March 2007

All of my books are once again balanced…

March 1, 2007 - Categories: finance

After a little bit of a struggle getting my ledger to perfectly match
the financial accounts kept by the school, I’ve balanced my books in
anticipation of clearing the financial account at schoool.

I probably shouldn’t enjoy fiddling with my finances this much, but
it’s *nice* to know that all the numbers add up. It really is rather
nice to know.

Now that I know how the next few months are going to be funded, I can
also remove the earmarking work-arounds.

Then I can take my current cash position and divide it into virtual
envelopes for an emergency fund, my moving expenses, contingency plans
for tuition, charity, and proper savings.

Yay. =)

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Freezing rain

March 1, 2007 - Categories: canada

Freezing rain was forecast for this afternoon. I made it all the way
out to IBM, but upon hearing from Quinn that even Torontonians were
calling it an early day and heading home, I decided not to stick
around. Good decision – the weather outside my window is horrible,
switching from snowflakes blown about by wind to driving rain and back
to snow again. Cold and wet is a terrible combination. I am staying
firmly indoors, wearing a brightly dyed malong and wishing I were back
in my tropical Philippines.

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OMG, found my sofa

March 1, 2007 - Categories: life

Bean bag sofas that turn into beds!

That so rocks. That would be *perfect.*

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Furniture decisions

March 1, 2007 - Categories: life

After much reflection on what I want to do and how I want to go about
it, I’ve decided to go with floor cushions and square coffee tables.
This provides maximum flexibility, particularly considering how I
enjoy board games. I can get the black or black-brown Lack square
tables from Ikea.

I’m not particularly keen on any of the floor pillows I’ve seen in
online stores. I think the best bet would be for me to buy floor
pillow inserts, raid Goodwill for computer-related and other T-shirts,
and make simple covers from that. Plus points if I can borrow Leigh’s
sewing machine; if not, I can use hemming tape or safety pins
temporarily. It’ll be funny and personalized. Chic. And it’ll be a
good use of all those conference T-shirts that never fit me anyway…
I’m going to change my T-shirt preferences to XXL. ;) Or I could put
plain fabric on it and get people to sign it with markers…

Now I just have to find a source for large floor pillows. Mwahaha!

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Wish my parents were here…

March 1, 2007 - Categories: family

My mom would be so fun company while decorating, and my dad would
probably try to buy everything in the shop. I can just imagine it now:
“Papa, I don’t need a television stand. I don’t have a TV!” “We can
fix that too!” “But I don’t watch TV!” “Get one anyway, you never
know.” “Auuggh!” =) Fortunately my mom would have the good sense to
point out things I really do need but might not think of (broom,

Ah, life on the opposite side of the world…

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No, I’m not dead yet…

March 4, 2007 - Categories: life

… but opera is heaven. =)

I can’t believe it took me this long to finally see a live performance
of opera!

We watched Rigoletto yesterday. It sent me into transports of joy.
Complex counterpoints and musical themes… yay!

I can’t wait to watch La Traviata in a few hours…

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So I watched the opera last night…

March 4, 2007 - Categories: love

… and I was happy to see that the average audience age was well
under 60. I wouldn’t have minded having to dress up, though. ;) I have
a baro’t saya just waiting for warmer weather.

Yay surtitles! Yay cheap tickets! Yay culture!

Thanks to W- for the invitation. =)

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Smile before you punch

March 4, 2007 - Categories: health

(Catching up on a lot of unblogged events! =) )

Last Friday, I attended another session of krav maga, the Israeli
self-defense martial art.

I have had _far_ too little practice throwing punches. I had to keep
getting reminded to keep my thumb tucked in and my first two knuckles
forward. The fighting stance was also difficult

I have the habit of biting my lip when I’m concentrating, which is not
good in a fight. How can I avoid biting my lip? The easiest way, I’ve
found, is to smile. Evilly.

I have a growing collection of bruises, too. Good thing I’m starting
this in winter, when everyone’s covering up in long sweaters as well.

So if I smile before I hit someone, you know why.

