Superfluous Matter
Updates

Today Kim got sick enough of losing hair by the handful to allow me to cut it all off. She has a really positive attitude about it all though, making jokes and such so things are good. Kim's doing well health-wise too, the second chemo treatment didn't seem to bother her stomach much.

As for the house, we're all unpacked and well on our way to getting settled. I've made lots of trips to Canadian Tire and Home Depot already.

Second Treatment

Kim had her second round of chemotherapy today and it went extremely smoothly. She was just an outpatient this time and St. Michael's has a really nice area set up with comfy chairs and TVs where the cancer patients can sit while they get their medicines given by IV. It took most of the day to go through the four drugs, but nothing eventful happened and Kim's now sleeping soundly. Only 4-6 more rounds to go!

Internet!

Our Internet was connected today! Yay! We managed to avoid both Bell and Rogers by going with TekSavvy Cable Internet and the first six hours seem to have gone really well. The installation was fast and painless and I checked a random Internet speed test and verified that we are getting 18Mbps download and 1Mbps upload! The monthly bandwidth cap is 200GB which is plenty adequate and it only costs $42.95/month. Also, there is no fixed length contract so if things go bad we can quit at any time. I feel fortunate to live in a city where there are alternatives to the stupid Rogers/Bell duopoly.

The rest of the house is coming along well. We got the kitchen and master bedroom pretty much set up and our new washing machine and dryer are awesome. We made our first of many trips to Canadian Tire today too.

On the cancer front, Kim's hair has started falling out which is expected I guess, but still a bit distressing. Her neck tumours are noticeably smaller though so I suppose the treatment is working. She goes in for blood work on Wednesday and then assuming her white blood cell count is good she'll get her second round of chemotherapy on Thursday. Kim's mom and sister are coming to stay with us for the treatment and for Christmas so that will be nice.

Moved

We're moved in and leeching wireless Internet from a neighbour until tomorrow when our Internet will be hooked up. The house is chaos, but it's also good. The move went super smoothly thanks to the awesome help of many friends and family.

Homeowners

The deal is done and we have the keys to the house! We're moving in a few hours, but we've already been up to check things out and move a few fragile things. Excited!

House Update

We signed the papers with the lawyer today for our new house! Only four more days until we close and then we move on Saturday. We're almost packed and super excited.

Subways

Kim has continued to do well for the past few days and so other than her being tired and bored, there is not much to report.

Instead, I'm going to post a fun image I saw today. Rob Ford is already busy declaring Transit City and anything resembling LRT or streetcars to be dead. Toronto residents want subways apparently. Whatever your views on this matter I think you'd have to admit that the preliminary subway plan from the independent council Save Our Subways is pretty cool. How awesome would it be if that was the baseline subway system in Toronto and the only problem was how to get people to the nearest subway stop?

Of course just because something is cool, doesn't mean it is possible. I'd love to see this built, but it would take decades and billions of dollars and some sort of long term plan that couldn't be overturned by the first disapproving government. I don't think any of these things are just going to appear. Rob Ford is trying to will the subways into existence which probably won't work. If he does manage to kill Transit City then I also hope he succeeds with his willpower, because it would suck to have nothing at all.

Home

Kim is home! After almost exactly a week in the hospital, she was discharged today around noon. She had a really good weekend after the chemotherapy finished and the fever never returned. I could tell she was about ready to freak out from boredom/monotony if they kept her another day so I'm really glad they let her go. She's super happy and excited to be home and she spent all day today going over financial stuff for the house and contacting the lawyer to make sure everything is ready to go.

There was almost no nausea from the chemotherapy. There are really good anti-nausea pills now and they worked perfectly. There has also been no hair loss yet, although apparently that could start at any time. We're prepared for it though, Kim's mom ordered her a bunch of fun scarves and things to help keep her head warm.

She has a follow-up appointment on Friday just to make sure everything is still going well. Then, the next round of chemotherapy will probably be on December 23rd assuming her blood counts have recovered enough. Merry Christmas, I guess. It's all good though, after the 23rd, there will only be 4-6 more treatments to go!

One more thing, both Kim's mom and my mom have been super awesome and helpful this past week. They both came up to stay with us so that there would always be someone with Kim at the hospital (the three of us took turns). This meant that Kim's nurses didn't have to work as hard and also that there was always someone with her to talk to when she got scared. It also meant that I was able to do some packing and other stuff for the move despite Kim being in the hospital. So yeah, the moms are awesome.

Post Treatment

Due to the fever, Kim's doctor decided to keep her for observation over the weekend. Thankfully, things have been quiet since the fever cleared and there have been no strong reactions to the chemotherapy drugs she received on Friday. The hope is that they will discharge her on Monday and things can go back to being semi-normal.

I got a flu shot yesterday to help keep me healthy and my arm is a little sore but no other reaction so far. Mentally I am definitely feeling a stronger urge to blindly obey authority (everyone knows flu shots are mostly made up of mind control serum).

Last night I managed to pack a couple boxes, which breaks the inertia of the last week. Hopefully I can pack some more today after I sit with Kim for a while.

Second Day of Cancer Treatment

Last night after I left the hospital, Kim spiked a fever of 102 so they started running antibiotics along with Benadryl for itching. They also did another chest X-ray just to make sure nothing serious was happening. She just has an infection of some sort. It's probably something she had before last night and the Rituximab simply aggravated it. By the morning she was back to normal more or less and they were able to continue with the chemotherapy around noon.

The three drugs today (cyclophosphamide, hydroxdaunorubicin, oncovin) were administered without any difficulties, and the anti-nausea medicine seems to be working for now. Hopefully it continues to work tonight and tomorrow. My mom is staying at the hospital with her to give Kim's mom and me a chance to catch up on some much needed sleep. In my case, I'm catching up on house stuff too.

Also today we had a bunch of visits from hospital support staff including a social worker, dietitian and the case manager. All of these people were super friendly and helpful. The dietitian had some cool books that deal with all the eating problems that occur as a result of chemo.

Tomorrow I have to go get a flu shot to help make sure I stay healthy over the next six months. I've never had one before (not even sure I've ever had the flu before) so hopefully I don't react funny to it or anything.

We got the final count from the fertility clinic today. Before freezing, one of the good embryos failed and so only four were able to be frozen. Also, the special procedure for the immature eggs was not successful in any of the cases so the final count will be just four. This is still enough, but there's obviously not a lot of room for error or complications when we go to use them. It's a little disappointing, but we did the best we could. Kim's health is more important.

First Day of Cancer Treatment

I stayed over at the hospital last night with Kim (on a reclining chair) so I'm a bit tired now. However Kim managed to get a good sleep. She was pretty nervous for today, the first day of treatments.

Rituximab is essentially an antibody that targets and destroys B-cells, thus helping to treat conditions where B-cells are problematic (like Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma). The first time it is given to a patient it must be given slowly as there is a relatively high risk of adverse reaction while it is entering the body. By starting slowly the doctors can react to any problems before they become serious.

