Last night Dan was going to make Iles Flottantes, which sounded tasty and decadent, but the eggs wouldn't separate, which meant he was either going to waste a bunch of eggs, or change plans. So he made pound cake, which is indeed quite tasty.

I woke up this morning hearing Monty Python-esque voices saying "Iles Flottantes", or in English, "Floating Eels..." Sadly, that's all of the skit that came to my waking mind. But someone else should run with it, shouldn't they?


This weekend has been a bit of a crapshoot. I have had a terrible backache, which has gotten better and worse in turns, but today I didn't need Tylenol with codeine, just regular Tylenol and Advil, which is an improvement.

This weekend I've gotten lots of walking in, just around downtown. I saw a twitter post yesterday that amused and amazed me: there are still apparently a bunch of people in town who are terrified of Downtown as being scary and crime-ridden. Perhaps 15 years ago it was? But I'm certain it's much less worrying than, say, Ball Square or other Boston-area neighbo(u)rhoods. A friend made a comment to the effect that such people form a distinct set of folks she is displeased to run into, in the OTHER (ritzier) end of town. And there is some truth to that for me too.

...I'd say eat the rich, but I'm not really into capitalism cannibalism.


We have an offer on our house! The inspection is tomorrow morning, after which we'll hear if they have any problems. The realtors had a showing today "just in case" and there was a lot of interest, if Party the First falls through. Getting this close-to-finished is such a load off my mind. And for Dan, too. There's a difference between knowing in theory that it will sell, and actually having it finally happen.


I've been trying to not think about work at home, but failed yesterday, when I decided I would just email the author of some code I'm using. His reply was both immediate and very useful, and at the same time I realized I: 1) had a bug in my alteration to his code and 2) knew the fix could be tested in about ten minutes. ...So I did that. And it worked!

So then I had to tell him I fixed the deficiency he had told me he'd never gotten around to fixing (but wanted to fix). And since he had a github account to share his code, and *I* have a github account I've never used, it made the most sense to figure out how to share it with him publicly, with all the public open-source accountability.

I expect you can see where this went (and so could I, even while I was doing it).

It took me about an hour to figure out the next part, since I've never actually used git before. But the end product looks pretty awesome to me, because something like 3 lines of code (and 1 line of documentation) means I don't have to spend at least a day writing a workaround for the (nonexistent) deficiency in the underlying system API.

Or, said another way, I made it so I can programmatically rename hosts in the campus DNS system, instead of having to delete the old host and re-creating all of its information in a new record.


So yah. Life is pretty good, and will be even better next week when the provisional house sale becomes final!

How's by you?

The weekend that was

Sunday, 3 July 2011 11:24 pm
Hello world! Happy Canada Day!

Happy 4th of July, those who get tomorrow off (and those who wish they got tomorrow off. Whether or not they live in the US...)

I have three music reviews in the queue, which I expected I'd have time to do this weekend.

Instead of writing them, I:

* went away to the cottage of [ profile] the_infamous_j, for an afternoon of lazing and not-sailing (which would have been fun, but watching the water from indoors was also fun, and less effort)

* spent about 5 hours playing with Google Sketchup, enough to turn our notional condo layout into a zippy 3D representation thereto.

I will not, however, spend the next six months making ever more detailed models of the condo and our current (and new) furniture. As much fun as that might be. Just watch me not do that. Uh hum.

* watched a fascinating documentary with [ profile] catbear, [ profile] dawn_guy, and Boy about Henry Darger, who "became famous for his posthumously discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story." (thanks wikipedia). It was utterly bizarre, and I'm glad we saw it.

* Friday I spent a night away with [ profile] melted_snowball for Canada Day; at the local inn where we have gone for outrageously tasty food, plus very comfortable accommodations including [ profile] roverthedog. Their Canada Day picnic dinner featured grilled trout, beer can vinegar chicken, suasage and lobster gumbo, heirloom tomato salad, pickled veggies, bbq onion rings, morel mac & cheese, and for desert: strawberry shortcake, hemp seed pie, maple crème caramel, s'mores, and something they called "caramelized sea buckthorn tart," though for some reason I have doubts that it contained real buckthorn berries. Because who has actually tasted buckthorn and could vouch for them? Hmmm? (Sorry; side-tracked).

