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Friday, July 30, 2004

Last day at UBiC

Today was officially my last day at UBiC. I did my final performance review today and handed in my Palm m505. Two weeks from now, I'll also have to return my IBM P260 21" CRT monitor. If I was in marketing, I would call this the "Winter Monitor" and sell it to unheated homes in Winnepeg or Whitehorse. I haven't done any quantitative measurements, but anecdotally I can say that this thing gives off more warmth than most industrial strength space heaters. While this is a terrific quality during winter, typing in front of this mini oven in July is a bit of a chore. So in that sense, I'm happy that I am giving it back. Okay, enough sour grapes; On with with the rest of the post.

Most of the lab went to New India Buffet on Broadway for lunch. The food there was very good for what we paid ($8.70 per person) and there was a strange mixture of Indian curries and Chinese/American food, like chowmein and spring rolls. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and since my supervisor was kind enough to pay for it (thank you Sohrab, you have been a great boss), the food was especially tasty.

I spent a part of the afternoon packing up my stuff. I was a bit sad when I saw that I could pack up more than two years worth of work and memories into one small Roots backpack. But I attribute this to the ingenius design of the backpack, rather than my lack of accomplishments at work.

Your Favorite Jerk

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Goodbye Sushi Ben

Yet another tie to cut before I leave Vancouver: Today I decided to cash out my Sushi Ben VIP card. I have been eating there a lot (18 piece special to go) for the past two years even though I don't really like the food. The rice is stale, the salmon is tasteless and the soysauce has a weird taste to it. I've read somewhere that unscrupulous soysauce factories use human hair as the main ingredient for their products and everytime I taste Sushi Ben soy sauce I wonder a little. The only reason I eat there is because there are really only three choices for food where I work: Sushi Ben, Safeway, or a Chinese restaurant called Uncle Ho's.

So, the card works like this: buy $100 of food and get $10 off your next meal. I have always had my eyes on the tuna chirashi there, but I always thought that $10 for lunch was a bit excessive. Today was different though: I was a VIP. I didn't know how to pronounce chirashi, so I just pointed at the picture when I made my order. "One tuna trashy to go" said the waitress. This set off little alarm bells because I don't like to eat anything (especially raw fish) that is "trashy". But it was free, so whatever.

Here's a little secret about Sushi Ben: The people aren't Japanese but instead they are Chinese people from Shanghai. I happen to know this because I speak the dialect and I can understand what they're saying to each other. When I received my tuna "trashy", I almost wanted to say "thank you" to them in Shanghainese, but I decided to hold my tongue because I didn't want to ruin our special don't-ask-don't-tell relationship.

I wonder when or if I will ever eat here again. I can't picture myself coming back here to eat on a whim. In fact, if this place wasn't within walking distance of work, I would probably avoid it like the plague. But still, I felt a tinge of sadness when I walked out of there today with my tuna "trashy" and a brand new VIP card that I know I won't ever fill up.

Your Favorite Jerk

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Go green or go home

The recent "heatwave" in Vancouver has underscored for me the dangers of global warming, and I realized that if we don't take care of our planet, nobody will. Ironically, I came to this conclusion while hiding from the heat in my dad's air-conditioned SUV. In any case, I believe now that we must all do our part to ensure that our children, and our children's children, and our children's children's robots will have a planet they can call home. So on that note, I have decided to take the bus to work this week. Okay, that and I sold my car last Friday so I don't have a ride anymore.

I haven't used the bus seriously since my pentultimate year at UBC and I don't really have any fond memories of the system. But to be honest, I never really hated the buses in Vancouver. For the most part they are quite safe and reliable, even if they are a bit slow. But I've noticed that some things have changed since the last time I took the bus. The 99 B-Line now plays the same recording as the Skytrain when opening and closing its doors (you know, ding ding dong). To me that's a sick joke because it feels like Translink is saying, "sorry, we can't afford a real rapid-transit system, but let's pretend these buses are skytrains...weeeeee!" What's next? Are they going to replace the trolleys on the Number 9 buses with six midgets pushing from behind, while making fake engine noises? vrrrrrrrrrrooom...