Before beginning the Rituximab today, Kim was given Benadryl and Tylenol to pro-actively reduce the symptoms of any reactions to the drug. She was also given Allopurinol to help combat the possibility of "Tumour Lysis Syndrome," a problem that occurs when cancer cells are destroyed and break down releasing toxic material into the body which can ultimately cause kidney failure.

For the most part the administration of the Rituximab went well. The only problem occurred when the flow rate was increased the second time. Kim starting shaking uncontrollably. This is a common side-effect and so the nurses were ready to deal with it. They temporarily stopped the Rituximab drip and gave Kim Demerol intravenously and within a couple minutes she stopped shaking and actually started feeling pretty good (Demerol is a synthetic opiate after all). They were able to restart the Rituximab after the Demerol and get it up to the same flow rate as when she started shaking. There were no more problems after that and she was in good spirits the rest of the day.

I'm at home now so that I can try to get a good rest tonight. Kim's mom is staying with her at the hospital. The nurses are going to get her a stretcher to sleep on instead of that awful recliner so that should be nice. Just before I left I got an update from the fertility clinic. As of today we have five embryos. This is less than expected, but apparently it is enough to work with. Many of the eggs were still immature because we had to rush a bit and because Kim had to start the steroids before the fertility doctor wanted her to. However they might still be able to create embryos from the remaining eggs through a process where they inject a single sperm directly into the egg. This is not ideal since it may not be the "best" sperm (survival of the fittest and all that) but they label the embryos and so when we go to use them we will obviously try to use the natural ones first. At this point we're happy to have anything really.

The other update is that Kim's potassium levels are low, so they are giving her some of that tonight so that she'll be nicely prepared for the rest of the chemotherapy tomorrow. The doctor also said she might be able to come home as early as Saturday!

My Wife Has Cancer

Hi everyone. I haven't posted much lately and many of you know why. But for anyone I haven't managed to tell yet, on November 5, my wife Kim was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (i.e. cancer of the lymphatic system). The cancer has also moved into her lungs, and as a result is automatically classified as a stage 4 cancer (one that has spread into other systems from the initial site).

It started back in October when Kim noticed a couple lumps in her neck. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and that seemed to help for a while. But the lumps came back and became painful and Kim eventually ended up in the ER due to the pain. They did various tests over the course of three days, cumulating in a complete biopsy of one of the swollen lymph nodes. We had the results a week later. Since then things have moved fast.

We met with a wonderful hematological oncologist at St. Michael's hospital and she ordered lots more tests to help stage the cancer. The tests included CT scans, radioactive dye tests and a painful bone marrow biopsy. As I mentioned, it is at stage 4 due to the lung involvement, but the cancer is not in Kim's bone marrow and so the treatment is more straight-forward.

This type of lymphoma is one of the most common types and so the treatment is extremely well researched and standardized. The treatment is also very effective at not just reversing the cancer, but ultimately curing it in many cases. Kim will be doing six to eight cycles of chemotherapy at three week intervals. The specific chemotherapy protocol is known as R-CHOP which is an acronym for the drugs that will be used (rituximab, cyclophosphamide, hydroxdaunorubicin, oncovin and prednisone).

We were well aware that chemotherapy has lots of side-effects, however we were totally unprepared for the fact that cyclophosphamide (particularly in the doses Kim will be getting) has a high potential for sterility. As we are planning on having kids in the next few years this news was upsetting. However, the fact that we were already planning on having kids meant that we were excellent candidates for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The idea is that they extract eggs from Kim, fertilize them with my sperm and freeze them for future use. Although it is possible to just freeze the eggs, embryos freeze a lot better so it's great that we were already at this stage of our life.

We were referred to a fertility clinic as soon as the initial diagnosis came in and we got started on the process to get Kim ready to extract eggs. This process was projected to take about two weeks which was also the estimated time it would take to prepare Kim for chemotherapy. So a lot was going on in parallel but it seemed like it would all line up nicely.

The IVF process was extremely involved. Both of us had to get lots of blood tests, and Kim had to go into the clinic every day to get injections of drugs to stimulate egg production. She also had to get ultrasounds and blood tests every other day to monitor her progress. The whole thing added a lot of stress to an already stressful time, but we managed. Unfortunately, the IVF treatments were well underway by the time we got the information about the cancer being stage 4. Looking back, we probably would have skipped the whole IVF thing if we had known the cancer was so advanced. However at that point we had already invested lots of time and money into the process and the oncologist assured us it was OK to continue. So we kept going.

Then about a week ago, it looked like Kim wasn't going to be ready for egg harvesting before her first chemotherapy treatment. She also started having more problems breathing due to the cancer in her lungs. This combined to produce a lot of stress. We contacted the oncologist and she was concerned enough about Kim's breathing to admit her to the hospital (St. Michael's) on Monday afternoon of this week. They started her on steroids (prednisone, the P from R-CHOP) to help clear things up and that worked quite well. They've also been running lots of fluids through her intravenously to help flush out any toxicity from degrading cancer cells. Despite all this craziness, we were still able to go the fertility clinic today to complete the egg retrieval. That process went extremely smoothly and they managed to extract 24 eggs (we will find out how many were successfully fertilized tomorrow). An hour after the procedure we were able to head back to the hospital and Kim has been resting ever since.

Tomorrow Kim starts on rituximab, the first part of her chemotherapy. Friday she will receive the rest. Saturday will be recovery and hopefully she can go home after that. As long as all goes well future chemotherapy treatments should only take a day and will be done as out-patient procedures. The first treatment was originally scheduled to be done as out-patient as well, but we're all pretty happy to have it done while Kim is admitted as an in-patient. It means we will get immediate help for any side-effects and it should make it easier for us to handle recovery from future treatments at home.

A lot of people I talk to about this are surprised that Kim is being treated at St. Michael's and not Princess Margaret or Sunnybrook. Although it is true that both of those places are great for cancer treatment, St. Michael's also has an excellent cancer treatment program and we have been nothing but thrilled with the care and treatment provided so far.

Both Kim and I have also had a ton of support and understanding from our employers, for which we are truly grateful.

Finally, all of the kind thoughts, emails and phone calls from friends and family have been much appreciated and will continue to be appreciated in the future. Anyone should feel free to send messages whenever, just understand that we may not reply right away due to the craziness of treatment plus the fact that we have still have to move to our new house in three weeks.

I intend to try to update this blog regularly now with how things are going. This will be easier for me than trying to contact everyone individually with updates. It's not that I don't want to talk to people, just that there isn't always enough time.

Mayor Results

This and this both explain a lot. Unfortunately our new house falls on the other side of the magical boundary.

Update: The National Post has the nicest version I've seen of the mayoral results broken down by ward and if you haven't seen it already, check out Rob Ford's first post-election fail (a pre-scheduled interview with the CBC that was just awful, as a result of which the CBC is apparently now cut off from Rob Ford, just like the Toronto Star).

