January 02, 2004

Sweet Dreams...

Yeah, yeah. Dream journals are boring for everyone.

Ugh, you know those dreams when you wake up in a pissed off mood? Well, had two of those last night. In the first, I was somehow swimming with three layers of clothes on.

In the second, under some stupid spy scenario, my computer was cracked. The only possible vector was some software that I had gotten via Usenet - ie. some sort of Trojan client. I was pretty peeved at needing to re-load my computer.

Competency dreams (swimming resolve, computer skills) often leave me in a peeved mood upon waking. Another common one is dreaming about losing my teeth from not brushing them properly (in real life, something I'm pretty neurotic about). I usually wake up from those not sure if I still have all my teeth!

If only I could control the content of my dreams. I've tried before, with no success. Even gory nightmares are better than the competency dreams - I usually awake from those feeling exhilarated rather than pissed. (Eating the squirming, undead vampire steaks was a bit much, though entertaining.)

Posted by JAY at 09:01 AM

January 05, 2004

Resolutions 2004

I wasn't sure if I was going to do this but then I figured, hey, it can't hurt and it will add some accountability to the process. I'm going to try to remember to post how often I meet my goals in a weekly status report and set quantifiable goals.

I'll also add a resolution counter on the sidebar.

So without further ado, here they are:

  1. Swim at least 3 mornings a week. This is the big one. Tomorrow, I'll go and get a yearly swim pass. I'm going to try to swim Tuesday through Friday. That's four times - but that way if I miss one, it's OK. Further accountability: If I don't swim in the morning, I'll swim Friday evening (8-9pm).
  2. Reduce the amount of eating out. I want to bring my lunch to work at least 3 times per week. I want to only eat dinner out 1 day per week. This shouldn't be any hardship - after all... allowing 4 weeks * ($7 (lunch) * 2 + $25 (dinner)) = $156 per month! The hard part will be making sure there's something to carry in the morning.
  3. Do light strength training at least 3 evenings per week. This shouldn't really be a problem. I do it while in front of the TV. Weights and sit-ups are a nice quiet thing to do while watching.
  4. Go for 2 walks per week. Use my daily breaks (which I usually don't bother taking) to go for a brisk walk. This is easy in the spring and fall, but hard in the summer and winter.
  5. Sign up for karate classes by June 1st. This is the hard one. Finding something that's compatible with the rest of my fairly agressive schedule and maintaining other activities while dedicating enough time to karate will be tough... I think I need to break it down into a series of substeps, one per month:
    • Compile a list of dojos in the area.
    • Work out the schedules and costs.
    • Select a dojo.
    • Sign up.

So far, by doing this stuff haphazardly, I've lost 15 pounds since this time last year. So on to the reasonable results that I'd like to see from the above resolutions.

My desired result from all of this: Lose 10 pounds
Current weight: 165 pounds (what personal information!!)

Posted by JAY at 06:02 PM | Comments (3)

January 08, 2004

Minor Cheats

Well, so far the first week of resolutions has gone pretty well. The only things I did that were kind of cheating was buying 2 snacks: an ice cream and a pecan tart. But I had reasons!!

When I went to buy the swim pass on Tuesday I took $150 - that's what I thought it cost. Unfortunately, it was $175. I got a 3-month pass instead and got some change back.

The reason that I never take money into the rec complex is that when I finish swimming I'm temporarily famished. And wouldn't you know it, the pool has eight ... EIGHT! ... vending machines right at the exit. 2 pop machines, 2 snack machines, a lunch machine and an ice cream machine.

And the ice cream vending machine has a cool ice chest that opens and a vacuum hose that yanks up the ice cream to dispense.

So with change in my pocket I broke down and got one.

***

It was bitterly cold and slippery outside today and the only way I could make myself go for a walk was to promise myself a pecan tart from The Maid's Cottage, a local shop... they're so awesome.

It was still a pretty miserable walk, but at least I had my pecan tart to console me!

***

These were pretty minor breaches, though - and I never really swore off snacks. I feel a bit guilty, but I'm still going to chalk the week up to a success if everything else goes fine.

Posted by JAY at 08:32 PM

January 11, 2004

Essentials: Cast Iron

20040109Lamb.jpg
A set of cast iron pans is almost essential if you plan on grilling meats on the stovetop. The good news is that they're also relatively cheap. When you buy a new piece of cast iron, make sure to season it as instructed on the label. Seasoning basically consists of coating the pan with vegetable oil and heating it in a very hot oven. Read on for a discussion of cast iron's strengths and weaknesses.