There were fireworks, we had a super 4-km hike with [ profile] roverthedog, and in the morning we had a wonderful breakfast: d. had duck confit fritata, and I had french toast, both with the "continental breakfast" which had yogurt and honey smoothie, heaping plates of berries, lox and cream cheese, pastries made with their in-house churned butter, and a really good coffee.

Oh, and the night before, we met this wonderful couple, about our age, who asserted that the honey-butter was actually made of crack, it was that good. (The only down-side to this vacation was that during dinner, back at the room Rover decided she needed to pee, despite having gone right before we left; and the right place to do that was on the feather-bed. Which they apparently discovered when they came to turn down our bed; they left us an apologetic phone-message that they wished they had another feather-bed, but they didn't and hoped we would understand. Eep. And we apologized to them, figured out that over breakfast we could leave Rover in the entry foyer (which had two doors and a comfortable mat to rest on, but not our bed)).

And that was our three-day long weekend, more or less.
Today was a pretty great day, weather notwithstanding.  (Seriously: cold snap in Florida. We got here on the 24th; It dropped 20 degrees F on Christmas day. It's going up 20 degrees tomorrow, just in time for us to leave.)

We spent three nights in Tom's very comfy guest-house in Tampa, hung out with him and had some really great food [1] and drink [2] and basically had a laid-back Christmas.

Yesterday, he drove us down to Sarasota, to our beach-front hotel, where we're spending two nights.  Two gorgeous sunsets in a row. Wonderful white sand beach. Mid-40s temperature. 

No kidding, it's going to be upper 70s Thursday and Friday. OK, I'm done complaining about the weather. (Except that: dan notes that the nightly lows aren't really different from home right now. Sigh. OK, now I'm really done).

Today we had breakfast at a Cafe recommended by Tom, packed with locals as well as tourists; I watched the  waitress flirting with a regular as I tried to finish my home-fries. Then we caught a bus downtown to Sarasota; and decided to press onward to the  Barnum and Bailey Museum, which was well recommended.  

Sarasota used to be the wintering grounds for the Barnums, on a 28-acre homestead. Huge museum. There's a building just for the 1:30 scale model circus (covering some 2,000 square feet); also a building for life-size ephemera including Barnum's custom Pullman railcar (very pretty), and a truck/cannon for a Human Cannonball act; which might be the coolest thing we saw. There was the Barnum museum, which includes some great Renaissance works, and also a sculpture-garden with a replica bronze David (which just looked out of place).  There were gardens with some great Banyan trees; There was also Barnum's house, which was so overwhelmingly big we didn't even go into it.

Back to the hotel for naps and relaxing; dinner was in Sarasota at a surprisingly cheap and tasty tex-mex restaurant. Then we wandered and got desert at a busy bar/cafe, where dan had a tart and I got a chocolate/nut meringue that made me happy.

Just now we took a taxi from downtown Sarasota back to Lido Key. The driver sounded like your basic laid-back Floridian; he was chilling with Voyage of the Dawn Treader when we showed up, and told us the story of how he inherited his ex's copy of the Narnia series and Bun-Bun the Rabbit. 

Tomorrow, we have until mid-afternoon before we have to catch our flight from Sarasota airport. I'm curious how tiny this airport will be... and I'm looking forward to the rest of my vacation, at home, through the next week...

This, my friends, does not suck.

[1] Food: SideBerns restaurant; 7-course tasting menu. Yum. Details to follow, I hope, when I get around to looking at my photo of the menu.  Favorite course: the deconstructed Creme Brûlée, based around a cold creamy layer that definitely wasn't ice-cream, and definitely wasn't Creme Brûlée.  Also: dan cooked us a whole chicken and cranberry sauce and Tom grilled asparagus. Also: tapas at a local Spanish restaurant, which was just a little too much heavy stuff, but we persevered!