Earliest Known Photos of Toronto

Today while blindly browsing teh interwebs I came across the Armstrong, Beere and Hime Panorama which is a set of the earliest know photos of Toronto forming a panorama of the city as it was in 1856 from the corner of King and York. I love seeing old pictures of the city because you can see landmarks that are still around today and it's neat to see how things have changed around them. In this panorama in particular you can spot Osgoode Hall, St. Lawrence Hall, and St. James Cathedral (before its spire was built!). It's amazing how different the city was back then.

You can read more about the panorama at the City of Toronto Archives. They also have a map of the city from the year the photos were taken. It's bounded by Bloor in the north, Strachan in the west and the Don Valley in the east. Toronto was so small back then!

Machine of Death

Dinosaur Comics is my number one favourite web comic on the whole Internets. Not only is it hilarious and fairly nerdy, but the author, Ryan North, lives in Toronto so there are often vague references to things happening here.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to help spread the word about an awesome book that is going on sale which was inspired by a particular Dinosaur Comic. Ryan North and twenty-nine other people (including Randall Munroe from xkcd and Ben Croshaw from Zero Punctuation) contributed short stories based on the premise of that comic which have been combined into an anthology called Machine of Death (if you haven't checked out the comic yet, go do it now so you can understand the title).

Unfortunately they could not get a publisher to pick up the project and so had to publish it themselves. They are not bitter about this, as it is clearly a niche market, but they also don't want to just let the book slip quietly into obscurity. If you're interested in the book please buy it from the Amazon link above on October 26th. Apparently top sellers on Amazon only sell a few hundred books a day, so if everyone who is interested in this book buys it on the same day it should reach the number one selling book on Amazon for that day. That could be enough to make a difference in the future of the book and would be a great win for an independent publisher. For more information check out the Machine of Death website.

If you're not interested in buying the book without more information they are planning to release it for free as a PDF on their website eventually. So you could read it when that happens and then if you like it, support them by buying the book at that time. DON'T WORRY, THEY'LL STILL TAKE YOUR MONEY AFTER THE 26TH! :)

Mayor

I find the current mayoral race in Toronto fairly depressing and I think the problem has more to do with the state of municipal politics in general than with the current crop of less than inspiring candidates.

For me, the largest issue is transportation of all forms. People (who don't actually live in Toronto) complain an awful lot about how terrible it is to drive here. The reason of course is that there is limited space for roads in the downtown core of any city and that the only way to alleviate the problem is to decrease the number of cars using those roads. The obvious way to solve this problem is through promotion of alternative means of transportation such as walking, biking and most importantly public transit.

But that's where it all falls apart. City council has enough power and funds to tackle bike lanes and neighbourhood walk-ability issues but they honestly don't have much hope on public transit.

The whole "Transit City" program, while better than nothing, isn't anywhere close to sufficient in addressing the current and future needs of Toronto. As a city we really need several new subway lines in addition to extensions and upgrades to the existing lines. Such projects are expensive and challenging and require long term plans that extend beyond the average term of any particular mayor. Most importantly, they are not financially feasible without significant guaranteed investment from the federal and provincial governments.

Such investment will never come though (despite the fact that cities all over the world get transit funding from higher levels of government), as it is political suicide to spend large amounts of money on things that only help Toronto. Over 10% of all Canadians live in the GTA but the national sport of Toronto-hating forver holds the city back from reaching its goal of becoming "world-class."

And so, since none of the candidates can really do anything to properly solve the issue that I feel is most important to the city, I find the whole election to be rather redundant. It would suck if Rob Ford won since he'd probably do a bunch of embarrassing and stupid things, but if someone else wins it's not like they'll be able to create new subways out of nothing (and yes I know Rob Ford likes subways, but his plans are ludicrously unrealistic in that regard).

Thus, I'm seriously tempted to ditch the strategic voting thing and vote for Joe "Pants" Pantalone as he is the only candidate who seems to say positive things about the city as it is now. George and Rob can only seem to talk about how terrible it is and it makes me think they don't actually like being here. In particular, Joe acknowledges that the city budgets are actually in fairly decent shape, especially compared to other cities around the world. All the "gravy train" business is mostly populist nonsense meant to stir up people who don't normally pay attention except when they see their tax bill (which is actually lower in Toronto than all the suburbs around, but whatever, facts are meaningless).

Toronto Beer Week

I just got back from the first and only event I'll be attending as part of Toronto Beer Week which was "A Night With Black Oak Brewery" at Bar Volo. It was a great event with nine Black Oak brews on tap and the Brew Master and Owner of Black Oak present. My favourite beer of the night was by far the Double IPA (!!!), "Ten Bitter Years." I don't even know how to describe it, it was just so good! Also fun was that the Brew Master came and chatted with us for ten minutes or so about his beers and about beers from around the world. I love living in a city that lets me enjoy events like this.

House!

For anyone who missed my Facebook update, we bought a house! It's just off St. Clair West between Lansdowne and Keele and it's a little semi-detached, 3 bedroom place with a nicely finished basement and a big deck. We're quite excited/happy and can't wait to move in (which will happen on December 18).

Not sure how long this link will work, but for now check out the virtual tour for pictures.

Dieu du Ciel -- Corne du diable

I enjoy beer quite a bit and for the last couple years I've made an effort to try lots of new and interesting styles and brands. In particular I've developed a great fondness for local craft brewed beer; a scene which is exploding all across North America. Ontario has a number of truly amazing small breweries and the LCBO has become more flexible lately and has taken to featuring those breweries on a regular basis. Unfortunately, due to the strange rules of liquor distribution in this country, the LCBO rarely gets anything from outside of Ontario. So it is quite difficult to access craft beers from the US or even from other provinces in Canada.

Sometimes though, the LCBO works something out with a particular brewery from out of province and we get a chance to buy wonderful beers from other regions. This fall, the LCBO is featuring the Quebec-based brewery Dieu du Ciel. I've tried four different beers from them and my favourite by far is their American IPA "Corne du Diable."

IPAs (India Pale Ales) seem to be extremely popular among people who, like me, seek out new and interesting beers (many would call such people beer snobs and personally I'm OK with that...I'd rather drink fewer delicious beers than many average beers). I've never been able to really get into IPAs though, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is because the style has such a large amount of variation and I've just never had one I liked. Just a quick aside, the definition of what makes an IPA is a hotly debated topic among beer aficionados. I won't step into that argument here except to say that if all you've had is Alexander Kieth's then you've never had an IPA.

Now that I've tried Corne du Diable, I am reevaluating my attitudes towards IPAs because it is just so good. It's flavourful with a good amount of bitterness and it's also super dry in a way that reminds me of dry white wine. I have three more bottles in my fridge and I'm thinking I'll have to pick up some more before it's all gone. Either that or start making regular trips to Montreal!

