form I got from PCFinancial wasn’t actually my
financial statement, but rather some data I need for filing my taxes.
I’ll keep an eye out for the financial statement in the mail, but I’m
cutting it a bit close to the deadline. I’ll also ask Quinn’s backup
to keep an eye out for the fax.
x
The timing of this week is a little delicate…

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-article-strip-all-blank-lines – Command: Strip all blank lines.

Much progress!

February 20, 2007 - Categories: school

I was stressing out about hooking up the back end of my metasearch
engine to the front end that I’d prototyped in Ruby on Rails. Progress
was much smoother than I’d expected! I’m happy about the work I did
today, and I’m looking forward to going to the Wikinomics event later.
=) Life is good.

And yeah, Facebook is
addictive… ;)

Random Emacs symbol: ido-max-dir-file-cache – Variable: *Maximum number of working directories to be cached.

At the social media and public relations event

February 20, 2007 - Categories: connecting

I attended the Social Media and PR meetup at the Bier Market. It was great meeting people from the public relations side of things, especially as I was still buzzing from a good day at work. =) Networking on a sugar high!

I’m thinking of adjusting a liiiittle bit more towards longer, deeper
contact instead of just finding reasons to follow up with people, but
it’s hard to have good conversation over the din of other busy
conversations and loud music.

The five minutes I spent putting together a printed nametag and the
seven pesos I spent for a business-card-sized pin-and-clip reusable
nametag definitely paid off, though. More than five people asked me
about it, and it launched some pretty good conversations. I was the
only person wearing a nametag at the event!

I asked the coauthor of Wikinomics if he’d found some best practices
for starting communities, but no go…

Good conversation with Dave Forde, Tom Purves, and the rest of the
people I occasionally bump into in the Toronto technology scene. A
couple of new people I really want to keep track of, and maybe even a
few possible friends out of the deal. Not bad, not bad at all… =)

Take-away lessons: always, always, always carry a nametag with you. =)
Oh, and position yourself near the front, and be animated. People will
remember you and introduce themselves, which saves you the trouble of
standing around trying to break into conversations. =)

On Technorati:

Random Emacs symbol: ibuffer-read-only-char – Variable: The character to display for read-only buffers.

Gratitude

February 21, 2007 - Categories: life

If I spend the rest of my life trying to express the immense gratitude
I feel, I still don’t think I’ll have enough time or ability. It is a
privilege to know such wonderful people.

Today I volunteered at the Good Shepherd Refuge. We made beds (yay
hospital corners!), folded linen, and assembled shelves. It was work,
but it was fun. I found it so uplifting being around the other
volunteers and working with the shelter staff. I’m glad that Toronto
has such an organized system for helping the homeless. I’m glad people
are making such a difference…

As if that wasn’t enough to fill me with happiness, I had dinner with
Wayne and his daughter as well. I love being around them, and it is
*such* a privilege to know them. Wayne’s kindness towards me is
something I will never be able to repay. His daughter is delightful.
But what is truly special is watching them together… That’s love.
That’s reality.

And of course, the outpouring of love and support from friends leaves
me just amazed… amazed!

If I love, it is because I am surrounded by it and overflowing with
it. How lucky can any one person be? What could I have done or what
can I do to deserve this? Let me spend the rest of my life learning
how to love as I’ve been loved and I’ve seen love, and that would be a
life well-lived.

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-article-strip-all-blank-lines – Command: Strip all blank lines.

Yes to social networking, no to MLM

February 22, 2007 - Categories: connecting

Because of a matter involving some people I know, I ended up taking a
look at Success University. I have to confess that as much as I love
social networking, I find that multi-level marketing gives me the
heebie-jeebies. While there are somewhat respectable examples of it
(Tupperware?), it still makes me nervous. I think that there’s too
much of a danger of it taking money from the people who can least
afford it and who are least qualified to make the most of it, because
it appeals to people’s greed. While there are some people who no doubt
manage to get themselves rather comfortable lives that way, I think
most people don’t even break even. Sure, it depends on how much effort
you put into it, but I wouldn’t want to build a business empire on the
backs of people’s mistakes!

