July 2007

Weekly review

July 1, 2007 - Categories: weekly

I really enjoyed the Ottawa Linux Symposium because of the hallway conversations and the afterparties that I attended. The conference itself wasn’t a good fit with my interests because I haven’t done low-level programming in a while, but the people were awesome. Again, special thanks go to Don Marti and Simon Law for introducing me to such interesting people!

The OLS may have made me realize that I’m probably not going to be a
kernel hacker in this lifetime, but it did inspire me to check out a
fresh tree of Emacs and re-subscribe to the mailing lists. I also
checked out a Ruby on Rails open-source contact relationship
management system, and I’m looking forward to figuring out its design
and either contributing to that project or using it as a launchpad for
my own. Hooray open source!

I’ve decided to keep hacking on Emacs for a number of reasons. First,
it’s fun. Second, it’s what everyone else mentions when they introduce
me, so it still has some geek cachet. Third, it exposes me to the
crazy things power users do in the userspace, and maybe I can take
those ideas and spread them to a wider audience by writing about the
hacks that people have made for their Emacs. So yes, I am going to
keep being an Emacs hacker. I might even work on becoming more of one.

I did the touristy thing too, of course. I took pictures of the guards
in their bright red uniforms and funky hats, and of the architecture
and statues around the National Gallery. The pics are all on my
Facebook account under pictures. (One of these days, I’ll get Flickr
export working again.)

Somehow I managed to still find time to work on my thesis. I talked to
my supervisor (finally!) on Friday morning, and he gave me advice on
how to handle some of the sections that had been challenging me. My
first draft is up on the wiki and I’ve put it together in a linear
document. The next thing I have to do is to add to my review of
related literature, and I can do that while my supervisor reviews the
first draft. The end is in sight!

I also spent some of the week planning an upcoming trip to Somers, New
York, for an IBM conference on collaboration. A long, hard look at my
schedule and my budget showed me that it probably wasn’t the best
thing to do at the time. Figuring out how to get around Somers without
a car and paying for everything out of my own budget—more stress than
I need right now! I was frustrated, but I channelled that frustration
into looking for brilliant ways to make the most of the situation. I
came up with terrific ideas! =) I can’t wait to make those ideas
reality. I love my life! Being able to tap my frustration and use it
to drive creativity totally rocks.

I picked up a Table Topics game, too, and I’m looking forward to using
that at tea. =)

Next week, I plan to read and review at least 20 additional papers and
to write 15 more pages for my review of related research. For my
personal geeking out, I want to deploy and modify that CRM on Rails
system I just downloaded. As for other people – I want to catch up
with some people who pinged me while I was away in Ottawa. A good
friend’s birthday is coming up soon, and I’m looking forward to
celebrating it with him and with our other friends!

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-methods-using – Function: Find all methods that have FEATURE.

Flew a kite today

July 2, 2007 - Categories: health

We enjoyed a long weekend because of Canada Day, so we had enough
leisure time to make a kite out of bamboo sticks and plastic. We had a
hard time flying it in the chaotic breeze, but it was good fun anyway.
I also practiced on the devilsticks. I’ll get the hang of it yet.

Random Emacs symbol: muse-xml-charset-default – Variable: The default Xml XML charset to use if no translation is

Monthly book-checking

July 3, 2007 - Categories: finance

Random Emacs symbol: map-keymap – Function: Call FUNCTION once for each event binding in KEYMAP.

Eoin Colfer!

July 6, 2007 - Categories: reading

We picked up four volumes in Eoin Colfer’s totally awesome fiction
series, Artemis Fowl. I had fallen in love with the series thanks to
the audiobooks (thank you, Toronto Public Library!), and finding the
hardcover books on the bargain table under the heading “What to Read
After Harry Potter” was like finding the LEP recon officer at the end
of the rainbow. ;)

Random Emacs symbol: message-forward-subject-name-subject – Function: Generate a SUBJECT for a forwarded message.

Week in review

July 8, 2007 - Categories: weekly

This week’s main accomplishment was the compilation of my first draft,
which is currently being reviewed by my supervisor. While waiting for
his comments, I’m reading tons of research papers so that I can expand
my review of related literature. My research paper got accepted to
CASCON 2007. I’ll need to edit it down to four pages and include my
updates resultes. We’ll probably schedule my defense for early
September at the latest. I think we’ll manage it. It feels doable now.

I’ve mailed my application for an extension of my study permit. I’m
not too worried about getting denied. I think I have a good case for
it, and it would be silly to cancel my studies *now.* <laugh>

I’ve moved to Dreamhost for both web and mail hosting, so my
outgoing e-mail should properly reflect my e-mail address:
sacha@sachachua.com .