"Down-to-earth" Politicians

Toronto is electing a new mayor soon and it's causing me stress. Something that has been bothering me about politics lately is the apparent desire of many people to have candidates that are "down-to-earth" and "just like me." For example, Sarah Palin in the US and Rob Ford in the current Toronto mayoral race. For a converse example, see criticism of Stephan Dion or Michael Ignatieff for being too smart/educated. Also noteworthy is Stephen Harper's aversion to listening to advisors who are experts in their fields as well as his push to make the long form census non-mandatory.

Seriously, on what planet does any of this make sense? I want the smartest, most educated and most experienced person possible to win elections. It shouldn't be about who is nicest or most approachable or about religion. It should be about who is actually best for the job. I want someone who is better than me. Running countries or provinces or cities is hard. An average person isn't going to cut it. Why would you vote for someone average? So that the country can be average? We should all aspire to greatness.

The only explanation I can think of is that perhaps people don't like to vote for someone who is smarter/better than themselves because it makes them feel bad about their own lack of accomplishment. To those people I say, if you can't stomach voting for a person who is better than you, do everyone else a favour and refrain from voting at all.

For a more amusing take on this same topic, check out this blog post from the Real Johnson.

Fire + Site Maintenance

Late last night the downtown Toronto location of Canada Computers burned down! Well, burned out I guess. The building is still there but will need to be totally gutted. The apartments above were destroyed too, which is pretty sad. No one was seriously hurt though and apparently it could have been a lot worse. They were able to contain the fire to just the Canada Computers building and prevent it from spreading to all the adjacent buildings (which are equally old and flammable). We walked by this evening and it was sad to see all the bits of computer stuff blackened inside the store (see my slightly blurry photo below, be sure to click for the full resolution version).

Tonight I updated my main RSS feed to include both my blog posts as well as photos I post to my Photos page instead of having a separate RSS feed for each. So if you read my blog from an RSS reader you'll have noticed five new photos pop up in your feed in addition to this post. Please let me know if you see any problems.

Finally, although I am normally pretty good about backing up my data, I have always been reckless with my lists of recipes to cook and restaurants to visit. Both are kept as drafts in my Gmail account. The other day, after adding a recipe to my recipe list, I pressed the discard draft button instead of the save draft button. Gmail is pretty good and will let you undo stupid stuff like that, but I didn't notice I had done it until three days later when I went looking for a recipe. By then it was too late and I was sad. So I'm going to push ahead a little on some plans I once thought up to add a recipe section to my blog so that I can store the data more permanently. I should do something similar with restaurants, but I think it's best to focus on one thing at a time.

Burned out Canada Computers
Burned out Canada Computers
Algonquin

I haven't had much to post about lately so I'm posting my Algonquin trip journal from this past Civic Holiday weekend. I wrote it up a couple weeks ago and was just waiting to receive the last set of photos from one of the people on the trip. Unfortunately that set seems to have gotten lost in the mail or something. Anyway, I'm posting with the photos I do have and if the missing ones ever show up I'll add them in.

Baklava and Thermostats

Yesterday was Rib-o-Rama X at John's house and guests were encouraged to bring salads and/or desserts to augment the piles of delicious smoked meats that are always served. Inspired by Janet, I decided I would attempt to make baklava to bring as my contribution.

Baklava is extremely time-consuming to make as it requires you to lay out ~40 sheets of phyllo pastry one at a time, brushing each with clarified butter as you go. I messed up the syrup a bit so the baklava wasn't as moist as I would have liked it, but it still tasted just fine. The nice thing about Janet's recipe is that it is much less sweet than baklava you might pick up at a bakery or wherever which means it's easier to eat lots all at once.

Also yesterday the thermostat in our apartment decided to finally die (it seemed like it was about to die when we moved in, but then it clung to life for almost three more years). Generally I would call the landlord to get it fixed, but he has a new baby and I thought it would be good practice to try to replace it myself. So I picked one up from Canadian Tire that looked similar to the old one and installed it this afternoon in about 30 minutes. It was super easy and our apartment is nice and air conditioned again.

Home-made baklava
Home-made baklava
Misc Update

I've been totally sucking at blogging lately, not too much has been happening beyond the usual climbing, house searching, and general life stuff. There is some exciting news though as of today, Chris and John got engaged! Good times!!

Also tonight we talked with Patrick and Toni on Skype for the first time in a while which was fantastic. Finally, I made a tart for supper tonight with fresh Ontario zucchini and it was amazing.

Zucchini and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Parmesan Tart
Zucchini and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Parmesan Tart
Camping

I'm back from our annual canoe trip in Algonquin and it was friggin' awesome as usual. We had 20 people this time in total and everyone was great. I'll be writing up a proper journal with photos and even cliff-jumping videos soon.

Cottage

This weekend I met up with Mike and we headed up with a whole bunch of people to Alex's cottage. It was an awesome trip with lots of good food and relaxing out in nature and stuff. It was also a good precursor to our annual Algonquin trip next week. I'm very excited!!

Watermelon!
Watermelon!
Boat on the water
Boat on the water
Dock
Dock
Lighthouse
Lighthouse
Sunset
Sunset
Lighthouse
Lighthouse
Flower
Flower
Yoga

Tonight my climbing gym held a free intro yoga class. I'm normally there for climbing on Wednesdays anyway so the timing worked out well. I climbed for two hours and then did the yoga thing. I've never done yoga before, but it was pretty good. I think my only problem was that I would normally have climbed for another hour and so I felt unfulfilled from a climbing standpoint.

Almost a House

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, things have been busier and more stressful than usual over the last week. For the last three months (since about the middle of April) Kim and I have been working with a realtor to try to buy a house. We've been all over the city and seen dozens of places. Toronto real estate is crazy and things are all expensive or crappy or weird or whatever and everything moves very fast. It's been a pretty special experience so far.

Last week the stress-o-meter went up a notch. We found a house we liked enough to put in an offer on! It was a detached, three-bedroom house with a decent yard and beautiful deck out in south-west Scarborough (near Danforth and Warden). It was in our price range and was in really good shape.

The only problem was that the attic had vermiculite insulation in it. Vermiculite is a normally harmless substance that is very good for insulating attics. In fact the Canadian government gave substantial tax credits for installing it back in the energy crisis of the 1970s. Unfortunately a lot of vermiculite came from this one mine in Libby, Montana which happened to be contaminated with asbestos. Thus, the vermiculite was also contaminated and now sits in many homes threatening to become a health hazard if it is ever disturbed.

The owner of the house we were looking at disclosed the presence of vermiculite, but did not know if it was contaminated or not. She also dropped the price of the house by $15,000 due to the vermiculite scaring people away. After talking to asbestos people we determined first that on average the removal costs for contaminated vermiculite range between $12,000 and $15,000 (although if there are complications it can go as high as $40,000) and second that there would be about a 50-50 chance the vermiculite was contaminated.