[2] Drink: this was a good holiday to not be driving.  Cocktails and wine-pairings at SideBerns, followed by a chaser of Pine Liquour, tasting amazingly like a Christmas tree in a glass... We had egg-nog and wine at his place for Christmas day dinner; then a big pitcher of sangria at the tapas place. We've kept the drinking more low-key in Sarasota. :)
Or, Columbus Day, or both, if you prefer!

Today we took on the challenge of the Butter Tart Trail, through Arthur, Mt. Forest, and Damascus, Ontario. We didn't have a designated driver, but did practice safe sampling, not too many tarts at each location.

We met up with [ profile] amarylliss in Guelph, which is under a metric buttload of construction (detour D-twelve?!), enough backtracking to get downtown that we were fairly grumpy at their not communicating if there even were an alternate route to the centre of town. And then saw a detour sign which they didn't even bother labeling with the detour number. "D minus." Yeah, that's Guelph in a nutshell right now...

The plan was to hit the two stops on the Butter Tart Trail we knew were open on Thanksgiving Monday, and see what else we found on a long weekend drive. Success!

Fergus had practically nothing open, being Thanksgiving Monday. But Tara got some bouldering in on a cliff at the waterfront. And Rover got her first swim of the day.

In Arthur, River's Edge Goat Dairy was open to our surprise, and we had our first butter tarts with goat's milk in them. And they sold us some amazingly good chevre. The goats posed for photos, though they didn't want to be in the same shot as [ profile] roverthedog.

Kenilworth Country Kitchen, in Kenilworth, had half a dozen types of tart. We had lunch in their restaurant, cheap tasty eats (their breakfast special had slabs of home-made bread and thick slices of turkey sausage. Mmmm.) And as we ate a Butter Tart Sundae, our waitress told us about moving to the middle of nowhere from Toronto a few decades ago for her daughter's sake, and being a criminologist for the RCMP as her main job. She called Kenilworth "Never-Never Land", which having lived in a tiny town, I can identify with. Dan got peach pie instead of trying a different flavour of butter tart, which was also quite tasty.

We stopped in Mt. Forest for their waterfront park, which gave us all a chance to walk off a bit of lunch. Rover had a chance to swim and wag at Ducky Friends, and Tara took the chance to climb a tree.

In Conn, we picked up a pack of Walnut Butter Tarts at a country market. And in Damascus, we stopped at the Damascus Emporium, which had such a jumble of junk masquerading as a rummage sale that we didn't feel like actually going inside, despite writeup in the Trail guide as having "Old Fashioned Charm."

We did not have a conversion experience either on the roads to, or from, Damascus, even as we unwrapped the Walnut Butter Tarts. Mostly we looked at the leaves and did the road-trip thing. Perhaps we would have had an epiphany had we been walking.

But we all agreed the trip was a success, and I'm so glad to have friends to go with on this sort of thing. Because that would have been a lot of butter tarts to eat all by myself.
OK, I wrote an entire post in my head, biking home, but some time between coming in the door and sitting down at the laptop, it's gone poof.

Rough brush-strokes:

Guy walking with his wife, passing me stopped at a light: "It's a bit fresh for shorts this morning, eh?" What a turn of phrase. He was about 65, maybe 70. Smile in his voice. I said yup, so I was discovering, but it certainly got the blood going. It turns out it's 3C. Not so bad when I was moving... it only snowed a bit while I was actually on the bike, and a bit more snow when I was indoors. But it didn't stick.

I'm in shorts because I wanted ease of motion, because I went to try out a Pilates studio uptown. It was an hour of guided exercises, tough but not too tough; a fun instructor, and a small class. I'm tempted to sign up for the weekly classes, since they seem flexible (haha) and I know it will help my back and shoulder (and stomach and legs and...)