Anything that focuses more on recruitment than on the actual product
makes me want to run. I don’t care if the product is the best thing
since sliced bread. I am *not* going to see my friends and contacts as
just “prospects”, and I am not going to dedicate my off-time to
chasing after leads. I am *not* going to evangelize greed, and I do
*not* want to clutter the Internet.

I don’t want to get rich quick. I want to get rich slowly, learning
lessons along the way. I want to grow sustainably. I want to learn how
to manage money as I go along. I want to be able to teach other people
how to grow as well. I can’t just depend on luck or my personality. I
can’t just convince people to do something that benefits me and
doesn’t work out for them.

I’m getting really bad heebie-jeebies about that one… It might be
okay with some of my friends, but it’s really just not my thing.

Random Emacs symbol: lisp-mode-shared-map – Variable: Keymap for commands shared by all sorts of Lisp modes.

Quick thoughts before I go to bed

February 24, 2007 - Categories: life

Happy girl. Must make time to sit down and write letters…

Random Emacs symbol: nnheader-replace-regexp – Function: Do a fast regexp replacement of FROM to TO from point to `point-max’.

No more Crane?

February 24, 2007 - Categories: life

What’s this? I seem to be all out of my monogrammed Crane stationery.
I use the gold-foil cards for special occasions. Writing to the
parents of one’s ex counts as a special occasion. Saying thank-you to
an awesome person counts as a special occasion. But I’m all out of
them… I guess I’ll use the paisley cards instead.

Random Emacs symbol: posix-string-match – Function: Return index of start of first match for REGEXP in STRING, or nil.

Tango

February 26, 2007 - Categories: health

I haven’t danced tango in a year. Hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it until today, when I decided to show up at the loonie tango milonga of the U of T Argentine Tango Club. I dug my shoes out of a bin and threw them in a bag, then headed to the party in jeans and a T-shirt. No wearing a flowy skirt in this weather!

The people I used to dance with have improved so much. I’m envious! What have I been doing with my life? Hmph. I danced with a few new faces as well, and I managed to follow decently.

Love it. Will definitely drop in for at least one class. I wonder if I can drag anyone along, actually.

Oh goodness I can feel my feet… And my shoulders, too, but that’s krav’s fault (and another story).

Two days of lots of activity and exercise. I definitely deserve some downtime for blogging and doing chores…

Adhesion

February 26, 2007 - Categories: life

I either can’t or don’t want to move. I’m not inclined to figure out
which right now. I think chores will have to wait until tomorrow or
Wednesday.

I should make a practice of scheduling in days with ABSOLUTELY
NOTHING. And yeah, chores count as something…

Random Emacs symbol: sacha/bbdb-ping-bbdb-record – Command: Adds a note for today to the current BBDB record.

Krav maga

February 26, 2007 - Categories: health

One of the things my mom occasionally reminds me about is the need for
self-defense classes. Yes, even in Toronto. Not only is it important,
but it’d also be a good workout and confidence-booster. Finding a
self-defense class was on my list of goals for 2007.

I attended a free Krav Maga seminar last Sunday on Wayne’s
recommendation. It’s a form of self-defense developed for the Israeli
army. Quite a workout, too. I have a small bruise and my shoulders are
sore, but if I keep at it, maybe I’ll get better at dealing with
things like that. It was fun, although I kept apologizing after
hitting my partner.

I’ll settle into my life here and get that sorted out first, but if
there are more free (or inexpensive) seminars, or self-defense
seminars particularly for women, I might try to figure out how to fit
those into my schedule and budget. =)

Worth doing again.

Walking science museum

February 26, 2007 - Categories: life

Wayne’s daughter was with him last week, and I enjoyed spending time
with both of them. It was a great way for me to explore all these
sides of me, too—artistic, musical, linguistic, mathematical,
culinary, even physical… =) We played board games and card games,
and in between, I kept an eye out for interesting things to share.

I’m a walking science centre! I *love* capturing a teachable moment,
provoking wonder, or even just trying to figure out how to make an
abstract concept real for her. For example, last night, I couldn’t
resist the temptation to try and teach her more about fractions.
Sixteen oranges divided in various ways… =)

Anyway, that was tons of fun. Definitely among the best ways to spend
my evenings. =)

Random Emacs symbol: help-make-xrefs – Command: Parse and hyperlink documentation cross-references in the given BUFFER.