We tried to get the seller to agree to split the removal costs (and thus the risk) with us but she wasn't interested. Nor was she interested in reducing her price any further. So we decided to give an offer anyway, conditional on testing the vermiculite for the asbestos. We hoped we might get lucky and score an awesome deal on a great house. And if there was asbestos, at least we could back out if we didn't want to take the risk ourselves.

Well as you can imagine there was asbestos. Lots of happy asbestos. Boo. We talked it over and decided we were too scared, especially on our first house, to take on the risk of removal. Although it is technically harmless if undisturbed we didn't want to leave it there as it would have been an issue again in the future when we went to sell the house. So we backed out of the offer and felt sad (and a bit sleazy).

So no house yet. But now I know lots and lots about vermiculite. Woooo.

Indian Food Night

Tonight I made a couple Indian dishes which Kim and I shared with Chris and John. It was fun because I made as many of the ingredients from scratch as possible. First I made ghee (clarified butter) and then I ground my own garam masala (a blend of spices used in many Indian dishes). Finally I made paneer, a type of soft cheese. Then, using these ingredients I made Mutter Paneer (peas and cheese) and Tandoori Chicken. From the Tandoori Chicken I made Butter Chicken. This all turned out pretty well and was a lot of fun. However it was a ton of work so I don't think I'll be doing it too often.

Hand-ground Garam Masala
Hand-ground Garam Masala
Paneer before being pressed and chilled
Paneer before being pressed and chilled
Paneer after being pressed, chilled and sliced
Paneer after being pressed, chilled and sliced
Ghee
Ghee
Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori Chicken
Mutter Panner with Butter Chicken, delicious
Mutter Panner with Butter Chicken, delicious
Mango Chicken Coleslaw

Tonight we made mango chicken coleslaw and it was delicious!

Mango Chicken Coleslaw
Mango Chicken Coleslaw
China!

I've finished writing up my notes and editing my photos and now my China trip journal is ready. Check it out! I'll also post the photos on Facebook at some point.

Earthquake!?!?!?

So I'm sitting at my desk at work right now and just 10 minutes ago there was an earthquake! What's up with that??? This is Toronto, the ground doesn't move here. I guess it was relatively minor as there doesn't seem to be any damage, but it sounds like was quite widespread, being felt in Montreal, Ottawa and upper New York State.

Update: The U.S. Geological Survey has a detailed report available now.

G20 Fences

The G20 Summit is coming and as a resident of the "outer security zone" I have to say, I'm getting the heck out of Toronto for that weekend. It is interesting to see all the fencing going up though and it's amusing the number of police and security personnel patrolling the streets. We went for a walk tonight and I took some photos of it all.

The fences at Front and Blue Jays Way (where I live)
The fences at Front and Blue Jays Way (where I live)
CN Tower with fences
CN Tower with fences
More fences
More fences
Kim with fence and Police truck
Kim with fence and Police truck
Fences on Simcoe
Fences on Simcoe
Fences
Fences
CN Tower with fences
CN Tower with fences
All garbage cans (and other street furniture) have been removed, plastic bags tied to poles are the replacement
All garbage cans (and other street furniture) have been removed, plastic bags tied to poles are the replacement
Home

I'm home from China now. Time to start the jet lag recovery.

Beijing Update

Despite the 32C heat and the relatively difficult terrain, I survived the 10km Great Wall hike and it was amazing. The mountains all around the wall are super cool and the wall itself is most impressive. Back to Canada the day after tomorrow, then I'll write up a real trip journal in the usual place.

In Beijing

I finished up my work stuff in Shanghai on Friday and now I'm in Beijing checking out the city and relaxing before my flight back to Toronto on Wednesday. Tomorrow I do a 10km hike along a really cool section of the Great Wall. Should be fun!

To China

I'm going to China tomorrow! I'm both excited and scared. I'm sure it will be great though. I'll definitely have lots of cool photos to post here in a couple of weeks!

Weekend BBQ

Last weekend Kim and I joined Rob, Janet, and Matt at Chris and John's place for another awesome BBQ! This time we had yummy sausages with sauerkraut, cucumber salad, and an amazing Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing brought by Janet. For dessert, Kim and I brought chocolate ice cream, made in our ice cream maker, which was served on top of brownies also brought by Janet. It was so good and rich! I think the key was using good cocoa powder (Valrhona) and good dark chocolate.

Delicious food
Delicious food
Delicious chocolate ice cream
Delicious chocolate ice cream
Now With Search Functionality

I've added a search function to my blog! Rob was looking for something the other day and was upset to find I didn't have a way to search my posts. So I've added one. You can access the search field in the menu, between the random quote and the random photo.

Implementing the search was super easy! Apparently MySQL has built in full-text search capability. You can mark text columns in your tables and they will be indexed. Then you can add match conditions to the "where" clause of queries on the database. It works really well and returns results sorted by relevance. It's awesome!

Blog Fail

It's been too long since my last update but I've been busy and stuff. In addition to preparing for my trip to Shanghai we've also been going out to look at houses fairly often lately. Other things I've done lately include going home home to London, climbing, playing the original God of War remastered for my new PS3, drinking delicious Kellerbier, cooking stuff, creating a search feature for this blog (unfinished), being angry at the rain and the cold and watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. Foods I hope to cook soon include this and this.

BBQ

Last night Chris and John hosted a BBQ on their brand new patio with their brand new natural gas BBQ!! They made delicious shish ka bobs and even had a cake for Kim's birthday (which is next week). It was lots of fun and it was great to be outside and see the leaves on the trees in the park. Summer is almost here!!

Veggie shish ka bobs waiting to be grilled
Veggie shish ka bobs waiting to be grilled
More veggie shish ka bobs waiting to be grilled
More veggie shish ka bobs waiting to be grilled
Sunset on new leaves
Sunset on new leaves
Meats and veggies on the grill
Meats and veggies on the grill
We even chatted on Skype a bit with Patrick! He makes silly faces.
We even chatted on Skype a bit with Patrick! He makes silly faces.
Kim and her cake
Kim and her cake
Inside Lansdowne subway station
Inside Lansdowne subway station
Fine Chocolate

There's a great Toronto-based online store for getting extremely fine chocolate that I love to order from every once in a while called A Taste For Chocolate. It's expensive, but the chocolate is delicious and I generally eat it slow enough that the cost doesn't seem so bad. A bar can easily last a whole week.

Anyway, the store sends out chocolate themed newsletters and I really liked the most recent one so I thought I'd repost it here. It lists five things to look for when buying good chocolate.