I will also try our gym's pilates class, though the massage therapist I see (at the gym) suggested I should try a "real" pilates studio, not her own workplace, which makes a fairly strong statement.

This afternoon I'm taking a load of dead electronics to the University (locals; free electronics dropoff for recycling today, at East Campus Hall) and maybe making chicken soup. Hm, I think with matzo balls. (wow I'm hungry).

Last night, my cousin Arlene arrived, and I made us roast chicken with pesto. We stayed up talking a bit late (late considering she's here for a conference near Pearson airport, and she was out the door this morning at 7:40.) She's staying one more night, which means she will just miss seeing [ profile] melted_snowball, who is coming back from Chicago Sunday mid-day. I hope tonight she'll be back from her conference early enough that I can take her to a ceilli tonight.

My brain seems full of pokey things. Things I should poke at and things that want to poke me back. Like, the web demo I'm doing next week for profs, which is full of wildcards in terms of what feedback they will have. Like the fact that my home mac still has networking problems but I'm not convinced I should replace it with a (brand new, very fast, lighter-weight, pretty) model [1]. Like, dancing on the edge of not over-committing for everything. And concern for friends who are in rough spots. And yet through it, feeling more or less centered; feeling connected like I should be, and sort of being present with the low-level anxiety, knowing that it will work out, s'ok, really.

Something else that will work out well: time for some lunch!

[1] This year's new 13" macbook pro is a bit faster than my work iMac, which is much faster than my home laptop, which has felt fully sufficient for my needs, aside from occasional worries about whether it is slowly dying.
[where did this post go? I thought it got posted last night, but here it is in the unsaved cache. Fortunately!]

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles is a breezy read through the world of American Chinese food. The main takeaway (sorry) is how the American Chinese food experience is so... actually... American. She examines nearly every facet you might imagine, and many I have never considered (those awful "soy sauce" packets without any soy at all: where do they get made?)

In the end, I was entertained, though I skimmed here and there. Will this become a cinema verité documentary? Maybe. Should you read this? Maybe.

So, what did I learn?

General Tso is a real figure from history. In China, he was a General known for his military prowess, a sort of William Tecumseh Sherman of Hunan Province. However, in China nobody eats his chicken. The most famous recipes from the part of the province he comes from are actually with dog meat.

Ms. Lee follows the exodus of workers illegally leaving Fuzhou, a region in southeastern China in the province of Fujian; which she says for the past two decades has been the source of the vast majority of Chinese restaurant workers in the US. She follows one man's travels over-land, on a barely sea-worthy ship, to the shores of New York City and then to jail for a number of years, then eventually freedom in the US. She spends a while discussing restaurant workers, how they have made new lives in big cities (the impression she gave was what a large fraction start in New York City), and some of them have fanned out to settle across the country, buying restaurants in tiny towns and trying to make a go of it.

And in the process she more or less explains how it came to pass that there are 43,000 Chinese restaurants in the US; more than McDonald's, Burger Kings, and KFCs combined.

She has an obsession with fortune cookies. That obsession led her to visits to San Francisco, China, Japan, and back to her back yard in New York City, explaining the history of who currently writes the fortunes, who invented the style of cookie (they were Japanese) and how they became a so-called Chinese tradition. She even gets into the history of the fortunes, visiting the Japanese shrine which originally folded a fortune into a cookie.

She might have the best job in the world, given her interests. The New York Times has flown her world-wide to produce these stories; she even gets a chapter out of "what is the best Chinese restaurant in the world?" Which involved yet still more travel, to try world-wide Chinese restaurants which are neither traditional Chinese nor cheap Americana. I will give her credit for determining criteria for choosing the best, not an easy task, but I don't feel enlightened from the reading of the experience.

She visits "the lost Chinese Jews of Kaifeng," a destination during the Jewish diaspora, and site of a synagogue from 1163 until the 1860s. There are a small number of Jews still living there. She asks the oldest living resident of the old epicenter of Jewish life in Kaifang why American Jews like Chinese food so much. "With a glint in her eye, she slapped the wooden table. She knew. I leaned in. This was the insight for which I had travelled thousands of miles, walked along a highway at midnight, and scoured alleyways. Her Buddhist koan-like response was profound in its simplicity: 'Because Chinese food tastes good.'"