Nightmares

February 26, 2007 - Categories: life

I’m still a little sore from krav maga last Sunday. I don’t think it’s
just the strain, although I’ll stretch more and get used to the pain
of attacking or defending. I had a hard time sleeping last night, too.
A series of nightmares…

After learning a tiny fraction about defense against a knife, of
course my mind goes and constructs a knife attacker to see how that
might work. In my dream, I felt the fight-or-flight response (and
definitely leaned toward flight!). The strange thing was that it
didn’t stop there… Rather, I ended up flashing back to the last time
I felt a really strong fight-or-flight response, which had nothing to
do with knives and everything to do with overhearing my name in
conversation. That really sucked; I just couldn’t stop my heart from
racing.

And then I ended up dreaming someone I know was really really sad, and
I just couldn’t figure out how to explain things to cheer her up, and
I just felt terrible.

So yeah, not quite restful sleep for me yesterday. Strange, isn’t it?
A knife grabs attention, but it’s worse to wake up and realizing that
your phantasms are less obvious and more real.

For the win!

February 27, 2007 - Categories: life

I *like* this feeling. Rowr!

I called up the property management building for the apartment I’m
renting starting March. I wanted to set an appointment for Friday and
repeat my request for a sample contract that I could review before
signing it (read: go over very very carefully with a copy of the
Tenant Protection Act and a red pen!). I’ve been asking for a sample
contract since the day after I found the place, way before I submitted
the security deposit.

Sandra refused to e-mail or fax a sample contract to me. “It’s not our
policy,” she said. I grumbled a bit and headed to the Internet to find
out more about the Tenant Protection Act to see if I could do
something about that and what my rights were.

I called the Tenant Hotline at 416-921-9494. A counsellor told me that
if they accepted the deposit I gave them, then we already had a
tenancy agreement and the lease-signing would be just a formality. He
also answered my questions about some of the things I noted. They
can’t disallow pets. They can’t require postdated checks. The deposit
shouldn’t be more than one month’s rent. I can’t give up any of my
rights through a contract.

So I called them up again and refused to take no for an answer. Sandra
told me that it wasn’t their policy to e-mail or fax sample contracts,
and that I couldn’t take the contract home. I asked her why not. She
said it was the policy. I asked her why it was the policy. She said it
was the policy. I asked her why it was the policy. She said that they
manage 24 buildings and have never had a case like this. I told her
that I like reading things very carefully before I sign them. She said
it wasn’t the policy set by her manager. I asked her if I could ask
her manager why it wasn’t the policy. She gave up and forwarded me to
her manager.

For the win!

I got the manager to agree that I should be able to read the lease. It
turns out that they don’t have electronic copies of these contracts
available (what?!). The manager said that they could fax me the
document, though, so I gave them the fax number at IBM.

Ideally I’d have liked to be on really good terms with the property
management, but if the law has to protect us from each other, then
fine, that’s okay with me. I really don’t have to be giving Cromwell
this much grief over a sample contract, as the contract can’t deprive
me of any of the rights I have under the Tenant Protection Act. I’d
rather read through it and highlight things I need to ask about before
I sign it, as that’s a more efficient use of time.

I *would* like the paperwork I sign to be up to date and to reflect my
understanding of the situation, and to make sure that *they*
understand it too, and that they know that I know (…that they know
that I know…). I understand that the contract only formalizes things
and perhaps clarifies some of the gray areas. The Tenant Hotline
counsellor assured me that I could hand-write clarifications into the
contract and we’ll all initial the changes.

In that case, I might even start the process of moving in this
weekend! I need to buy a twin bed from somewhere.

Lesson learned: “No” doesn’t always mean “no.” You should always be
able to ask why.

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-article-strip-all-blank-lines – Command: Strip all blank lines.

Wow

February 28, 2007 - Categories: life

Just came back from dinner with Jane Zhang and Wayne Young… Wow!
What wonderful conversation! What fun! Who knew she was that crazy? =)
I’d write more, but I’m stuffed stuffed stuffed stuffed… It’s not
fair! He even baked cookies!

This is good. No, this is awesome…

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-article-strip-all-blank-lines – Command: Strip all blank lines.