  1. Just chocolate. So many of us Canadians call candy bars with a small coating of something resembling chocolate "chocolate bars". Do not confuse candy with chocolate! I admittedly enjoy Snickers at Halloween but for the sugary peanuts and candy, not the "chocolate" coating.
  2. Made by a relatively small company. How widely available is the chocolate? If you can find a certain chocolate bar in every store you go into, it is a mass-produced bar likely made with inferior cacao beans. The big chocolate company that produced it had to make some kind of quality sacrifice along the way to pump out such large quantities. Remember also that there are simply not enough finer quality cacao beans to make billions of chocolate bars. Look for bean-to-bar chocolate made by chocolate makers who focus on quality, not quantity. This usually translates into a better quality of life for the cacao farmers as well, but this is another issue...
  3. Ingredients. Dark chocolate should always contain cacao/cocoa beans (also called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor) followed by sugar. These should always be the first two and sometimes the only ingredients. Third on the list is cocoa butter and often pure vanilla and lecithin. Vanillin, artificial flavours and colours and other added fats are a quick giveaway that the quality of the chocolate is poor. Nothing artificial in my chocolate please!
  4. Cacao percentage. Not so much to ensure you're getting your 70% cacao content, but more to ensure that you know what you are eating. If this is not on the label, you could be eating chocolate that barely qualifies as such (35% cacao is the lower limit to be considered dark chocolate). Cacao content refers to the amount of cacao beans plus any added cocoa butter, so just be aware that not all 70% cacao content chocolate bars contain the same amount of cacao solids.
  5. Origin of the cacao beans. Most fine chocolate makers put information on the packaging about whether the chocolate is a blend of cacaos or made from cacao from a single-origin. If there is no indication about the source of the cacao, then the beans from which the chocolate began were likely not very good.
Ice Cream Maker

On Sunday Kim and I went climbing at True North Climbing with Mark and Amy. It was lots of fun as usual and I was able to get some good lead climbing in. It was the third time I had climbed that week so by the end I was pretty dead. My fingers are definitely still sore.

After climbing we went to the farmers market near the gym and picked up a box of ten huge mangoes for just $5! So, to use up the mangoes, Kim got out our shiny new ice cream maker and made Mango Sorbet! It was friggin' delicious and very easy to make.

Fresh Mango Ice Sorbet
Fresh Mango Ice Sorbet
New Experiences

Well, my trip to Shanghai is already providing me with new experiences and I haven't even left yet. In addition to learning more than I ever wanted to know about the details of acquiring a visa for entry into China, I had an extra-special streetcar experience last week.

On Thursday I went to a travel clinic to get some vaccines so that I don't contract Hepatitis A or Typhoid while I'm in China. This required two separate needles. I've never had a problem with injections in the past, and although I've never had two at once before, everything went fine and I left the clinic in good spirits.

I had to take the streetcar to get home, so I boarded just outside the clinic and took a seat near the back. After about five minutes I started feeling hot and a little dizzy. It wasn't a big deal though so I just relaxed and waited for it to pass. Unfortunately that was when my brain checked out completely and I fainted, collapsing out of my seat and landing on my face on the floor of the streetcar.

Having your face on the floor of any public transit vehicle is never a good idea, a fact which my body seemed to know instinctively because I was pushing myself up and back into my seat before I even knew what was going on. Once seated I realized that something was very much not right because everyone was looking at me and asking if I was OK. Also, the driver had appeared and insisted on escorting me to the front of the streetcar so that he could keep an eye on me while calling in the incident and getting help if necessary. He was extremely patient and helpful, which was good because I was still a bit confused. I was pretty sure I had fainted but that didn't make sense because it's never happened to me before and it's just so weird. Anyway, I had started to feel much better and was able to convince the driver and his dispatcher of that fact. So I exchanged contact information with driver and the streetcar was able to continue its route. I got home with no further incident.

The other passengers on the streetcar were also very understanding, even offering me food in some cases. No one complained about the small delay and no one seemed angry. Nice to see that Toronto is still a friendly place.

So what happened? Apparently I suffered a vasovagal syncope brought on by a combination of the cramped, hard TTC seats and the double sticking I got at the travel clinic. It is apparently not uncommon for some people to faint when given needles or even when seeing someone get a needle. Although it has never happened to me before, I've never gotten two simultaneous injections before. Also, just before fainting, my brain was being a little silly and it wouldn't stop thinking about the injections I had just received. It kept playing them over in my mind and I kept trying to figure out where the stuff they inject goes when they inject it. I guess I thought about it too much.

Anyway, I'm totally fine now, other than a very small bruise on my forehead where it hit the ground and the nagging feeling that my face will never be quite as clean as it was before I smeared it across the floor of a streetcar.

Shanghai

I'm going to Shanghai! My company has a development office there and I'm going to be presenting at an internal conference June 9-10. I'll be there for at least a week and hopefully will have time to see a bunch of stuff in the area. It will be my first ever trip to Asia and I'm super excited for it!!

Also, randomly, the World's Fair is in Shanghai this year and will be happening while I'm over there. Pretty cool.

Vacation

In order to fairly balance holiday time across offices all over North America, we get some random days off at Autodesk. In particular we get both Good Friday and Easter Monday which is relatively rare. It's pretty sweet to have a four day weekend though.

I spent a lot of the weekend in London at my mom's house, visiting my Grandpa, or visiting with Kim's family. We had a couple of nice meals, but mostly I just vegetated the whole time. It felt like I was on one of those vacations where you go to a Caribbean island and just sit around for a week not thinking about anything at all. I totally checked out mentally. It was most relaxing.

The only thing I accomplished other than occasional socializing with family was finishing the book "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson. I've read most of his work, including the epic Baroque Cycle and all of it has been quite enjoyable. Anathem did not disappoint either and I highly recommend it.

Monday night, the last evening of the break, I snapped myself out of my stupor with a session climbing at True North Climbing. I did a fun new roof climb on lead and, after a lot of work, I managed to complete the first bouldering problem from the Women's Open Finals from the competition last week. It was a pretty good night!

Tour de Bloc -- True North Climbing

Saturday was the final local Tour de Bloc competition of the season and, more importantly, the first chance for anyone to climb at John's new climbing gym True North Climbing! I have to say it is, without a doubt, the best gym in Toronto and the best gym I've ever climbed at. No detail was overlooked, from the bottle spout on the water fountain to the perfect texture on the walls and the amazing variety in climbing surface. The competition went perfectly and the problems were amazing. Also, I had my best competition ever, finishing second of thirty-seven in the Men's Recreational Division!! I even got a silver medal!! Now that I have done well in the Men's Rec, I'll be entering the Men's Experienced division at the next competition.

I can't wait to go back to True North and get on some of the roped and lead climbs. Excellent work John!

Here are some images from the competition.