The most interesting chapter for me was the history of the delivery restaurant in New York City. She says before the 80s, there were basically no delivery restaurants, period. Anywhere. One enterprising Chinese restaurant figured out the formula, and within a few years, the entire restaurant culture had changed. (The last time I was in Manhattan, I had a diner deliver to my hotel. Which, in the end, I should thank that Chinese restaurant for. Even if in the process, innumerable apartment owners may have been thoroughly teed off by sheaves and stacks of restaurant menus left in their lobby...)

This is not a cohesive review, for which I am sorry. But I have an excuse: [ profile] melted_snowball has taken my copy of the book. Perhaps I will take it back to revise the review later.

(no subject)

Sunday, 7 February 2010 10:57 pm
The weekend, it is seized. Seized, ruffled and shaken a bit; but then smoothed down and given a relaxing glass of something on ice.

Saturday was basically spent recovering from Friday night, which saw [ profile] melted_snowball & I head to Toronto to meet up with [ profile] amarylliss for dinner and an evening of Karaoke. I have never had so much fun in such a divey bar. d. went beyond the call of duty, driving in both directions. I sang with a mic in front of a crowd of strangers for the first time in... hell, I am not sure. Possibly, ever? I sang You Can Call Me Al from Graceland. Some guys with tattoos and shaved heads sung Metallica; [ profile] melted_snowball & [ profile] amarylliss rocked Aqua Barbie Girl.

Saturday evening, d. made us really tasty roast chicken with raspberry vinegar dressing. He can throw together a really good meal in a scary short amount of time. Then, Spanish Catholic Baby Meyer Lemon Pots de Creme. I tell ya, it's a tough life.

Today, we went for a drive and walk with the pooch; I went to the gym; said 'bye to d., who's off to do research with some folks in BC for a few days; and treated myself to a lot of sashimi, staving off the Inner Polar Bear for a bit longer.

Tonight, I watched Crazy People, which isn't a great movie, but it is fun. And I finished scanning my photos- all you folks who said I should do it myself, you were right; it only took three weeks to do 290 or so. I may upload some pics to facebook this week, too.

Wednesday, I pick dan up at Pearson; Thursday I drive to Buffalo to catch a flight to NYC for a Quaker gathering.

...Oh, the weekend's come back for a refill on its calming drink, probably my cue to close up for the night.

This and That

Sunday, 13 December 2009 07:45 pm
Last night I went to see my friends Jason (aka [ profile] mrwhistlebear) and Karen perform at the Registry Theatre, as Gaedelica (named from a Gaelic book of poetry, Carmina Gadelica). They are both quite talented. One of their pieces was an original arrangement of The Huron Carol, which I hope they record. Great job guys!

They were followed by a Celtic band, Rant Maggie Rant, which I knew nothing about, other than the evening theme was "Celtic" and "Christmas music". If you know me well, you might know this pairing might make me apprehensive. It did, but I'm glad I stuck around. The Registry Theatre was packed to the gills; they were turning people away when I got there (20 minutes before the show). The band was talented, very energetic, and their two lead singers were attractive, too. One sort of looked like a slightly more fey version of Sting. The other singer made me want to start wearing vests- he wore his well- black vest, black dress shirt, purple tie, gray slacks. Porkpie hat.

And home by 10:30.

This weekend's main project was cleaning my home office floor. I rented a carpet vac, followed the instructions, and hey, the carpet is clean! ...-er, at least. I'm worried about the off-gassing- my last attempt to clean carpet in this house resulted in a severe reaction from dan, and while it didn't smell like anything yesterday, today there was something like new-car smell, so I went over it again with the vac with just water instead of soap. And there was a distressing amount of dirt picked up the second time around, as well. I suppose this is a cost of dog ownership. Yeah. I'm blaming the dog. She's the main reason we still have one room with carpet- it would make her unhappy if we took it out, because she uses it as her towel when she comes in from the rain and snow (after she's already been dried off).