I’m thinking of getting into it. The class is a great aerobic workout,
and someday I’m going to figure out how to do a full pushup instead of
the half-pushups I’ve been doing. I don’t feel dreadfully out of
shape, just a little bit so, and I’m sure that’ll improve over the
next month.

How am I going to make the time for this, considering my schedule?
<laugh> It’s a good investment of time: exercise gives me more
time and strength to deal with other things. Mens sana in corpore
sano, too.

Budget? It’s $100 per month, which I should actually still be able to
squeeze into my budget if I take it from other things. I was thinking
of taking a month to figure out my post-apartment budget, but momentum
is important when it comes to physical exercise and other things that
I’d like to make into habits.

I can do a lot of other things for exercise, but this one seems to fit
the best. The instructor is good, too. I enjoy observing the way he
teaches with encouragement. The class is small but friendly. The
lessons are practical. And yeah, I want self-defense training and
aerobic exercise more than I want tango…

I’ll need to practice a lot in order to make things more instinctive,
and I’ve got such a long way to go in order to catch up. I’ll figure
out how to get there by TTC and I’ll give it a month or two to see if
I can make it part of my schedule and what effect it has on everything
else. =)

But it’s so much fun… <laugh>

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Keys to my first apartment!

March 4, 2007 - Categories: life

I signed the lease the other day, and picked up my keys yesterday. I’m
so excited! W- helped me make a floor plan. The space isn’t that
large, so I’ve decided to drop the bookcase divider and the dining set
from my shopping list.

The living room will have two square coffee tables and eight floor
cushions for maximum flexibility in seating (and the possibility of
hosting board game nights). People who need to sit in proper seats
will have to wait until my next apartment or reorganization, I guess.

I’m thinking of making Sunday afternoons visiting hours for tea, which
should give friends an opportunity to drop by and keep me company
without significantly raising my grocery budget. I can always keep
good tea and biscuits on hand (yay things that keep almost forever!).
I’m planning to spend Sunday afternoons cooking for the week, too. I’m
going to have my own kitchen – I can finally do that!

I’ll need to figure out a nice storage solution. Small spaces can’t be

Happy happy happy happy happy happy happy…

Managing my own place is on my checklist of things to do in life. ;)
I’m looking forward to trying it out!

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March 4, 2007 - Categories: happy

Sunny day, chocolate, clarity, life is good. =)

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Cute socks!

March 4, 2007 - Categories: friends

Also, W- gave me a wonderful housewarming gift: a collection of
rainbow-colored socks with messages like “I’m cute, so put me in
charge.” ;) His daughter had told me about them previously. They’re

(And great timing, too, otherwise Rigoletto would’ve been so sad…)

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Downtown today

March 5, 2007 - Categories: life

It turns out that my doctor’s appointment is on Thursday and my facial
(whee!) is on the 19th, so I don’t actually have any strict
appointments today. I do have to submit the ethics approval form,
though, and I’d like to do as much of my move as possible. I also need
to work on a professional site and update my resume. For my thesis, I
can read research papers.

Lots of stuff to do today, but I think it will be a very good day.
Nice and sunny…

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Developing a taste for opera

March 5, 2007 - Categories: love

This weekend was a whirlwind romance with opera. Two operas in two
days, and now I’ve fallen in love with it. They were right –
everything sounds better in Italian! <laugh>

I liked both Rigoletto and La Traviata, and was thrilled to finally be
able to match familiar arias with images.

Penelope (the woman controlling the surtitles) asked us which of the
two operas we preferred. Of the two, I liked La Traviata’s story more
than Rigoletto’s, although I liked the performance of Rigoletto more.
W- favors Rigoletto. Penelope told us that she finds that men tend
to prefer Rigoletto and women tend to prefer La Traviata, and she
joked that La Traviata’s considered to be the chick flick of operas.

On further reflection, I think that Rigoletto has more complex
tragedies. Still, it’s hard to squelch a distaste for the Duke in
Rigoletto, who reminds us that pretty boys get away with far too
much… <laugh> “La donna e mobile” is a beautiful song, but so

It’s so wonderful to be able to *see* the opera in my head as I listen
to the music. Ah, joy…

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March 5, 2007 - Categories: life

Dropped by the Gorey last night to catch up with friends. And meet my
quota of hugs, too – I had only one during the entire week!
<sniff> Yay friends I can hug for no reason…

We watched Futurama. I hadn’t seen Futurama in a while, but oh, it was
hilarious… Yay geek humor!