Men's Rec Results
Men's Rec Results
Tash on the stalactite
Tash on the stalactite
Problem 48, my favourite problem of the day
Problem 48, my favourite problem of the day
Problem 40 on the Tooth
Problem 40 on the Tooth
Lead cave and other roped climbs
Lead cave and other roped climbs
Start of a problem
Start of a problem
Start of problem 45 on the Tooth
Start of problem 45 on the Tooth
Hold on problem 36
Hold on problem 36
Crimpy hand holds on problem 50, the highest problem I finished
Crimpy hand holds on problem 50, the highest problem I finished
Shiny new rope
Shiny new rope
Women's final problem number 1
Women's final problem number 1
Women's final problem number 2
Women's final problem number 2
Women's final problem number 3
Women's final problem number 3
Men's final problem number 1
Men's final problem number 1
Men's final problem number 2
Men's final problem number 2
Men's final problem number 2
Men's final problem number 2
Men's final problem number 3
Men's final problem number 3
Men's final problem number 4
Men's final problem number 4
Me and my silver medal
Me and my silver medal
Recent Photos

As the weather improves I've been getting out with my camera more and more so I have a bunch of new photos to post. This makes me happy.

Globe lamp in the rain
Globe lamp in the rain
Reflection of the Royal York Hotel + CN Tower on a Montana
Reflection of the Royal York Hotel + CN Tower on a Montana
The Empire Sandy at Sunset
The Empire Sandy at Sunset
Contradictory faces on Yonge Street
Contradictory faces on Yonge Street
Streetcar Bokeh
Streetcar Bokeh
Buns in Kensington Market
Buns in Kensington Market
Dinner Tonight

Butternut Squash Carbonara

Delicious Butternut Squash Carbonara
Delicious Butternut Squash Carbonara
Excellent Weekend

This weekend was great! The weather was sooooo freakin' good and I always feel amazing when we get that first breath of Spring. Winter is dying and I can't wait until it is buried. I have my balcony door open right now and I can smell Spring in the air. It's fantastic.

In addition to the weather, we also did a lot of fun stuff. On Saturday we went to the St. Lawrence Market for the first time in a while and picked up ingredients for chili (among other things). In the afternoon we made the chili and then Chris, John and Matt came over to help eat the chili. Matt even brought an ice cream cake for dessert which seems like an excellent celebration of the the death of Winter.

Today, Kim and I went to the Bay and used some of the gift cards we received at our wedding to purchase a new set of (desperately needed) dishes. It's nice to have enough matching plates and bowls to be able to feed a group of people larger than four all at the same time.

We also made a pot roast braised in delicious St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. Before starting the roast cooking, we seared it in the grease of freshly cooked bacon and then caramelized onions in the same grease. All of this then went into the dutch oven with the roast and the beer and some beef broth and it turned out fantastic. We added potatoes to cook in the liquid near the end and they were great because the onions and bacon chunks ended up sticking to them to make yummy oniony-bacony potatoes.

I'm pretty sure the correct beer pairing for the meal would have been the same Oatmeal Stout used to cook the meat, but unfortunately I had decided earlier to go climbing in the evening and so I could not partake in the alcoholic beverages. This made me sad, but I had such a great night climbing that I'm over it now. I'm really enjoying the new Toronto Climbing Academy, although I wish it was a bit closer to downtown. I also can't wait for the Tour de Bloc competition at the end of March that marks the opening of John's new gym, True North Climbing. The construction progress photos look amazing. It's a great time to be a climber in Toronto.

Congratulations Patrick and Toni!

Now that they've officially blogged about it, I think it's OK to mention here that Patrick and Toni have a new, healthy baby girl named Kiera! She was 6 weeks premature, but that doesn't seem to have done much harm. Kim and I are both super excited and happy for the new family. We have to start figuring out when can go to Australia for a visit because we can't wait to meet Kiera and see Patrick and Toni again.

If you're interested, there are already a bunch of photos posted on their blog.

Weekend Stuff

For Christmas, my brother and I got my mom tickets to see Rain: The Beatles Experience, which is basically a concert put on by some of the world's foremost Beatles impersonators. This weekend was the show and we all had a great time. The performers did an amazing job and it was amusing to see all the baby-boomers in the audience really getting into it.

After the show we took my mom to Weezies, a great restaurant near King and Parliament. I had arctic char and the most delicious piece of pecan pie ever. We also enjoyed lots of wine and good conversation. Despite being in the same city as my brother we're still kinda failing at seeing each other regularly so it was nice to catch up.

Today we of course watched the Men's gold medal hockey game. It was crazy after the win, Toronto just exploded. We stepped out on our balcony and all we could hear were car horns and very excited yelling. It was pretty cool.

Star Trek Olympics

I love watching the Olympics! Normally I don't watch "sports" as I've never been any good at them but the Olympics are different for some reason. I just really enjoy watching them.

However, in most sports, the actual active competition bits are quite short. And in between competitors there are endless commercials and scads of obnoxious commentator banter. So while watching the Olympics I've also been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation from the beginning (using my laptop). Growing up I watched a lot of the episodes, but mostly out of order in reruns and certainly not all of them. It's geeky, but so far I'm really enjoying them.

The Secret of Kells

I just finished watching The Secret of Kells which is nominated for Best Animated Film at the Oscars this year. The story is about the creation of the illuminated Book of Kells (which Kim and I saw at Trinity College in Dublin last year). The film is hand drawn, traditional animation and is absolutely beautiful. Almost every frame attempts to evoke the patterns and colours of the book itself and the result is fantastic.

Perhaps the film affected me more because I've been to Ireland recently, however I think that it stands on it's own quite well too. I will definitely be buying the DVD as soon as they get a North American distributer (which seems likely given the Oscar nomination).

Check out the official website for more information, trailers and a really nice gallery of images from the movie. To see the movie, either wait for North American distribution or use the powers of the Internet to "acquire" it immediately. However, if you enjoy the movie, be sure to give financial support to the studio (Cartoon Saloon from Ireland) when it becomes possible.

Drinkvine

I recently discovered a pretty useful site for finding out when various products become available at the LCBO. It's called Drinkvine and it was made by a guy who enjoys fancy beers but did not enjoy trying to figure out which LCBO had them and when.

You input your favourite beers/wines and your preferred LCBO locations and it will email you when your drinks are in stock at one of your locations. It works pretty well. Of course they're just scraping the official LCBO website, but it seems to be pretty up to date.

RSS Feed for Photos

Tonight instead of going to bed early I created a separate RSS Feed for my Photos page. It will update every time I add a new photo. Enjoy!

2010 Goals

Now that January is over I can post my goals without them sounds like resolutions. Maybe that will help them come true?

In an earlier post I mentioned that I wanted to prioritize some of the things in my life and I figure the easiest way to do that is to come up with some concrete goals and see how well I do at achieving them. Then I can reevaluate those goals next year and adjust them based on how I did. This should also help me decide which things truly are important to me. If I get irritated trying to keep up with certain things then it is clear that those things are not as important and I should devote the time to other endeavours.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are my goals for the year:

  • Blog at least once a week
  • Climb at least five times a month
  • Add at least twelve new photos to my photos pageover the course of the year (the idea is to go out to take photos at least once a month)
  • Cook something new at least twice a month
  • Start and complete a personal programming project (possibly a recipe storage thinger accessed through my website to hold the recipes for all the new things I cook)
  • Read more books, nothing concrete here because books can vary in size and readability a lot (I used to read a ton, but haven't done as much lately and I miss it)
  • Travel to at least one place by plane
  • Travel somewhere new in Canada
  • Purchase a home of some sort

The last goal may override and/or be mutually exclusive with all of the other goals. It is also the scariest. I worry that when interest rates go up the housing market will stop being insane and prices will come down. We would like to purchase a house after that point and not before. But when will it happen? Do we just keep waiting forever? Grah.

