Superfluous Matter
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.


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.


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!

2010-03 | 2010-05