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Sore throat

March 5, 2007 - Categories: health

Also, I’m coming down with a bit of a sore throat, which may or may
not mean being antisocial today. But I was so looking forward to
baking cookies!

Pot. Kettle. Onyx.

March 5, 2007 - Categories: love

Obsidian. ;)

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So that’s why people work hard during the day…

March 7, 2007 - Categories: life

… so that they can relax at night among friends. =)

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The tension between research and research

March 9, 2007 - Categories: research

I’m starting to feel that my thesis is actually doable. I’ve applied
for the ethics review of my experimental protocol. The prototype needs
some tweaking based on the feedback from my IBM mentor, but it’s
coming along nicely. I’m learning to push back, too: “That’s out of
scope.” “Let’s keep it simple.” “I want to finish by June, mind you.”

I want to finish by June. And you know what, it’s starting to look
possible. I’m not as happy with my thesis as I hoped I would be,
because the practical applications for it are less obvious and less
immediate than I thought. Most people would already be happy with
using tools that exist if they only knew about those tools. I’m
sketching an idea a little further down the line, but people have to
learn how to make the most of the intermediate steps before we can get
to the point where what I’m building makes sense. That’s okay;
research is a beginning, not an end.

I just want to finish by June, leaving me some time to take care of

During our weekly update, my IBM mentor said something that intrigued
me. Stephen said, “Don’t forget, there’s a difference between doing
research and working on your thesis, and sometimes those two goals
come into conflict.”

I must have looked at him blankly. Research? Thesis? Wasn’t my thesis
supposed to be the only reason for my existence for the next few
months? Weren’t the two the same thing?

Stephen reminded me that my job in research is to wonder and be
curious—to explore. I should keep doing that. I told him about the
community work I’d been doing for LG (which is still hush hush),
which I’m really curious about.

I really appreciate having a mentor who points out all the various
forces and conflicts and will help me see them. It’s really quite
interesting how we talk about politics…

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I love my life

March 12, 2007 - Categories: life

I was about to head out of IBM for the one-and-a-half-hour commute
downtown in order to return my keys to Graduate House before the 3:00
deadline. It turned out that I’m supposed to return my key *tomorrow*,
not today. Isn’t that just perfect? I love the way my life works. Ah,
so *that* was the reason why I felt momentary doubt when I gave
notice… to give me *just* enough time to take care of everything.

I love my life.

I’ll blog more later. I’m planning to spend the evening doing my
laundry, writing thank-you notes, and catching up on my blogging…
So much to write about!

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Woke up late

March 14, 2007 - Categories: life

I still have such a blogging backlog. Waah!

Work first.

Woke up to find that I’d missed a telecon for LG. Good thing there’s
an alternate telecon scheduled tomorrow. I love how my life works,
although I really should figure out how to wake up earlier (or
actually, how to stay awake)…

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My very own place!

March 14, 2007 - Categories: life

I have been unforgivably late with thank-yous to the totally totally
totally totally awesome crew who helped me get my new place off the

W- and Jess helped me grab a coffee table and a few other
essentials from Ikea. We bought fruits and bagel sandwich ingredients
at Dominion, then met up with Quinn. Quinn and Jess got to work
assembling my drawers while W- helped me move the rest of my stuff.
He had the *brilliant* idea of using my skateboard as a dolly, and he
had *so* much fun banking during turns! (See, I *knew* there was a
reason why my intuition told me to get a skateboard instead of a bike
or inline skates…) Von joined us and helped move stuff. Gabriel
turned up with two cartons of juice. Jed turned up to help assemble
things, too. Simon dropped by with speakers and pizza, and he washed
my windows.


Really. Wow.

We all enjoyed a beautiful sunset. I hope it’s the first of many at my
new place! I’m looking forward to hosting afternoon tea every Sunday.
I plan to be At Home from 3:00 to 6:00… Do drop by!