Yesterday, I got on the B-line on my return trip and noticed that it was one of those original B-line buses. Unlike the new ones that ride low to the ground, these classic B-lines are far more regal in stature, offering passengers a clear view of the roofs of any passing Hummer or Yukon Denali XL. I decided to sit in the middle of the bus (in the "accordion" area with the two sets of "bouncy" seats) for nostalgia's sake. Nostalgia it turns out is a cruel beast because it only reminds you of pleasant experiences, while conveniently forgetting to mention unpleasant details, like the fact that bouncy seats tend to cause intense nausea. It didn't help that the sweaty man standing in front of me chose to adopt a 'Mighty Warrior' stance to balance himself against two poles, while keeping his left armpit directly above my nose. My olfactory receptors have not been violated like this since I went into the washroom of an Airbus during the 10th hour of a 12 hour trans-pacific flight.

Today, I am better prepared. I am wearing my silver Coolmax t-shirt (by Dupont) that can suck all the sweat and BO away from my skin to the outside of the shirt, guaranteeing me the title of smelliest B-line rider. Let's fight fire with fire...muahahahahahaha.

Your Favorite Jerk

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Merry Hags of Vancouver (or Hags on The Beach)

Today was supposed to be the hotest day in Vancouver since the time Dinosaurs chased cavemen and cows ate people or something like that, but it turned out to be quite cool and breezy down in Vanier park, where I went (with two equally sarcastic people =) to see The Merry Wives of Windsor at Bard on the Beach.

The weather was perfect and the play was very well done, but the three hags...errr ladies...I had the displeasure of sitting next to made me wonder if the Spanish Inquisition would ever make a comeback on this side of the Atlantic. No more than three seconds after I sit down at my seat, woman #1 tells me that her two friends would be coming very soon. "That's nice" I say, while I think, "so?". As if reading my mind, woman #1 continues "You will probably want to put your backpack under your seat or else your knees will come in contact with my friend's". "Right..." I say, and then a little more quietly to myself "who IS this woman?".

Finally, the other women/hags arrive to take their seats and luckily the smaller of the three (we'll call her woman #3) sits next to me. At this point, I have positioned myself so as not to touch this woman, but this doesn't deter woman #3 from telling woman #1 how disappointed she is that there are people sitting next to them. Who would have thought that you will have to sit next to the unwashed masses when you go to a play? Heaven forbid.

10 minutes before the show starts woman #3 jumps up and starts looking under her seat for her water bottle which she conludes has rolled away and is now lost forever. "Too bad" I think to myself shortly before I take a sip from my cool water bottle. Ahhhh...nice.

The show starts at 4:00PM sharp and as the audience is introduced to Sir Falstaff, our Merry Hags decide it's time to start their picnic, bringing out sandwiches and other delectable treats. Here's a tip for those who might be planning a similar gastronomic excursion: Don't chew and's just not pretty. Sometime during the second act, a particularly witty zinger sends woman #1 into hysterical laughter. Of course her mouth is stuffed with freshly baked bread and she proceeds to cough uncontrollably and quite loudly. Lady, I didn't pay to come and hear you cough, so please take a sip of water...oh wait, you didn't bring any...well, why don't you borrow some from your friend?...oh wait...her water bottle rolled away...too bad. Another sip from my cool water bottle.

Your Favorite Jerk

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Goodbye UBiC

I went to my last UBiC BBQ as a member of UBiC, the UBC Bioinformatics Centre tonight, right after I said goodbye to Corey. Next week will be my last week at UBiC after having worked there for more than two years fulltime and another 2 years part-time, starting in the summer of 2000. I can honestly say that UBiC was one of the best places where I've worked at. The management there is very laid-back and are confident enough in the employees that they let them come up with big ideas and do their stuff without any meddling. Not everyone can say that they've been allowed to followed a big project from start to finish, from requirements analysis to coding, to testing to packaging and distribution.

I'm very happy that I've had the opportunity to have met some cool people at UBiC and I only hope that I will be able to meet people as nice and with as much humor in Toronto.

Your Favorite Jerk

Friday, July 23, 2004

Goodbye Corey

I said good bye to Corey today. Last night I gave the little guy one more wash and filled up his belly with a full tank of gas. It was hard to hand over the keys to his new owners, but they looked like nice people, so I think they'll give him a good home.

Corey has been in my family for 10 years now and I've had the pleasure of driving him around for 5 of those years. He's not especially peppy and his modest looks don't turn a lot of heads, but Corey has been reliable and very kind. I admit, there were times when I wished I were driving something with a bit more horsepower, a cd player and air conditioning. But Corey's is to me what Santa's Little Helper is to Bart Simpson: Sure, he's no Lassie, but I just love his goofy looks and gentle demeaner.