Advantages

  • Heat retention: cast iron's high specific heat capacity ensures a constant heat that is great for browning meats. You can put cold ingredients into the hot pan and it's the ingredients that will change temperature, not the pan.
  • Even heating: cast iron heats evenly without hot spots, unlike stainless steel cookware.
  • Cost: Stainless steel cookware NEEDS to have a base of copper or aluminium to evenly distribute heat - this makes them expensive to produce, often costing over $150CAN. Cast iron, on the other hand, can be bought for under $25.

Disadvantages

  • Weight: Cast iron is really heavy. Still, it's a small price to pay.
  • Slow to change heat: Due to it's high specific heat capacity, cast iron takes a bit of time to heat up and cool down. This makes it unsuitable for delicate sauces where you need to be able to lower the heat quickly. In fact, you can often turn of the heat completely near the end of cooking and let the stored heat do the rest.

These were the lamb chops that I fried up for lunch on Friday. They took 5 minutes. I rubbed them with thyme, black pepper and salt, and cooked them in the very hot oiled pan for 2.5 minutes per side. They were very rare, but that was intentional, since they were going to be microwaved at work the next day.

Posted by JAY at 01:08 AM

FoodFoodFood!

I spent Sunday evening cooking for the rest of the week! First up were the butter tarts, which I think should be done at a bit lower temperature, as some of the sugar bubbled over the side and burned. My mother had made the pastry, so I just had to roll it out and make the filling.

For dinner I made a pork roast with some roasted veggies and rice, with enough leftovers for a couple of days. Since the oven was on, I also roasted a couple of turkey thighs for sliced-meat sandwiches for people to take to work.

Finally, with some beef short ribs and spinach, I made a long-simmering curry. The bones in the short ribs made for a very tasty curry, so that's what I packed for lunch tomorrow!

Posted by JAY at 11:05 AM

January 12, 2004

Acts of God and Landlords

Yay Mondays.

Got into work this morning and there was a couple of inches of water on the ground. Splashed my way into the LAN room, which was (thankfully) relatively untouched.

Apparently a pipe had burst in the cold weather and when it got warmer on the weekend it flooded the area. It was a bit disconcerting, but the cleaners with wet vacuums soon sucked up most of it.

We're undergoing renovations right now, and I made the mistake of mentioning the microphones for the PA systems weren't taken into the current design. So now I'm saddled with buying them in a 3 day timeframe. Argh. It's not going to be pretty - I really only have access to consumer retail parts, not the nice gooseneck heavy-duty stuff.

I should go take some pictures of the space in progress...

Posted by JAY at 10:13 PM

More Memory

Recieved the Corsair TwinX memory that I ordered from CompDirect last week. I've been noticing that my computer is swapping to HDD and really slowing things down, so I'm replacing the 512MB of RAM with 1GB.

CompDirect has some deal where shipping is free if the purchase is > $100, but it doesn't reflect on the bill, so I'm going to have to remember to check if they charged it. Amazingly, it was even cheaper than at the Pacific Mall (a Chinese mall in Markham)!

The computer is working much more quickly now. Yay!

Posted by JAY at 11:58 PM

January 13, 2004

Car Troubles

Aaargh! The gear shift cable of the van gave out on me while driving from the pool to the office this morning. Totally lost power to the wheels and thought I might have to get a new car. Luckily, no one was hurt. I spent most of the morning in my car waiting for a tow truck.

Got a ride with my father to the Fairview mall in the afternoon to buy the mic stuff for the office PA system. $167 total ... 2 microphones and 4 extension cords.

Since we weren't sure how much the repairs would cost, we went looking at new vehicles this evening. We went to the Honda, Toyota and Acura dealerships. So far, it looks like if I were to buy a new car, it would be a Toyota Corolla at around $17,700CAN, on the road.

But luckily, the dealership called and said the repair to the cable would only cost $308, so that's what we're going with. I would've like buying a new car, but I guess it's back to the old clunker. Oh well, didn't wanna pay for a new car anyway!

Posted by JAY at 08:14 PM

January 14, 2004

Lack of Resolve

It's going to be hard this week to keep my resolutions. The only one that I think I'll make good on is the swimming.