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March 15, 2007 - Categories: life

I think I enjoy doing the laundry too much. There’s something to be
said about choosing one’s favorite clothes out of the hamper,
attracted to color or texture or purpose, anticipating the pleasure of
wearing things again. As I swish each piece through the sudsy water, I
get a chance to reflect on the stories my clothes have, from what
happened the last time I wore them to the first time I saw them. The
rhythmic motions are calming as I stretch and relax. It pleases me to
hang the clothes neatly and know that they will drip-dry straight,
with hardly any need for ironing… A dwindling pile of laundry makes
me feel as if I’m making real progress.

And one wonders why I keep laundry as one of my personal pleasures,
forgoing a night out in order to meditate in this dance of water!

Machine laundry just isn’t the same. Oh, I love taking
freshly-laundered linen out of the dryer and folding them while
they’re still warm, but my sheets and towels don’t have the stories
that my clothes do. I wouldn’t trust most of my clothes to the
machine, either. I’m afraid of running dyes and the ruin of delicate
touches. I’ve lost a few of my favorite pieces to these things despite
my precautions! Besides, hand-washing my favorite things helps me
appreciate them more…

My new drying rack is metal with plastic feet, and I now have my very
own bathtub for leaving it in. I’ve been doing laundry every other day
– just enough time for each batch to dry – and I’m making steady
progress through the laundry that had accumulated while I was living
out of suitcases.

It gives me pleasure to take the pieces off the drying rack and
fold them neatly, placing them in my drawers. I have a table-top
ironing board, but I want a stand-up ironing board. If it’s the right
height, it may even double as a bedside desk. I’m looking forward to
ironing my clothes and hanging them up. I’ve already assembled and
hung up my outfits for the next few days. Again, the joy of

Having my own place is turning me thoroughly domestic.

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March 18, 2007 - Categories: life

Homemade shrimp dumplings with chili garlic sauce in wonton noodle
soup – chicken broth with leafy vegetables, spring onions, and just a
hint of ginger…

If I haven’t been blogging frequently, it’s because the food’s been
too good. =)

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Tea party

March 18, 2007 - Categories: friends

I had my first tea party at 666 today. I really enjoyed having people
over for tea and conversation!

I served roiboos tea (with milk and cube sugar!), the banana bread
W- baked (yum!), and Belgian chocolate biscuits. Gabriel’s vegan,
so I offered him dragonfruit (which no one else had tried). I also
brought out tortilla chips and spicy black bean dip. I also prepared
tablea hot chocolate, which went well with the brown sugar cubes.

Next step: get more mugs so that I’m not constantly washing… ;)

Feel free to join me for tea next Sunday from 3:00 to 6:00. I’m going
to try baking!

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March 18, 2007 - Categories: friends

Yesterday, W- helped Quinn build a steadycam for her film projects.
They picked up some parts from the hardware store and built a
steadycam for ~$20 following instructions on the Internet. Yay D.I.Y.!
(Me, I stayed indoors and read Miss Manners.)

Quinn’s really excited about shooting film. Her Super-8 seems to be
broken, but she might borrow one to shoot the party on Saturday.

It was good to catch up with her, too. Girl talk over green tea… =)

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Argh, deliveries

March 20, 2007 - Categories: life

So the books I ordered from Amazon are here, but the DHL person
couldn’t drop them off this morning because no one was around to
accept the package.


I should ask my friends how they usually have things delivered to

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Sweet, caching works

March 20, 2007 - Categories: geek

Caching makes my search engine relatively responsive. Yay. I might
just be able to make a decent prototype after all…

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Sharing my life

March 22, 2007 - Categories: life

This afternoon’s conversation with Quinn Fung reminded me that I need
to write—not because I need approval or advice, but because I’m
experiencing life and friends want to share that experience with me.

There is so much to share, and I have so few words with which to
describe all the wonderful things that are going on. My life is
blossoming into a richness I hadn’t even known possible, engaging all
of my senses in the exploration of opera, cooking, and other pursuits.