Driving Corey to Chinatown to hand him over to his new owners, I thought about the times when I drove him hard to get to Osbourn Gym so I could take  my finals on time. I remembered all the people who have sat in the passenger seat over the years; some of whom I disliked, most of whom I liked and a few special people who I loved. There is so much more to a car than a coat of silver-taupe paint and a 109 horsepower engine. I miss everything about him already: The way I had to row down all four windows and drive really fast to cool him down in the summer; The way I had to floor it down-hill so he would have enough momentum to keep up with traffic on the next uphill climb; The way he (unlike so many of my friends' newer model cars) would be so happy to accept a cassette adaptor so that I could listen to my old iPod while driving to work; And finally, the way his diminuitive engine would pur gently with friendly assurance as he wisked my tired body away from B-lot on many a cold winter's night.

Oh yeah, the last song Corey's radio played for me before I shut off his engine was One Headlight by the Wallflowers. I guessed he still remembered that time my dad and I spent a whole afternoon trying to change one of his lights. Here's to you little buddy. May your trips be short and your oil changes always on time.

Your Favorite Jerk


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Fast and the Curious

It occured to me today that I have no idea how fast I can type. Thankfully, a quick google search turned up and I was off to the races. My WPM is (drumroll, please...) 77wpm. I attribute my typing prowess to a rigorous daily training routine: 8 hours at work and 3 hours on MSN. You know, if I had applied myself this hard to something more worthwhile (like say, marathon running), I might have a shot at some kind of medal.

Of course, just as I'm pleasantly gloating and stroking my ego, I come across this story about this woman, who has been clocked at 212 wpm!!! Okay, so she uses a Dvorak keyboard (keys are more efficiently laid out than our pathetic QWERTY legacy keyboards), but still, that's freaking unbelievable!!!

Go try out the test for yourself and post your speed here :-)

Your Favorite Jerk


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Forget the Ethicist

When I started writing this entry, I had an annoying little ethical conundrum on my hands. You see, I was typing this entry from my dining room table using a wireless network that can best be described as, well, not mine. It seems one of my neighbours has set up a wireless router but had neglected to enforce MAC address access restriction. Put more simply, he/she had been nice/ignorant enough to share his internet connection with all of his/her neighbours. Eventhough I enjoyed this gesture of goodwill, I felt like I was standing (or sitting, as it were) on shakey ethical ground, so I decided to go see what Randy Cohen (aka the Ethicist) at the NYT had to say about this.
I was relieved to learn that Randy believes the use of "free" WIFI access points is okay, concluding his article (NYT registration required) by saying " may use but not overuse Wi-Fi hot spots you encounter." Well if the NYT's Ethicist says it's okay, it must be okay, right? Wrong. When I pushed the "Publish Post" button  I was directed to an error message. It turned out my neighbour had somehow become aware of his unwitting generosity and decided to pull the plug on his pseudo-public service. The gig was up; The party was over.
So much for trying to reason (read weasel) my way around ethical infractions by using bogus logic, backed by pseudo-ethicists like Randy Cohen.
Your Favorite (wired) Jerk

Friday, July 16, 2004

Thanks Martha

I've always been neutral towards Martha Stewart. I don't hate her for being perfect and squeaky clean, but I don't love her for it either. Until recently I didn't care if she would get jail time for insider trading, but after tonight I have decided to take a stand.
For tomorrow's dessert night, I decided to bake a cake and when I wondered where I would go to look for a recipe, Martha Stewart's name came up out of the deep recesses of my mind and I quickly typed into my browser. After some searching with the keyword 'easy', I found this recipe for Easy Chocolate Cake. I'll post some pictures of the whole baking process tomorrow, but for now let's just say the cake turned out wonderfully and I am very pleased with Martha's clear directions.
Martha, insider trading isn't right; But your recipes are very fine, so here's to lenient sentencing and minimal jail time when you get your sentence tomorrow. Leniency, it's a good thing™
Your Favorite Jerk
* Update: Martha Stewart got 5 months and a $30,000 fine, but the whole thing's pending appeal, so the waiting game continues.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Downtown, let's go downtown

I feel like I'm a 60 year-old trapped inside a 22 year-old's body. I loathe downtown: I loathe driving downtown, I loathe parking downtown and I loathe the crowds downtown. I know this sounds evil (and frankly, it is) but I love urban sprawl and I love ample parking spaces in flat featureless suburbia. Me thinks, I need to get me a Buick and move to a cozy 3500 square footer in PoCo.
The only one redeeming thing about driving along Robson while looking for a spot to park is being able to gawk at Japanese tourists who are busy gawking at German tourists who are busy gawking at me in my car, wondering why they have seen more Chinese people in this city than white people. Tourists love this city--"oh, such beautiful green trees and perfect lovely". Yes how lovely indeed, Günter; But where were you during the Rain Fest from September to May? Where were you when I saw the sun twice during the entire month of November?
Okay, now that I got that out of my system: I think tourists are vital to the economy of our fine city. I for one, welcome our new tourist overlords.
Your Favorite Jerk