Also yesterday I made fudge for today's Christmas Desert Potluck at Quaker Meeting. I was, once again, apprehensive (it's been years since I've made fudge), but it got a number of accolades, including people coming around asking who made it, so I'm happy. Meeting was good, too.

My desk is a disaster area. I haven't gotten back on top of the scattered papers since getting back from two weekends away, and we're reaching critical density. Ack.

At least the house is otherwise clean. Except for the furniture from my office which I moved out to clean the floor. Hm, I guess I should put that back when the floor's dry, or dan will be surprised.

Dan comes home on Tuesday! Yay!

I finally upgraded my laptop to Snow Leopard; the "family pack" DVD has been sitting on my desk since dan did his upgrade. It wasn't as painless as I'd hoped, because when I last swapped drives, I apparently used the wrong default partition map (Apple Partition Map instead of GUID) so Snow Leopard said I had to wipe the drive. So I babysat a reformat/recopy/upgrade (in the process discovering that my backup was not, in fact, bootable as I had thought; whoops.)

Apple did an excellent thing with this release, by the way- I was still running 10.4, and the upgrade DVD jumped me up to 10.6. They didn't have to make it this easy, and in Windows and Linux, I would be looking at either a sequential two-step upgrade, or wiping the disk and reinstalling my software and data; both probably a more fault-prone process than whatever Apple had to do to make this upgrade work in one step.

And I like Snow Leopard.

(Although, chatting with dan in iChat, we discovered the graphic for :-P looks like a big smile-and-tongue, which is just wrong. I don't know if it was that way in 10.4, but NOW IT IS WRONG.)


Chicago: days 2-5

Wednesday, 9 December 2009 01:16 am
After my first 24 hours in Chicago...

Friday night, we were off to Steppenwolf Theatre to see American Buffalo, by David Mamet. I hadn't known anything about it, other than it being a classic, and it turned out to be a real treat. The seats were excellent (even though they were in the back row; it was a small theatre), and the play itself was disturbing and well done. "Disturbing" because it said much about friendship and "business" (read, shady dealings). The set made me smile- the stage was made to be a junk shop in a basement, with much of a real junk shop's worth of stuff cluttering the stage, with amazing lighting coming from "upstairs" or from florescent bulbs. Very intricate, as also were the story and the dialogue.

Saturday, we went for deep dish pizza at a nearby bar and didn't pay much attention to the (American) football on the tube, except when the guy next to us at the bar made a comment in our direction about a play. I burned my tongue on some marinara sauce.

We walked around Old Town, and we saw A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant. It was very merry, indeed. Fairly self-referentially funny (it started with a disclaimer about Scientology and Dianetics being copyright, etc etc.) The players were all kids, the set was very simple, and it was a 60-minute show. We agreed 60 minutes was a good length.

Then, to a Mexican restaurant, where our dinner was overshadowed by the blind-date a table over, where the guy really needed a hearing-aid, because we didn't need to hear him strike out.

Sunday: more touring around, including The Art Institute of Chicago, which has added a large wing since I was last there in 2006. High points for me: a temporary exhibit called "Light Me Black" - the floor was drywall punched with a lot of craters, and some hundred florescent tube lights were suspended in the middle of the room. Entering, we were told, "please watch your step and don't make more holes." It was remarkably stark, and I liked that. There was also a wonderful exhibit on Arts and Crafts in Britain and Chicago; not only Frank Lloyd Wright, but Stickley furniture, Tiffany glass, and photos by Alfred Stieglitz and others. I was amazed by two finds: a self-portrait by Edward Steichen, a bichromate gum photograph which appears as a painting- Steichen manipulated the print with brush-strokes to add both white and black shades. I stood there studying it for quite a while. ...And there was a neat piece by Marion Mahony Griffin, a line drawing of a Frank Lloyd Wright house which used space and light/dark in a stylistically Japanese way. I appreciated how the exhibit called out a number of associations between Arts and Crafts and design elements taken from Japanese forms in the mid-1800s- lots of connections I hadn't known of.