Perhaps I’ll write letters and keep copies. That seems the best way to
savor my memories. And yet I am reminded of what Elizabeth Barrett
Browning wrote in one of her Sonnets from the Portuguese:

… I cannot teach
My hand to hold my spirits so far off
From myself

We’ll see.

It’s spring

March 23, 2007 - Categories: life

Now I can believe that it’s spring. The sunlight is warm against my
back. The sun gazes on me and I luxuriate in its gentle massage. I’m
glad that I’m working from downtown today. Later I’ll wander outside
with a book. There’s something about being barefoot on a patio and
feeling the grain of the wood with the soles of my feet.

My winter boots aren’t yet too warm for this weather, but my
full-length coats should be cleaned and put away soon. It’s almost
time to break my espadrilles out of storage, almost time to wear my
light cotton malongs and flip-flops, almost time to enjoy long

I should get myself a sun hat. Something wide-brimmed. Something
light-colored – cream, perhaps? Perhaps I’ll splurge on a Tilley.

It’s spring.

The magic of connection

March 23, 2007 - Categories: connecting

There are many business reasons why social bookmarking makes sense,
but let me tell you a personal story to show you why social
bookmarking is magical for me.

The books in my grade school and high school libraries had cards at
the back, which we signed when we checked them out. I always enjoyed
reading the list of names and dates. The name of my biology teacher
beside a date stamp ten years ago reminded me that once upon a time,
she was also a student struggling with the same subjects. Running
across the name of a friend in a book that I was reading gave me
something to bring up at my next lunch break. Encountering someone’s
name again and again, I’d guess at another book I hadn’t read yet but
which would fit our tastes—and would not be too surprised to find
that name inscribed there as well.

I always wished that I could find a way to get in touch with these
“friends” I learned about through the library cards. I wanted to ask
them what they thought of the book and what else they’d recommend. I
wanted to share my favorite parts and sneak well-loved quotes into
conversation. I read books because they connected me with ideas, but I
read library cards because they helped me feel connected to people.

Now we have barcodes and RFID tags in books, and there are no more
lists on the inside back cover of library books. No more browsing
through the stacks and discovering people with common interests. And
with much of my information coming in through the Internet, I don’t
even get the sense of read-ness the way I’d scan through the spines of
paperbacks or look at the wear on hard-bound books to figure out what
I might want to read next.

True, I had much, much, much more information at my fingertips – but I
lost the sense of other people.

Social bookmarking brings that back.

As I browse, an icon in the lower-right corner of my window tells me
how many other people have bookmarked a page. I love right-clicking on
it and bringing up a list of names that become familiar over time. I
love exploring the other things they’ve bookmarked and checking out
their comments. And more than that: I can look up their corporate
profile, find their contact information, read their blogs and even
start a conversation or ask a question.

I can connect, and people can connect with me.

Ask me about social computing in the enterprise and I can tell you
stories about how people have mobilized teams and built communities.
I’m learning how to talk about business benefits and return on
investment. But the real reason why I’m so passionate about social
computing is this deep, abiding wonder that we can connect, and I want
to help people experience that joy.

Blogging: not just for extroverts

March 23, 2007 - Categories: blogging

In the middle of my enthusiastic bubbling-over about IBM’s social software offerings, Hossam Ali-Hassan asked me, “Do bloggers tend to be extroverts?” Do you have to be an extrovert to blog, to enjoy the baring of soul in front of an audience?

His question made me stop and think. A lot of people are afraid to blog because it’s like getting to know people. Those of us who remember how painful that was in high school will probably run away screaming now. It was hard enough talking to a few friends one at a time… Imagine getting on a soapbox and talking to the whole Internet! The thought would scare the most confident of extroverts.

But blogging isn’t like that at all. I think that blogging is a natural fit for introverts. I blog because it’s such a convenient way for me to connect with people. I blog when I want to. I read when I want to. I choose whom to read and whom to respond to. I can withdraw and re-join without anyone noticing. Real-life conversations are immediate and sometimes more than a little scary. On my blog, I can spend some time thinking about things and drafting a response. And I don’t even have to pretend interest in other people if I’m not in the mood for connecting with people!