Anyway, it should be interesting to see how I do with all of this stuff.

Best Burrito Ever

Today for lunch I walked to Church and Alexander to get a burrito. That's over 2km which is pretty far in the cold on a work day. But I have been restless and wanting to be outside despite the brutal cold and I had recently heard of this new burrito place in the area, Chino Locos.

Anyway, the burrito was totally worth it. The ingredients in mine were: slow roast pork, guacamole, tomatoes, edamame beans, red onions, black beans, green peppers, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, and chipotle sauce. So it's not really a "standard burrito" but who cares when it's that good. Maybe it's just the frostbite talking but I'd say it is the best burrito I've had in Toronto (and there are a lot of "gourmet" burrito places downtown).

Also of note, I decided to check out the worst block in Toronto since it was on the way (George Street between Dundas and Gerrard). It was definitely sketchy and I wouldn't really want to be there at night but, as I suspected, it wasn't that bad. Sure, about 50% of the houses are boarded up and there is a giant men's homeless shelter and there are tons of dodgy looking people loitering around, but many of the non-boarded up houses were perfectly fine, a couple were even kind of nice. Toronto doesn't really do "bad" like other cities do.

Revision Control

When I moved this website off the University servers and onto our shiny Dreamhost account I also "temporarily" took the website code out of revision control (CVS at the time). I intended to reformat my home machine and set up a new repository and get things all happy and good. Maintaining any code for any amount of time without using a source control system is a terrible idea.

Well it's been over two years and I've been extremely lucky that nothing bad has happened to my website yet. Today I have restored it to revision control, hosted on my still awesome ReadyNAS Duo. This time I chose Subversion since it's like CVS but a bit better. I toyed with the idea of using Git, but I determined that the extra features it adds are not really targeted at a single user environment.

This work is part of a larger endeavour I am engaged in to eventually retire my desktop computer. It was purchased in 2001 just before I entered University and it has been running almost constantly since then. I have definitely gotten good value out of that purchase. Running Linux, it is still perfectly useful for web browsing and email so I've never bothered to upgrade. However, I mostly use my laptop and now with my NAS I don't need to keep my desktop around as an SSH server or storage device. So I'm moving all my data to my NAS in an organized manner and then one day soon I will power down the desktop for good.

Unless anyone out there has a use for a machine with a 1.5GHz Pentium 4 processor with 512MB of RDRAM (yes, that version of the P4) and 120GB of hard drive space? It also has a wonderful 17" flat Sony Trinitron CRT monitor. You can't buy monitors like that anymore.

Internets

The Internet is awesome. On January 6th of this year, a guy published on his website "Two Gentlemen of Lebowski" which is an interpretation of the entire screenplay of the movie The Big Lebowski written as if it was done by William Shakespeare.

For anyone who knows and loves the movie, this new work is pure gold. It renders famous and memorable lines in ways even more hilarious than the original. Just imagining Walter (John Goodman) saying the line: "Marry, sir, my heartstrings do you tug; They urinate upon thy damn├Ęd rug." makes me laugh out loud.

For people who haven't seen the movie enough times to memorize most of it, the Shakespeare version probably won't mean a lot. But with the Internet, all of the people from all over the world who do love the movie can come together and make something happen that could never have happened in the pre-Internet world. By January 13th the author had signed with an agent to get the work published as a book and a theatre company in New York decided to perform the production for a minimum run of two weeks starting in March. In just over a week thousands of people had read the script and generated enough interest to prompt people to invest real money into further promotion. Hopefully the copyright owners are open to this new interpretation and don't destroy it forever.

Avatar

Last night Matt and I went to see Avatar in IMAX 3D. I really enjoyed it. Sure, the plot was simple and full of holes. But the visuals were simply gorgeous. I found myself just enjoying the scenery. Whenever something strange happened in the plot I simply looked around a bit and didn't worry about it because there were so many things to see. The world shown in the movie was interesting enough and had enough detail that it was almost like visiting a new place in real life. Very cool.

Also, the CG was spot on. I never really thought about the fact that none of the scenery I was enjoying was real. Weta Digital did a really good job.

Wedding Video

In addition to a photographer we had a videographer at our wedding. I wasn't really keen on this idea as I do not like seeing myself in videos. Photos are OK because I can normally hold a non-horrifying pose for a short period of time (and bad photos can always be deleted when I fail). But video, that's a little frightening. I'm not a trained actor, I shouldn't be the main character in a video.

Anyway, over Christmas we received the finished DVD. It's really well put together with a nice set of menus and the whole collection of official photos in slideshow format. The full ceremony and the speeches from the reception make up the bulk of the content on the DVD. They were well recorded and more or less what I expected. However, unexpected by me, there were short video messages from each member of the bridal party which were totally awesome. There was also a short music video edited together by the videographer from clips of the entire day. I like the music video quite a bit as it edits out all the strange faces I make and only keeps the nicer footage. Also it's short and covers all the major events.

Another thing that happened over the Christmas break was that a lot of relatives complained that I haven't posted any wedding photos on my blog. To them I replied that I put about eighty photos up on Facebook because I figured I would reach more people that way and I was too lazy to do both. Well I was scolded for being lazy (as many of my relatives are not on Facebook) and so I have to post some photos on my blog here too. I'll probably get to that this week, but I thought I'd start out by posting the music video from the DVD. The music is "Saving Grace" by the Cranberries which was the song we had for our first dance. If you'd like to download the movie to your computer instead of just watching it on this webpage, right click here and select "Save." Enjoy!

EMBEDDED VIDEO: Wedding music video
Downsview Subway Station

I was up at Downsview today to check out the construction progress at John's new gym. It's looking really good! Anyway, while I was in Downsview station I took a couple pictures.

Lights on the stairs
Lights on the stairs
All Trains, Downsview Station
All Trains, Downsview Station
New Year's

For New Year's Kim and I hung out with Chris and John eating yummy homemade pizza and salad and cake and beer. We watched the new Star Trek on BluRay and I drank several bottles of St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout which was delicious. I recently had some on draft at C'est What and the chocolate-coffee flavours are just delicious.

Over the past week I've been playing a bunch of New Super Mario Bros. Wii which I got for Christmas. It's pretty fun. Overall the level setup and progression is a lot like Super Mario Bros. 3 for NES but there are features from all of the original Mario games up to at least Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. It's a traditional 2D platformer like the original Mario games and thus it's awesome. I played all of those games approximately a million times each so it's cool to have another in the same style.

2009 | 2011