It's too damned cold out to take walks. It's -25 degrees, not including the wind chill. Last week I walked anyway, but it was pure torture. I was going to make up for it by swimming an extra day, but the car troubles made that impossible. Thankfully, I still will be able to swim 3 days.

As far as eating out goes, I bought dinner yesterday night and I'll be buying lunch tomorrow (and maybe today!). So as far as spending less money goes, this week is shot. On the other hand, I skipped all meals except for dinner last night, so fat wise, I'm probably ok.

On that note, I doubt I'm eating enough lately. Especially since I'm considering skipping lunch today (and I never eat breakfast, though I should). I have no food here and the roads are slippery, so I don't feel like going out.

But man, I could use some Mary Brown's Chicken or Chicken Satay right now!

Posted by JAY at 10:07 PM

January 15, 2004

Got the Van Back

Welp, the van is fixed. I was wondering whether I would have to buy a new car... but it was only $400 to fix the van. So here's hoping it'll last the year. The gear shift is working fine now, though.

Posted by JAY at 11:29 AM

January 16, 2004

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

You're probably fine, but I can't access my own site from my own ISP! And no one I know in my town on Rogers, like Akemi, can access it either. So it's probably a problem with the local WAN, because I can get to it via Sympatico and through the Canadian Government's service provider.

I just have to convince Rogers tech support of that, which is difficult, because everything else works, just not my webhosting company's network!

Just in case, I've also contacted my hosting company, Nearly Free Speech. They're a GREAT service provider, but they do only provide email support via a support page, which I can't get to through Rogers!

Posted by JAY at 11:09 PM

January 19, 2004

Technical Update

Well, Rogers seems to have worked out the problems I was having accessing the site over Rogers@Home cable - though Akemi says that she's still having some... so I guess we'll see what happens.

It may be premature, but ... Thanks, Rogers tech people!

Posted by JAY at 10:29 PM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2004

Movie: Falling Angels

Southlake Cinemania has started up again for the year and the first movie shown was Falling Angels. Falling Angels is a Canadian film about a dysfunctional family in the late 1960s. Scott Smith, the director of the film, and Kristin Adams, the actress who plays one of the three sisters in the film, attended our screening and answered some questions at the end.

Drama and humor are nicely interspersed and all of the performances were great. The three sisters are each spirited in their own ways. Norma, while insecure about herself, has a great sense of resolve and responsibility. Lou is fiercely intelligent and militantly rebellions. Sandy, the youngest, is easily influenced but still knows what she wants. Contrasting this, their mother is a semi-comatose drunk with barely any spirit left. Completing the family is the authoritarian father who struggles with his own paranoia and sense of duty.

Scott talked a bit about how the movie differed from the book (the ending, mainly). He seems to view the movie almost as an allegory to war, at least on a small scale, with the characters all contributing in different ways to the tense family dynamic. As the movie ends, he sees them owning up to some of the responsibility for their dysfunctional family life. This is very different from the finale of the novel on which this movie is based.

He also talked about some of the filming techniques that they used to "age" the movie appropriately, such as shooting on 16mm film (if I remember correctly) and using older, slightly softer focus lenses.

The audience seemed to enjoy the film a lot and some audience members commented on how accurately it portrayed the 60s/70s lifestyle. I enjoyed the film a lot, but it wasn't one of my favorites.

Posted by JAY at 11:28 PM

January 23, 2004

Food, Lately.

You might notice that lately there's been fewer pictures of food (heck, there've been less pix in general). In accord with my New Year's Resolutions, I've been going out to eat much less frequently.

This week, I've been eating mostly roast chicken, pork and pan fried steaks, which have been good, but I've written and taken pictures of them already. This weekend, though, I plan on making an apple pie.

Posted by JAY at 01:40 PM

Are you mocking me?

Trevor has an article on his site detailing his exploits with a slab of beef (hmm, that somehow came out all innuendo-y). Since he usually sticks to news stories, I have to wonder if he's mocking me!

Posted by JAY at 01:45 PM

January 27, 2004

Let it snow, let it snow...

... let it NOT!

Geez, enough already!
We haven't really had that much snow this year, but today was bad... had to shovel snow before I left for work today, which meant no swimming. In anticipation of the snow, I did swim yesterday. However, it's still snowing, so I don't know about tomorrow.