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

McDull is anything but

Last night, I watched an animated movie called My Life as McDull. Set in an alternate-universe Hong Kong where animated people live happily with adorable animated animals, My Life as McDull is about a little pig, named McDull, who grows up in a poor single-mother home. At first glance, McDull looks like Hong Kong's answer to Japan's Hello Kitty, an observation supported by the popularity of McDull merchandise in Hong Kong (so I'm told). But unlike his pathetic Japanese feline counterpart, McDull is more than just a cute cell-phone accessory or a pretty face on the cover of a notebook; Hello Kitty was never into existentialism like this little piggy. I loved the combination of highly detailed CG backgrounds with simple hand-drawn animated characters and I laughed pretty hard during most of the movie. I think there was something deep about this movie that I was supposed to get, but I don't think I really picked it up. Instead I was smitten with the little pig and his crazy over-bearing mother. If you see only one movie (about an animated existentialist pig in Hong Kong) this summer, make it this one. But if you just wanna watch something blow up (and who can blame you), go see Spiderman II instead.

Your Favorite Jerk

Monday, July 12, 2004

Mediocrity for a better America

I saw a Stella Artois poster at an Indian restaurant last night that said:
"I would rather die of thirst than drink from the cup of mediocrity"

Strong words, indeed; But having drunk from the cup of mediocrity most of my life, I must say that it's really not that bad and is almost certainly better than dying of thirst. If my Toyota Land Crusier ever breaks down while I'm in the Sahara, I won't hesitate to drink Dasani from the cooler even though it's not Perrier. Besides, it's not as if though Stella Artois were a microbrewary where beer is carefully crafted to exacting standards by artisan brewmasters. These guys muct churn out tens of thousands of litres of Belgium's finest every day of the week! My friends, mediocrity keeps businesses like Ikea, the GAP, Blockbusters and Walmart afloat. If we all chose death over mediocrity, our economy and our very civilization will come to an end, and the terrorists will already have won. So, Gentle Readers, if you treasure freedom and love democracy, you must embrace mediocrity.

Your Favorite Jerk

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Samuria Sushi is priceless

9 piece tuna sashimi....................$8.95
Maki combo B............................$8.95
Alaska roll.............................$3.25
Knowing you have single-handly destroyed the entire pacific salmon stock over the course of one meal....priceless

Your Favorite Jerk

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The week in review

Okay, so I haven't been posted anything in the last week. Mostly this is because I have been busy trying to find a new home for Corey. Let me tell you, it's not fun to see people come over to fondle the little guy, pop his hood, and drive the stuffing out of him. It pains me to watch Corey sit there with those sad little puppy eyes and take this sort of abuse from strangers. There have been a few offers, so let's hope I can get this done soon.

This past week has been pretty uneventful, save for a wedding I attended over the weekend. I've never been one of those people who cries at a wedding and I don't usually have gushing reviews for most of the weddings I attend. To me, a wedding should be an afterthought, rather than the crowning achievement, of a loving relationship. I mean if you spend tens of thousands of dollars on a lavish, glitzy party to kick off your new life together, how can you ever expect to top that later on in your relationship? But as I guest to a wedding, I couldn't have been happier :-D Nothing says fun like sharing steak and a dessert buffet with the bride and groom and their 500 closest friends.

Is it just me or is soccer finally starting to catch on here in North America? I watched quite a few Euro 2004 games this year and yesterday I walked by a playground where I saw a bunch of kids playing soccer. Now, that in itself is not amazing since I used to play soccer when I was a kid in elementary school and it was definitely not an indication of a thriving soccer culture. But what was noteworthy was that these kids wore soccer jerseys and had goalie gloves, and this was just an impromptu pickup game after school! What's even more amazing is that some of this kids are emulating their favorite European star players to a tee. I saw one kid score and pull his shirt over his head in celebration, and another kid go down clutching his head in dramatic agony after being kicked in the shins (just like his dramaqueen soccer heroes in Europe). I for one think the increasing popularity of wussier sports like soccer will reduce playground violence and make our culture more civilized. Kids need to learn at an early age that pretending to be hurt and crying like a baby on every perceived offense will get them far in an increasingly litigious society.

Your Favorite Jerk