For me, blogging is a low-risk way to get to know myself and to get to know others. I don’t know what I think until I read it or hear myself say it. Writing a blog entry at one in the morning is easier than calling someone up at eight in the evening. I don’t have to worry about imposing on anyone, and I can ramble as much as I need to. *And* I still get the benefits of conversation when good friends talk to me about what I’ve written about. I can keep up on their blogs, too. We can skip all the small talk!

Blogging’s definitely good for introverts. Write an anonymous blog if you want to, but write—if only so that you can discover your voice and find out what you’re passionate about. Who knows, you might make good friends along the way.

So I told Hossam (who seemed like a fairly quiet sort) that being an introvert probably meant he’d get even more out of blogging. “Besides,” I told Hossam, “extroverts wouldn’t have time to blog because they’re always out partying.”

He smiled at that. Maybe I’ll get him to blog yet…


March 24, 2007 - Categories: friends

The house smells of eclairs, and stories are baked into those
light-brown shells!

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March 25, 2007 - Categories: friends

I picked up another teapot and a wooden box of assorted teas at
Winners this afternoon in preparation for my second tea party. I’m
slowly accumulating a decent tea collection. I can now offer friends
green tea (several varieties of the Japanese green teas I favor as
well as jasmine tea), black tea, red tea (rooibos), and fruity
infusions. Most of my teas are organic, and they smell *wonderful.*

I wish my mom and my godparents were here. They’d enjoy tasting all
these teas…

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Sunday tea and developing my personal style

March 25, 2007 - Categories: friends

You discover yourself through your choices. One of the things I like
about having my own place is learning more about who I am by looking
around me. My rent is relatively expensive—a much larger chunk of my
budget than it used to be—but for a year, it’s worth it for the

Today I learned that I love choosing flowers for my parties. I enjoyed
browsing through the bouquets and potted plants at the Dominion
supermarket and at the flower shop on Bloor, both near my apartment. I
was thinking of getting something bright and colorful – to celebrate
spring! – but none of the bouquets particularly struck me as worth the
price. Instead, I bought a pot of Easter lilies, a timely and fragrant
decoration that matches my white glass coffee table and my beige
pillowcases. I love the smell of lilies, although the flowers on the
Easter lily I bought today aren’t nearly as fragrant as the stargazers
I received before.

It may seem like such a frivolous thing. Flowers will wilt, and even
potted plants probably don’t have much chance for survival given my
inexpert thumb. But I like it, and I think other people like that I
like it. I’ve come to appreciate little touches of elegance: the
graceful curves of my water jug, the clever construction of my tea
pot’s built-in tea ball, the clay glazes on the cups I bought from the
Japanese shop near Kensignton Market.

More than that – everything has a story. I don’t buy things so much as
I buy stories and smiles and excuses to reach out… I splurge on
quality ingredients and small gifts for other people. It’s wonderful
to discover that one can live elegantly even on a small budget. I’ll
see about managing my money even better so that I can save and donate
even more and so that I can share more of this abundance with others.

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My own place

March 26, 2007 - Categories: life

Another paean to the joys of having my own place! I’m coming to *like*
not having other people around, at least once in a while. To sing at
the top of my voice, to do my chores in a state somewhat less than
presentable (it’s a little too warm here—I should look into getting
two stand fans), to simply relax… Ahhh.

I’m treating myself to a face mask. Green, of course, and with a towel
wrapped around my head—just like in the movies. The tea tree oil
smells fascinating and stings just a little bit. (It’s said to be good
for pimples.) But there! Girl.

Still, this picture would not be complete without my reading lamp, a
delicately curved tea cup with Earl Grey tea (there’s a story behind
that, too), and Jon Bentley’s excellent and not at all dated
compilation of columns: “More Programming Pearls: Confessions of a
Coder.” I loved the essays on algorithm analysis. Two made me think
and go hmm – Floyd’s algorithm for randomly sampling M integers from
the range 1..N, and Hoare’s algorithm for efficiently finding the
median of a set. Geek.

I think I’ll do more hand-laundry today. I like doing that. I’m also
considering getting more cushion covers so that I can change them, if
I can find non-Ikea ones that are also 72x72cm. Then I have lots of
e-mail and blogging to catch up with… Life is good!