Plus, the drive home to work and back home are a bit nerve wracking... I'm not that good of a driver.

Posted by JAY at 07:30 PM

Dream Therapy

Sometimes I have trouble telling reality from fantasy. My dreams aren't usually violent, so don't call the whitecoats for me just yet.

My cell phone LCD hasn't been displaying anything for about a week. Other than that, it functioned fine, though it wasn't too evident that it was powered up. Last night I dreamed of Manderly... er, sorry, fell of the thought train.

Last night, I dreamt that it was working again, and was slightly peeved when I woke up and realized it was a dream. When I got to work, I noticed that it wasn't on and when I powered it up - poof! - the display was working.

Posted by JAY at 08:34 PM

January 28, 2004

Losing things...

Hmm, a couple of things I thought I had in the office have gone missing... A screwdriver set, which I used just yesterday, and possibly my digital camera (I still have to check at home to see if it's there).

Update: found the camera - yay!

Posted by JAY at 11:56 AM

Essentials: Chocolate


I love chocolate! But there's a world of difference between good quality chocolate and the baby-killing Ne$tle. And the difference goes far beyond baby-killing - it's a matter of taste.

Try this experiment: Buy a bar of Lindt chocolate from your local grocery store. (It's cheaper there than in a department store.) You can buy milk chocolate or dark. Make sure to get a bar, and not one of the filled chocolates.

Now, get the same kind of Cadbury chocolate.

Taste them side by side. Notice how the cheap chocolate makes a sugary paste that sticks to your tongue. Contrast that with the smooth cream of the Lindt chocolate. If you bought dark chocolate, notice how the Lindt chocolate tastes just as strong but not nearly as bitter. You might also notice a faint cherry overtone in the more complex Lindt taste - unlike the flat taste of the cheap chocolate. If you bought one with nuts, notice how much more crisp the nuts in the Lindt bar.

In this case, you get what you pay for. It's well worth eating quality instead of quantity.

Incidentally, we recently picked up some marked-down German (?) Niederegger chocolates that were really good - these were mostly liquor truffle filled, but you could taste the higher quality ingredients - dense nut pastes and lightly pralined nuts. These were $20 retail, marked down to $6. They were SO good.

The only problem was that there was so much variety in them that you couldn't really try them all without eating half the box. We went through 3 boxes.

Mmm, marked down holiday chocolate.

Posted by JAY at 07:18 PM

January 29, 2004

Freakin' OW!

I think the skin under/beside one of my fingernails has split because of the cold weather. So of course, every time I type a letter with my middle finger, I get a sharp jab of pain. My finger is swollen now. That wouldn't be so bad except that I'm sure it's delaying healing.

I'm trying to avoid using that finger, but it's hard to break touch-typing habits.

Posted by JAY at 09:36 AM

Link de Jour

Newly added to the blogroll: Belle de Jour - diary of a London Call Girl. There's more than just prurient content here - it's quite well written.

Why can't my life be as interesting?

Posted by JAY at 12:11 PM

January 31, 2004

Office Refit Woes

Oh dear.

My office is undergoing a refit - which as the sysadmin, means a lot of work for me. I'm working today, because we're supposed to be moving in. Movers are coming to bring in the furniture and I've got a team of lan administrators from another office to help install computers.

Except the new space ISN'T DONE. There's no wiring or electricity in the cubicles or anything... half the floors are littered with construction material.

Oy.

Updated with more info...

Okay, things worked themselves out eventually (sorta), though the tech staff from the other office will have to come in on Sunday with me to finish up. When the movers showed up, there was construction material all over the place and the movers couldn't really do anything for a couple of hours.

Eventually the construction crews showed up and got their stuff out of the way so that the movers could start moving furniture. (By that time, we'd already called in people to determine whether the move could be accomplished.) It was a bit of a mess, because the electrician/data-telephone wiring/construction/cleaning people were all working while the movers tried to work around them.

I'm pretty sure the bathroom tiles still need to be finished off, as well as the lighting.

Since the data wiring wasn't done, we imaged the computers in the temporary space (we needed a WAN connection to complete the set up), but we didn't want to install it on the furniture before the wiring was done - it might have to be moved to get the wiring done.

So we'll be going back tomorrow to install the computers and test them out.
I've got pix, but I'll post them when the whole thing is over. On the bright side, one of our managers treated us to lunch - thanks D!

Posted by JAY at 11:32 PM