Personally, it’s been an eventful week. My mom called me, concerned
about a doctor’s visit that turned up on my TODO list. It was actually
just a chat with the doctor, as I wanted to ask about some things I’d
read about. Understandably concerned because of the lack of detail on
my blog, my mom called me up and we talked for around two hours about
various issues.

One of the main issues is that I don’t keep in touch with my family
enough. I almost never initiate conversations. My family is half a
world away and I don’t keep instant messaging on (interruptions are
evil!), so we don’t have that many opportunities to “run into” each
other or do things together. I need to figure out what kind of
relationship I have and want to have with my family. Close and happy
beats distant and stressed, for sure.

Fortunately, my mom and I have practiced enough emotion-fu to be able
to make progress even during emotionally-charged conversations. One
thing that will make her happier is if I start the conversation more
often. Let’s try maybe two weeks of putting a secret family-related
task on my TODO list…

Next week: Update review of related literature.

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-agent-read-servers – Function: Read the alist of covered servers.

Geek…

July 10, 2007 - Categories: geek

Darn. It looks like Statistics is one of those subjects that creeps up
on you and clamps onto your brain when you least expect it. I’m
reading a research paper right now and I can’t help but be impressed
by its analysis. Now, if only I could do experiments like this…

(Oooh. Measurement analysis. *Shiver.* Confirming within-team response
representativeness… power analysis… aggregation analysis…
*brrr!*)

Random Emacs symbol: bbdb-extract-address-component-regexps – Variable: *List of regexps matching headers.

Progress

July 11, 2007 - Categories: school

I revised the first chapter of my thesis today, incorporating suggestions from my research supervisor. He’s happy with the quality of my writing, too. I think I might actually be getting the hang of this.

Tomorrow, I’m going to Sudbury for a short trip out to the science centre there. It certainly looks like fun… =)

Random Emacs symbol: tramp-time-diff – Function: Return the difference between the two times, in seconds.

Sudbury

July 12, 2007 - Categories: travel

The drive to Sudbury was scenic, dotted with the lakes for which this
area is well known. At least the bits and pieces that I saw were
scenic—I drifted in and out of sleep, probably because of the glare
bouncing off the road.

We settled into the hotel and then picked up some swim stuff at the
nearby Zellers and Canadian Tire. You know you’re still in
civilization when….

We went for a quick swim. J. liked the small pool, although the
whirlpool was a bit too warm for her. *I* really enjoyed sinking into
the 100’F water, remembering the onsens of Japan. We alternated
between the warm whirlpool and the slightly cooler pool. The swimming
pool was around 5 meters long and 3 meters wide, which wasn’t much
challenge in terms of laps but still provided good exercise if one did
those laps while chasing or being chased by someone. Beside the pools
was an exercise room with a few pieces of gym equipment: a treadmill,
an elliptical traininer, and some weights. I didn’t bring my exercise
gear, though. At least I remembered my swimsuit this time!

Before heading to dinner, we passed by a toy store that caught our
eye. I was sorely tempted to get a paper doll crafting book because
the patterns and ideas caught my eye, but I figured that I could get
it for less if I ordered it over the Internet. W. picked up two
well-constructed wooden puzzles which looked nicely fiendish.

We ate at Swiss Chalet, one of J.’s favorite restaurants. Feeling a
little bit guilty about having indulged in so much bacon over the past
few weeks, I ordered the garden fresh chicken platter and chose fresh
vegetables and a salad as my two sides. (There, Mom, look, I’m eating
vegetables voluntarily!). This chicken platter was mostly ignored,
though, as I poked and prodded the two puzzles we just bought. (No
luck yet.) Only the occasional twangs of responsibility and sense of
etiquette reminded me to look up from the puzzle and eat dinner.
Fortunately W. and J. were busy with the other puzzle, so I wasn’t
being antisocial.

Tomorrow—Science North, the reason we made this trip. =) I hope it’s
as interesting as the brochures make it sound! This is the first time
I’ve made a trip *just* to go to a science centre. Stay tuned.

Random Emacs symbol: eshell-command-interpreter-max-length – Variable: *The maximum length of any command interpreter string, plus args.

Science North

July 13, 2007 - Categories: travel

Today made me *so* wish that I grew up near a large, active science
centre. I’ve seen my fair share of presenters. In fact, I go out of my
way to see good presenters. The Toastmasters International convention,
the Power Within motivational event… but this guy took the cake, and
he probably hasn’t even finished university yet.