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-emphasis-strikethru – Face: Face used for displaying strike-through text (-word-).

Tea Party 2: Attack of the Eclairs

March 26, 2007 - Categories: friends


  • James Iveniuk
  • W- Young
  • Jessica Young
  • Simon Rowland


  • Eclairs (happy! ;) )
  • Ambrosia apples
  • Clementines
  • A marvelous assortment of tea, from which Simon chose Mountain Spring Jasmine

W- and Jessica helped me make eclair shells the night before, which
proved to be quite an adventure. We followed the recipe from the older
edition of Joy of Cooking. I have the new version, so I can’t include
the recipe for the choux pastry until I copy it from him sometime.
Here’s the one I used for the frosting, though.

Joy of Cooking p1003

1. Boil 3/4 cup cream in a small saucepan. Well, I had a little less than
3/4 cup of table cream left over from tea last Sunday (no one took
cream), so I topped it up with a bit of whole milk.

2. Add 8 ounces of chocolate, finely chopped. I wasn’t sure if the
baker’s chocolate squares were 1 ounce each, so I tested it using the
displacement method of measuring that W- taught me. I put in eight
squares, which seemed just about right.

3. Stir until most of the chocolate is melted.

4. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

5. Stir very gently until completely smooth. Well, taste it, and then panic as you realize that unsweetened chocolate really is unsweetened. Dig out brown sugar container left over from cookies from before the move (yay cookie ingredients!). Add sugar to taste.

The resulting dessert was yummy, although a little too soft and rich.
Also, I need to learn how to make it look prettier. Maybe a light
glaze next time instead of a thick chocolate filling?

I also bought a box of six varieties of tea bags. I’m thinking of
using the neatly-divided box to present other teas when I’m done,
although it’ll take a while to get through 120 tea bags. (Had one
today!) I picked up Mountain Spring Jasmine organic green tea from an
upscale grocery. Yup, definitely starting a tea collection. Maybe I
should reduce the proportion of chocolate desserts so that people can
savor the tastes of the tea instead…

Bought jam and fancy white bread, too. (Fancy? White bread? Eh?)
Fighting the urge to break out into song from the Sound of Music.

Oh, and bought easter lilies! They smell wonderful. I hope they last
longer than tulips. Note to self: find a low-care, pretty, fragrant perennial…

I had a lot of fun catching up with James. We talked about
interpersonal relations and communication skills, a topic naturally
proceeding from his mention of “Keys to the VIP”, the idea of which
appalls me. James left at around 5:15, which gave me some time to sort
things out before W-, Jess and Simon arrived at around 5:30. They
stayed until 6:30 and chatted with each other while I packed up.

Oh, and I have a pretty new teapot – glass with a built-in tea ball
that you can raise and suspend using a jointed rod in the lid. Clever
design. Got it from Winners.

Great things this time: Kicking people out at just the right time. =)
Also, having time before the party to prepare in a relaxed manner.
Next time – less food? Or maybe a focus on fruits and jams. I should
take a look at the weather forecast. If it’s cold weather, I’ll bring
out the chocolates. If it’s warm weather, I’ll announce a fruit- and
jam-oriented tea party…

Random Emacs symbol: ispell-kill-ispell – Command: Kill current Ispell process (so that you may start a fresh one).

Ethics approval!

March 26, 2007 - Categories: school

Yay, got ethics approval for my usability study! Now I just have to
work on polishing up the prototype and making sure that it’s testable…

Random Emacs symbol: tenth – Function: Return the tenth element of the list X.