In the evening, we popped off to Alinea for the most decadent dinner I've ever had. Twelve courses )

So that's how I ended my Chicago trip; with a hangover, pulling my bags through a new layer of snow, back through the Red Line, Orange Line L, to Midway (a bit concerned about time; the train was slow; but then my plane was late arriving), back to Toronto Island, back to Royal York Hotel, where I sat and read for an hour because my late plane meant I missed the earlier bus back, then dragged myself up to the Greyhound station to catch the 3pm bus home, which got me in the door at 5:30.

Which, I'll note, was just exactly 24 hours after the caviar, champagne, and quail eggs.

This life, it is a good one.

Oh, finally: I think Porter was a good choice, but not a great choice. I didn't pay more for the plane ticket, the departures lounge in Toronto was wonderful; but on the way back, missing that bus meant I got home two hours after I'd hoped I would, turning a 7-hour travel day into 9-hour travel. *shrug* It was a good experiment, at least.
We drove to Toronto last Sunday to see a friend who was visiting town. Seeing Wendy was delightful; it had been over a year and we had some catching up to do.

We found Simple Bistro when we were walking along Mount Pleasant Rd. from where we parked to where Wendy was staying, and it looked from outside like Our Kind of Place.  And Wendy was game, so we walked back to scope it out again. There happened to be a table (it was otherwise full- very noisy at the start) and they fed us terrific food.  I think it's the best restaurant dinner I've had in quite a while. I had an asparagus / heirloom tomato salad, Wendy had a wonderful fresh pea soup, and d. had sardines, which were so good he didn't share.  For the main courses, I had muscovoy duck with a cheesy dumpling concoction on the side that was really complex in flavour; d. had red snapper in a lobster sauce; and W. had char. We had many moments of silence, just being happy with our lots in life. 

The waiter, who was quite cute, was also quite attentive. I wish I had been able to take a photo, but at one point, he and a cook were each sharing a moment with a cocktail, both of them framed in the bar/kitchen doorway...

Desert for me was chocolate mousse, and for both d. and W., a rhubarb strawberry shortbread.

Highly recommended if you can get to that part of town... We had never been in the Mt. Pleasant area before- but if someone else were wanted to meet us there for dinner, we might be convinced! :)

Back from Nova Scota.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009 09:23 pm
Our Nova Scotia vacation was a success. We put 1,600 km on the rental car. [1]

I have something like 440 photos to weed through from the last week. As a lazy first approximation, click on the google-map link above, and anywhere our route took us, check out the existing photos. :)

There were many surprises on this trip, but possibly the biggest came in Mahone Bay where dan (and possibly me too) were caught by what looked to dan like a Google Street View truck. If so, that would be a fun birthday present to me from Google, as we were there on my birthday... [edit, 9 February, 2010: wow! Happy Birthday to me! :]

The most remote location we visited by car was Meat Cove, at the northernmost tip of Cape Breton. Egads, that dirt road. And those cliffs. Whee!

The most awesome food was, of course, eaten on the hiking trails, because nothing tastes better than food you carried up a mountain. In this case: lobster picnic. Yes, that's right. Caught the same morning around 4am, sold to us on the dock at 10am. 5 lobsters for $20. Tossed in a pot by our B&B host and packed up as a picnic lunch. MMmmm tasty. And to follow it up, the next day we had the leftover lobsters in sandwiches, on another trail, just before we saw mooses.

Very grateful for my travel partner sweetie. He did every last bit of the driving in the rental car (rather than $100ish more to add me to the allowed drivers). And he had excellent suggestions, including taking the morning today to drive a long way around to the airport, which meant we happened across the lighthouse on the Bay of Fundy with the highest recorded tidal range in the world (17 meters). We were there at low-tide, and then 30 minutes later we saw waves lapping upward as the tide rose; I will have to look up videos or photos to make up for not seeing high-tide, which given the huge mud-flats, looks like it must be amazing to see as well.