Maybe it was the sheer spectacle of propane gas burning in a trough,
or maybe the methane bubbles that flamed into rings in mid-air. Or
maybe it was all of that as well as humor, enthusiasm, passion… The
Bluecoat who did the two demonstrations we watched is named Ben, and
he was good. He was really good. He made me want to go and volunteer
somewhere so that I could learn how to do stuff like that too. He made
me wish I grew up near a big science centre so that I could have done
that as a summer job. Not that I could’ve done it with anywhere near
that kind of flair. Ah, well… that’s okay, I’ll just have to make it
up. At least I have yet another role model!

We also did a few workshops. In the lapidary lab, we polished rocks.
W. and J. just smoothed the surfaces of theirs, but I went to the
trouble of shaping an oval cabochon out of the feldspar and quartz mix
I picked out of the bucket of rocks. I’m happy with the rock that I
polished, and I wonder if I can make it into a pendant or a bracelet.

In the LEGO stop-motion movie workshop, we used iStopMotion to create
our own movies. J.’s was surprisingly well done. Two dinosaurs were
heading for the same gift. They bickered in front of it, then got
distracted by a passing spider, which they chased. Another dinosaur
crept in and gobbled the gift. The first two dinosaurs turned around
and ran after the third dinosaur. I thought that was better than my
short clip of Darth Vader attempting to hitchhike in the desert,
although I did enjoy simulating a bit of a force tantrum.

We all headed back to the toy store for a few more puzzles. I picked
up some 3D block puzzles. Think tangrams, but using segments of four
cubes stuck together. The graded puzzles and hints might be good for
J., although she still needs hints. I thought the cubes might be more
interesting than flat tangrams. Besides, *I* want the spatial
practice. ;) W. picked up some more of those wooden puzzles under the
brant Headstress. They’re fairly well constructed and rather pretty;
the kind of thing you can display in the living room as a trap for
unwary geeks. ;)

Good day. Very good day. I heart science centres.

Random Emacs symbol: tramp-smb-handle-make-directory-internal – Function: Like `make-directory-internal’ for tramp files.

Dynamic Earth

July 14, 2007 - Categories: travel

We went to Dynamic Earth today, which is the other big attraction in
Sudbury. I knew that Canada’s mineral resources were significant, but
I hadn’t known that Sudbury played such an important role in the
mining industry. Sudbury’s huge nickel deposits gave Canada a
near-monopoly on the metal for a long time. Nickel is widely used in
the production of stainless steel. I was surprised to learn that the
production of stainless steel kitchen sinks is one of the biggest uses
of nickel today. What a great way to bring that point close to home!

We spent some time panning for gold in one of Dynamic Earth’s
interactive exhibits. I got pretty good at swishing the sand around to
separate it from the heavier gold flecks, although I don’t think it’s
something I should do as a full-time job! A short movie about gold
fever gave us a glimpse into the life of a modern-day prospector as
well as vignettes of gold’s importance all over the world and through
all the ages.

Good stuff.

Random Emacs symbol: ispell-pdict-save – Command: Check to see if the personal dictionary has been modified.

Buying books

July 14, 2007 - Categories: reading

I confess: I went to Chapters today with the sole intention of finding
a book to give to a good friend, and… and… I couldn’t help it! I
found myself buying not only a hardbound book for the friend
(appropriately entitled, “Surrounded by Geniuses”) and two hardbound
books for myself: “The 4-Hour Work Week” and “Automatic Wealth for
Grads”. The 4 Hour Work Week had been recommended to me by a number of
people. The book was published this year, and I didn’t want to wait
for the library to pick up a copy. The Automatic Wealth book looks
like a rehash of the usual advice, but maybe I’ll pick up something
from it anyway.

I like books. I like books a lot. And I’m starting to realize that
even with the Toronto Public Library being absolutely wonderful, I’m
still going to want to buy books—especially newly-published books,
preferably *before* everyone starts talking about them. I’m also
starting to realize that, like the advice I’ve read in a number of
books, hardbound books really *do* feel different. I need to think
about that a bit more. Maybe it’s just the writers’ bias rubbing off
on me.

But yes. Books. I confess: even with the public library and the
Internet, I still can’t help buying books.

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Parry Sound

July 15, 2007 - Categories: travel

One of my friends had recommended the 30,000 island cruise around
Georgia Bay, so we made a side trip to Parry—a tourist town halfway
between Sudbury and Toronto. We managed to pull into the parking lot
*just* as the boat was filling up with people. Good thing, too – ten
minutes later and we would’ve missed it completely!