Tea time should be for everyone

March 26, 2007 - Categories: friends

I was thinking about whether to organize my Sunday tea parties along
conversational themes, carefully scheduling guests to ensure an
amicable mix. But something doesn’t feel quite right about that, not
for my Sunday tea parties. I want my Sunday teas to be an open
kind of thing. No need to call. No need to check the Internet to see
what my schedule is or think about who the other guests are. Just come
and enjoy assorted teas, juices, chocolates, light snacks, and

I haven’t quite figured out what I want that tea time to be, but I
think that I’m getting closer to it. This openness presents certain
challenges. I don’t know how many people will show up, which makes it
a good exercise in learning how to scale up or down as needed. A far
larger challenge, however, is conversation. Maybe we can treat it as
practice in social graces. ;)

I am a geek, and as a geek, I meet mostly other geeks as well. Many
geeks—myself included—often have a hard time with small talk,
starting conversations with people whom they know little about or with
whom they don’t have an immediately obvious common interest. This is a
pity, and this is something I’d like to work on and help other people

As a host, I get uncomfortable when even one person is feeling left
out, or when there are no pauses or questions in the conversation to
invite shyer people to contribute.

We might not necessarily connect and become friends with everyone we
meet, but we should certainly be able to draw out people who want to
converse, and to share a bit of ourselves as well. I feel strongly
that the adept conversationalist should be able to relate to both
2-year-olds and 92-year-olds. Diversity reveals deficiencies. If you
find yourself unable to talk about anything but computers, you’ll know
that you need to experience more!

Deep talk is not taboo. You’re certainly welcome to enter into a side
conversation about the meaning of life. I’d love it if you ended up
continuing the conversation over dinner (which I might even join after
I wash up) or another get-together. If I can figure out how to set up
other focal points, that would be even cooler.

Dropping out of the conversations and playing Scrabble or Boggle would
also be fine by me. If I can find a nice set of shadowbox-type
shelves, then I might even start collecting geek puzzles. We sometimes
need time to recharge socially, after all.

What about a time for deeper conversation or a carefully-chosen mix of
guests? If you want a specialized conversation salon where we can
discuss, say, really really geeky jokes, then we can organize one –
but not during Sunday tea time. Sunday tea is for everyone.

I can improve a few things, though. The layout of a room affects the
conversations in it. Right now, the white coffee table is my only
focal point, which naturally results in one major conversation. When
the weather warms up a bit more, people will be able to stay on the
balcony. I need to make more use of the corners of my room, though.
Maybe small mats and a few more cushions will give people permission
to multithread conversations…

I am so glad I didn’t go with chairs, which would have been harder to

Hmm. What about a small drop-leaf table mounted on the wall? That
would be a fixed focal point. A low table or tray with cushions placed
invitingly around it? I might have space for another cluster of four
if I move things around and get rid of all the stuff near my walls.
Maybe a corner mat would be a flexible way to do it.

I like thinking about how structure affects flow. The structure of the
room, the structure of the event… Ah!

Random Emacs symbol: view-hello-file – Command: Display the HELLO file which list up many languages and characters.

Sorting out my schedule

March 30, 2007 - Categories: life

The days are just packed. I need to think of how to balance my time.
There’ll never be enough time in a day and there’ll never be enough
days in a week for everything I want to do and everyone I want to be
with. That said, though, I have to make sure I schedule in time for
myself – time to read, time to think, time to write.

I’ll keep most of my entertaining for Sunday, although I’m starting to
feel the need to connect with some people in a different setting –
maybe a Scrabble or Boggle game at my place? And I need to make sure I
set aside time for myself – to face the quietness of my room, to know
who I am when I am by myself.

I need that time not because I don’t like people, but because I like
them a lot. =)

Random Emacs symbol: sacha/bbdb-omit-displayed-records-by-alias –
Command: Display only records whose mail-aliases do not match QUERY.


March 30, 2007 - Categories: career

Now is about the right time for me to step up my job search. I sent my
resume to some of the IBM teams I’m interested in, and I’ve been
talking to them about what might be a good fit for both me an d IBM.
I’m particularly interested in working with Lotus Connections and
other IBM social computing initiatives, either as a behind-the-scenes
developer, a consultant, or a sales specialist—or probably a mix of

I find it amusing that that the teams that build collaboration tools
are the ones who most realize the importance of face to face
communication. I’d really like to stay in Canada (paperwork being one
among many reasons), but I’ll try to stay open to the idea of

Random Emacs symbol: bbdb-canonicalize-redundant-nets-p – Variable: *If this is non-nil, redundant network addresses will be ignored.