The Island Queen was a stately three-decked ship with gleaming white
sides. As I stepped onto the deck, a crew member smiled a hello. He
told me that since I had such a nice camera, I should make sure not to
miss the Hole in the Wall and the crooks and crannies of the islands
we would pass by. A Toronto Star reporter had been there just a few
days ago, he continued. I nodded and cradled my camera close, thinking
how much better my dad’s pictures would have been had he been there!

The scenery was just as spectacular as the brochures promised. The
Hole in the Wall was a narrow, twisting corridor through granite
cliffs almost close enough to touch. As the passage widened into
harbors and passages, it seemed that every bend revealed a solitary
house couched in windswept pine. Some of the larger islands had
clusters of cabins and even beaches with park benches.

Seeing all the lush greenery, W remarked that he was no longer quite
as concerned with his carbon footprint.

These remote hideaways reminded me of one of the points made by *both*
of the books I was reading: it doesn’t actually take obscene amounts
of money to enjoy the luxuries commonly associated with the lifestyles
of the super-rich. I’m sure that a determined vacationer could find a
short-term rental here. Reflecting on the amazing scenery passing by
us, though, I felt a twinge of dissonance.

This isn’t my dream. Many people aspire to going off and having their
own private island, but not me. I like a bit of green, yes. I happen
to be fond of good postal service and public transit, and I wouldn’t
want to rely on airlifts in order to get to the hospital. Besides, I
like the bustle of the city, with endless things to do and so many
people to meet. So that’s probably who I am: a city kitty, at least
for now.

Still, as I snapped picture after picture from the white rails of the
ship, I wondered—what this place must look like in the fall, with all
the maple trees aflame!

I’ll upload pictures soon. I have around a thousand photos to sort
through. Experience has taught me that my little laptop is nowhere
near up to the task. Fortunately, W.’s desktop is more than twice as
fast as my computer, and the program I found (kphotoalbum) allows me
to quickly go through pictures. A friend had recommended keeping even
the bad pictures so that we could learn from our mistakes, but who has
the disk space and attention span for that? No—I’m going to
ruthlessly discard anything that’s blurry or can’t be salvaged with a
little photo manipulation in the Gimp.

My photographs can’t do justice to the place, though. It was
beautiful. And you know what? I *know* we have beautiful places like
that in the Philippines. I know because I’ve seen the pictures taken
by my dad and my sister on their adventures throughout the country.
Sure, most of our forests have been stripped by logging and other
uses, going as far back as the slash-and-burn tactics used by
pre-Hispanic Filipinos—but there’s hope. If Sudbury could plant over
three million trees in order to reclaim a barren moonscape wrecked by
nickel mining and huge ore roasting beds, then the Philippines can
too.

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-empty-thread-mark – Variable: *There is no thread under the article.

Emacs tidbit: DVI and LaTeX interaction

July 15, 2007 - Categories: emacs, pimpmyemacs

Skimming the help.gnu.emacs newsgroup can turn up all sorts of amazing
tidbits. For example, I occasionally write papers using the LaTeX
markup language for scientific documents. This allows me to produce
professional-quality typeset papers, particularly when equations are
involved. (I used that *so* many times in university!)

I just found out that you can click on the typeset document (the DVI)
and jump to the source code. Here’s what David wrote on help.gnu.emacs:

That’s easy. This feature is called forward and inverse search. It’s
explained in the AucTeX manual. If you use auctex just hit C-c C-t C-s
(I don’t know if this also works within the build-in tex mode). This
enables the TeX-source-specials. With the source-specials on, Emacs
will start xdvi with further options. xdvi will start displaying the
page where the point is set in Emacs (forward search). When you click
any line in xdvi simultaneously pressing Ctrl you return to Emacs with
the point on the corresponding paragraph. This works also with other
dvi viewers, but you have to configure them to use emacs server for
inverse search.

Wow.

On Technorati: ,

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Happiness

July 21, 2007 - Categories: happy

I’ll upload pictures someday and then go back and edit these entries,
but I wanted to make sure that I got the stories out at least.

I need to read more cooking magazines. I’m running out of superlatives
for describing what I’ve been eating these days. Today’s vocabulary
challenge was posed by dinner: a strawberry spinach salad tossed with
a raspberry vinaigrette, sprinkled with almond slivers. The tartness
of the raspberry vinaigrette contrasted with sweet strawberries and
nutty almonds. Feta cheese might have added an interesting saltiness
to it, but we didn’t have any handy, so we added grated Parmesan
cheese instead. And all because strawberries were on sale today at No
Frills, $3.49 for 2 pounds.

Just thinking about it makes my toes curl.

For brunch earlier, we had buttermilk pancakes: stacks of six airy
buttermilk pancakes with a slightly crisp face, heaped with strawberry
chunks, drizzled with pure maple syrup, and—the final
flourish—dusted with confectioner’s sugar in the fancy-shmancy way
that restaurants justify high prices.

It actually doesn’t take a lot of money to live the life of the rich.
In terms of eating things in season, I think we’re totally there.
Sure, there are little things that we can add over time as our
circumstances improve. A griddle would be nice, for example. But it’s
hard to imagine a better life than this, with plenty of time to
leisurely cook and cheerfully linger over one of life’s basic pleasures.

Random Emacs symbol: mode-line-next-buffer – Command: Like `next-buffer’, but temporarily select EVENT’s window.

Learning how to wok

July 21, 2007 - Categories: cooking

Although the Joy of Cooking is a venerable cookbook and the one we
turn to for classic recipes, my current inspiration is The Essential
Wok Cookbook, by Whitecap Books. Maybe it’s the colorful pictures.
Maybe it’s my own inclination towards Asian recipes that feature
garlic and ginger and all sorts of yummy things. Whatever it is, that
wok cookbook tickles my fancy more than Joy of Cooking does. Maybe I
have to learn how to wok before I can… augh. I’m sorry. I just had
to say that.

I like stir-fries. There’s something almost magical about the result
of a 15-minute marinade, a little oil, and a lot of movement. You can
throw in whatever vegetables are on sale. And it lends itself well to
using frozen meat, too. Beef is much easier to slice thinly when it’s
still frozen solid, and you only need a little of it anyway.

I’m looking forward to trying the other recipes. After we finish the
pho, or perhaps for lunch on Monday, maybe I can make garlic beef and
red pepper. Mmmmm…

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Weekly review: 2007.07.16 – 2007.07.21

July 22, 2007 - Categories: weekly

Last week

Next week

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Am I really almost done?

July 23, 2007 - Categories: school

Excited hamster

2 years. 73 pages. 16,394 words. Am I really almost done?

I’ve spent the last two years of my life working on my master’s degree.
My thesis defense has been booked for August 8. I’m putting the finishing
touches on my thesis about using Web 2.0 to find expertise. Tomorrow, I’m
going to wrestle with page numbers and formatting. On Wednesday, I’ll
print out my thesis for my committee members.

Can I really be so close to finishing?

And am I really so close to being able to do all the things I’ve been
planning to do once I get out into the Real World?

Watch out! This will be fun!

Photo (c) 2007 annia316, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license

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Learning languages

July 24, 2007 - Categories: learning

I enjoy learning languages. There’s something about straining to pick
out one or two recognizable words from a stream of syllables, forming
sounds and words and thoughts and sentences that you know you didn’t
know just yesterday, testing new combinations of ideas and finding out
what you can express. Every day is an adventure: what will I be able
to say today? What will I be able to understand? It’s like learning
how to speak all over again, except this time you have the wealth of
your experiences to build on and plenty of ideas for which you can
make new sounds.

Last night, we visited W’s mom at her apartment. W-‘s aunt was
there as well. We had a lot of fun testing the limits of my
conversational Cantonese. They complimented me on my use of tones.
Even Chinese kids born in Canada often speak with flat tones because
they can’t hear the difference. When they spoke to each other, I
couldn’t understand what they were saying—but I could pick out a few
words, and I had so much fun listening and celebrating each time I
heard something I knew!

Someday, I’ll speak more than eight languages conversationally. I’ve
always thought that was a really cool trick, and now I’ve realized
that it probably won’t be as hard as I thought it was—and learning
will be tons of fun, too. Toronto is a terrific city to do this in,
what with all the multicultural communities. Europe would also be a
great place because of the natural mixing of languages. If you’re not
in a place with lots of opportunities to speak different languages,
you can find conversation partners on the Internet, and you might even
find podcasts in your target languages. Try it out!

How do I find the time to learn languages, anyway? Half an hour on the
subway, or the short walk to the library, or while I’m working on
something else (preferably with low verbal interference)—there are
all these spaces that I can use to learn. I’m too impatient to listen
to non-fiction audiobooks, but interactive audio programs are just
perfect. The Toronto Public Library carries the Pimsleur language
programs, which are the best I’ve heard so far. You should try those
out and make the most of your commute or your exercise time. Who
knows, maybe a foreign-language conversation can help you seal a
business deal!

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Announcing: Book Snake blog!

July 24, 2007 - Categories: writing

New blog! I’ll be sharing my book notes over at Booksnake.sachachua.com. If you’ve ever wondered what I’m learning from the tons of books you’ve been hearing about, check it out. Tell friends, too!

Random Emacs symbol: font-lock-keyword-face – Variable: Face name to use for keywords. – Face: Font Lock mode face used to highlight keywords.

Being in the right place at the right time

July 25, 2007 - Categories: canada

Another cycle of revisions. My supervisor thinks my draft is ready to
be defended, although there are some things I’ll fix tomorrow before I
sort out the page numbers and send it out. He told me to relax and not
worry too much about deadlines, although he understood that I like
delivering things when I say I will. So, that’s going well.

I met Robert Terpstra again this afternoon, and his questions helped
me reflect on things I was doing well—and some tricky things I need
to think about a little more.

One of the questions he asked me was whether I felt that I could have
done all this had I been in the Philippines instead of Canada.

I told him, yes.

This is not entirely true. The kind of research training I’ve
received, the opportunities I’ve had, the library I’ve made so much
use of—all these things are difficult to find in Third World
countries. But what I said was more true than it was false.

I would probably have been able to do something in the Philippines. I
don’t know what I would have done, but I do know that it would’ve been
interesting, and I would’ve been just as happy doing it as I am doing
this.

The important bit is being happy. In terms of my work, I can’t say
that I’m happier here. Then again, I can’t say that I would have been
happier had I stayed home. It’s hard to tell because I’m happy and I
think I’d be happy no matter what. I can’t speculate much about other
possible lives, but looking back at this one, I can say that I’m happy
to have survived the challenges. They’ve made me stronger, and even if
homesickness gets the better of me sometimes, things are good. But my
intuition tells me that there’s a reason for this, and that there’s
something more that I need to explore. It feels right to be here at
this time.

I don’t have a master plan right now. I can’t tell you how my life
fits into some grand plan for the Philippines or for the world.
I’m here, and as long as I pay attention to the details and check
every so often that I’m heading in a direction I like, things should
work out.

So, should I have stayed in the Philippines? I don’t know. I’m sure my
life would have worked out if I had. But I’m here in Canada, so let’s
see what I can do from here. After all, if I think that I’m in just
the right place at just the right time, I’ll probably be right. And if
I think I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time, I’d be right too.
I’d rather be in the right place. =)

Random Emacs symbol: mail-default-headers – Variable: A string
containing header lines, to be inserted in outgoing messages.

Another day, another revision; Exercising in the park; Pinakbet and cherry pie

July 26, 2007 - Categories: life

I sent off another revision today, and I think I’ll be ready to send a
copy of my thesis to my reviewers by tomorrow. Life is good. It’s
really nice just blasting through a set of editing tasks… =)

We ran to Park Lithuania again. My breathing was a little bit better
than yesterday, although I still hit my target heart rate quickly. W
helped me do reverse chin-ups again, although I did only four this
time. We did lots of other exercises, though. I definitely have to
work on those leapfrogs.

He told me that he was glad I could keep up with him. I laughed. Keep
up? For some definition of “keep up,” perhaps. He still runs circles
around me. ;) But he’s glad that I don’t mind exercising. I know it’s
good for me, and with him around, it’s a fun social kind of thing.
Tomorrow I may even go to trapeze class.

After exercise, we made pinakbet—this time with bagoong alamang! He
made me laugh by saying “bagoong” and “ampalaya” over and over again.
The pinakbet was wonderful. This time, I leached some of the
bitterness from the ampalaya (bitter melon) by soaking it in salted
water. The dish turned out wonderfully, and we have two more servings
in the fridge. Mmm mm! Next Filipino craving: beef tapa. Oh, I’d love
to figure out how to make tapsilog…

I’m finishing off the last crumbs of cherry pie on my plate. I’d
stayed away from it all week because I thought cherry pie would be too
sweet and because I had stocked up on fresh fruits instead. W assured
me that cherry pie was made from sour cherries, though. As with all
things food-related, he was right: cherry pie’s yummy. Mmmm mmm.

And we watched another episode of Fawlty Towers, too. John Cleese is
hilarious!

In addition to exercising, cooking a good meal, and cleaning up afterwards, I’ve also skimmed
three and a half books (in just one evening, too), looked at Christmas flights to the Philippines, written a blog entry on my Booksnake blog, drafted an entry for the next day, and written this entry. And yet I still feel that there’s plenty of time to do so many things. Ah, I know—I have some sewing books coming in over the next few days, and I’m sure to get fun projects out of that. And I still haven’t done my Chinese writing lesson for today…

Life is good. Life is very good.

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I’m going to run away and join the circus

July 27, 2007 - Categories: health

When I thought about what I would do if I had all the money I wanted,
I realized that trying out the flying trapeze was one thing on my
to-do list. A Friday drop-in class at the Toronto Circus School costs
only $25. Why not? It was going to be worth it, even if only for the
stories.

Bobby and Adam were our teachers and safety crew. After a few
instructions, they had the first ten participants strap on their
belts. I was #14, so I settled on the mat and started stretching.

The first one up was clearly experienced. She launched herself off the
platform and swung gracefully through the air, tucking her knees in
and over the bar in the smoothest of motions. She let go, pointed her
toes and arched her back. When Bobby gave the signal, she whipped back
up, grabbed the bar and untucked her knees, and let go. She landing on
the net with a gentle bounce and swung herself over the side of the net.

Right. She made it look so easy, which naturally meant that it was
difficult and I was going to embarrass myself big time. Fortunately, I
had decided not to take any friends along. I was glad I’d gotten there
a little late. There were twelve other people before me, twelve people
to learn from and twelve chances to visualize what should be done
before I actually had to get up there and remove my toes from the
comfort of the ground.

The next two people up inspired great confidence, though. They
couldn’t get their knees up to the bar. At that point, I decided that
even the experience of swinging on a trapeze would make it worth it
for me, and that any sort of trick would be chocolate fudge icing on a
double-chocolate cake.

The rest of the students passed in quick succession. Some had clearly
done this before. Others were obviously first-timers. My fellow
first-timers generally made an undignified scramble for the bar, but
that was okay—at our level, just touching the bar with one’s toes
could be considered an amazing achievement.

And then it was my turn. I climbed up the aluminum ladder, which
swayed with every step. I visualized the first person’s performance,
while giving myself permission to do the frog scramble that other
beginners did. It was going to be okay. It was going to be fun.

On the platform, Adam tightened my harness and hooked up the two
safety lines that Bobby controlled. He told me to stand with my toes
off the edge and lean forward to grab the bar with my right hand. And
then I was somehow supposed to trust this guy to hang on to me as I
grabbed the bar with my left hand, leaning forward so that my center
of gravity was over thin air. As part of me started thinking ahead to
the things that might go wrong and how I might deal with them (hands
slipping because of sweat or surprise? safety person not paying
attention), another part of me though, “What the heck, I’m up here
already. I want to see what it’s like. Let’s go!”

“Hep!”, he said, and off I went.

That first swing is a rush. I’d like to say that the only thought that
was running through my head was “DO NOT LET GO DO NOT LET GO DO NOT
LET GO”. But it wasn’t. It was just too much *fun* watching the world
whiz by. And at the height of that swing, Bobby gave me the signal to
get my knees up there.

Right. Time to haul myself up. So I hauled.

You must understand that the last time I did anything even remotely
like this was when I was five years old and doing gymnastics. No,
wait, I also made a habit of hanging upside down by my knees in the
low-branched kalachuchi trees of my high school. But it had been a
very long time since I had climbed a tree or played on monkey bars.

No, I did not have this flashback while I was up there. I was too busy
hauling. Crunch, scramble, get those knees up and over.

Whee! And then to let go of the bar—and point my toes—and arch my
back—whee!

It was over far too soon. The toughest part was figuring out how to
get back on the ground. I squawked, bounced off the net, clambered to
the edge, and tried to let myself over gracefully. Nope, I used up all
of my grace points doing that trapeze trick. But I did manage to get
myself back on terra firma without breaking anything.

And then we were taught another trick: somersaulting on the dismount
by tucking our knees in and leaning back. Piece of cake!

I’m going to sign up for circus classes this fall. I probably won’t go
for the trapeze right away, although I’ll drop in for classes once in
a while. I think I’ll start off with flexibility training, because
that’s something I can keep practicing on my own. But I’ve found
something I enjoy doing. Now I have even better reasons to develop
strength, endurance, and flexibility. I could always *see* these
tricks in my mind’s eye, and now I can remember the exhilaration.

Happiness!

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

July 27, 2007 - Categories: life

Old readers of this blog would know how special A Midsummer Night’s Dream is to me, of all Shakespeare’s plays. It was happy coincidence that J’s Shakespeare camp involved a production of AMND, and that one of her roles was the same one I played so many years ago. All that I have to say is to tell you that the lantern is the moon… =)

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I am going to have it all

July 28, 2007 - Categories: plans

I have decided to do extraordinarily well, and to live the fullest
life I can. That means a rich and fulfilling full-time career, great
friendships, probably marriage and kids, and the time and energy and
finances to develop my self the way I want to.

I am going to have it all. I believe that it’s possible.

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Park play; A Midsummer Night’s Dream

July 28, 2007 - Categories: life

More exercise at the park today. I did three sets of five assisted
chin-ups and assorted other exercises, although I still have far to go
before I can even make it across the monkey bars. W- and J- beat me
every single time: running, climbing poles… Must remind myself that
I shouldn’t feel bad that they’re fitter than I am. <laugh> Will
instead focus on getting better!

We watched the Dream in High Park performance of A Midsummer Night’s
Dream. The mechanicals’ play-within-a-play was hilarious! J- loved it,
and so did W- and I. This production’s Puck was a terrific acrobat and
he was so much fun to watch. And the fight scene between the four
lovers—that was awesome!

I heart AMND.

Tomorrow: tea party, write article for Booksnake, start planning my
own get-together…

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Weekly review: July 23 to July 29

July 29, 2007 - Categories: weekly

Goals from last week:

Goals last week This week
Finish and print thesis draft In progress. Up to the tenth revision of my paper. Supervisor happy. Needs some more formatting, though.
Book room for defense Done.
Meet manager re declined offer Met Robert Terpstra and had great conversation about life.
Ping tech sales Talked to Liz Elek about immigration documents.
Read more books Read 7 books: one book on sales, four books on relationships, one book on e-mail, and one book on jobs. Only one sales book and one relationships book were particularly note-worthy: How to Sell to Difficult Customers, and the Feminine Mistake.
Start booksnake blog Done: Booksnake
Do core exercises 3x week Assisted reverse chin-ups.
Finish 6 more sessions of Cantonese study 5 done so far, 1 more scheduled today.
Fri: Attend drop-in circus class Tons of fun!
Revise CASCON paper Not started.
Build cooking vocabulary Not started.
Swim Not started.
Outsource a task Not started.
Plan birthday event – LifeCamp Not started. Thinking about what I want to do with my life.

Other stuff this week:

  • Watched J-‘s Shakespeare for Kids performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Watched Dream in High Park performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Found other book-related blogs.
  • Signed up on SuperViva.com, a social website for stuff you want to do with your life. Like 43things, but better for my purposes.
  • Skin reacting to Clinique acne starter kit. Toner might be too strong.

Next week:

  • Send thesis draft to people, really.
  • Check paperwork requirements for post-graduate work permit and start compiling them.
  • Revise CASCON paper.
  • Do one week + one advance post for Booksnake.
  • Plan birthday event, really.
  • Touch IBM blogosphere.
  • Swim.
  • Pay rent and balance books.
  • Learn about sales.

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Croissants and tea

July 29, 2007 - Categories: happy

Freshly-baked home-made croissants filled with marzipan and sprinkled
with slivered almonds. Check.

English Breakfast tea. Check.

Are there any better ways to start a Sunday?

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GTD in Emacs

July 29, 2007 - Categories: emacs

credmp has an excellent blog post on GTD with Emacs using Planner and Remember. I’m so happy! =)

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I heart the Toronto Public Library

July 30, 2007 - Categories: library

Did you know that the Toronto Public Library is the largest in North Americ in terms of circulation, with 19 million circulated items? (Source: Wikipedia) *Shiver.* What luck!

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Postponing driver’s ed

July 30, 2007 - Categories: learning

Driving is a useful skill, and I will definitely look into it.
However, I will postpone driving lessons right now because I don’t
have a good handle yet on whether it will be needed for my job and
what the costs of keeping a car will be like (especially as I’m not
yet 25)…

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If I don’t go and do something, I’ll go mad

July 30, 2007 - Categories: school

My thesis draft has been sent to my committee members. I’ve also
revised my CASCON paper and outlined my presentation. And if I don’t
find something else to do, some neat work-type thing, I’m going to go
mad. I can’t really give myself permission to waste the time idly
surfing the Net. I get that itch to do something interesting and
useful…

Tomorrow, I’m going to go to IBM. I think my laptop’s just too slow
for reliable VPN. If I go tomorrow, I can invest time in fully
participating in the blogosphere. I can even do some of the
story-collecting and analysis I’d been meaning to do forever. Maybe
I’ll start putting the slides together.

Ah, there’s another thing I can do: update my literature review with
older papers.

And get back into open source development, maybe with Rails.

This is teaching me a lot about my ideal life. I don’t want to be
retired-retired. I want to be doing interesting things. Twitch,
twitch, twitch…

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