And now that I've run out of superlatives for the evening, with a snoring dog at my feet and a now much smaller pile of email to go through tomorrow, I think it's time for bed.

[1] the google map only shows 1400 km, but we backtracked from our B&B in Pleasant Cove (in the NW corner of the Cabot Trail) a number of times. The squeaky-new white PT Cruiser they gave us came back just a little bit muddy. :)

Days and weeks

Saturday, 16 May 2009 10:15 pm
It's been a while since I've made a proper update.

Last weekend's trip to Philadelphia was fairly intense. I have a lot of respect for the organizers of the workshop; they packed a lot into our 44 hours on-site at Pendle Hill, yet it didn't feel rushed or overloaded. We learned more about the nuts and bolts of leading Quaker Quest training workshops, worked in small groups on articulating our own paths with regard to Quaker outreach, and talked about how the group of 30 of us can make the overall project work more smoothly. In the balance, I feel just as strongly that this is a worthwhile project and a good place for me right now.

The only parts of the weekend which were bad-intense were entirely my doing, because sometimes I'm a space-cadet who loses things wot aren't clamped down. *sigh*

One high-point to the trip was meeting some really neat people, some even roughly my age, from all over North America; and reconnecting with other 'Quakes who I've gotten to know and respect more over the last few years.

Another high-point was being picked up at the airport by Carrie G., who introduced me to Alma, who's now 4 5 months old. We went downtown and met up with her partner, Kathleen, and we had some wonderful time together (with ice-cream, plus also really cute sleeping infant) It was great to catch up for an hour; an hour which I thought I'd lost when I missed my first flight- making the meeting even more sweet.

But that was my 48 hours in the Philly area.

And when I got back, dan made us a lobster dinner, because he has an inside scoop with our favourite fish place, and heard they had excellent cheap lobsters. Yummy surprise, that. Go, dan!

Work has been rewarding, for the most part- I'm dividing my time between three software-design projects, and right now the balance is good. One project involves integrating our department's inventory system with the campus DNS, to simplify provisioning new equipment and make less work on updates. Another involves properly synching SSH keys so (among other benefits) instructors can more easily access their course-accounts from off-campus. The third is an Engineering Computing project of doom, which may be able to massage data from across campus into one place, in the formats needed by faculty to apply for grants, prepare their annual activity reports, and a few other creeping features. It may succeed, or it may collapse into a pile of brittle sticks; given the non-standardized data provided (and required) by the different faculties. We'll see.

I've just passed the one-year mark from coming back to CS, and I still like my work, I still like my work environment. Quite a bit, actually. The end of this calendar year will be five years I'm on campus, or more than half my time since moving here. Wow. I hope I can keep being as valuable to the U as I feel like it's been to me.

What else?

I'm going to be trying acupuncture. I met with my physiotherapist last week over coffee, and she pointed me in the right direction. I'll schedule it just as finish as I finish with the next bit of travel in May. I will be sure to report back, since I know some of you are practitioners. (or practitionees?)

For my birthday (which is next Wednesday), [ profile] melted_snowball and I are going to Nova Scotia. We're leaving on Tuesday, back the following Wednesday. I'm very much looking forward. The plans are: two nights in Halifax, one night in Baddeck, three nights on the north side of Cape Breton in Pleasant Bay, one night in Truro. d's been patient with my impulse to arrange EVERY LITTLE BIT TO SEE IN THE ENTIRE PROVINCE in just a week. And I'm... actually quite OK with dan's desired agenda of seeing a few sights, doing some road-tripping, eating some excellent food, taking some hikes, and mostly relaxing. (Relax? How's that work?... Heh. Anybody have any tips here? Is there a class I can take on it?... Um. Joking, I think.)

I won't have my laptop, so don't expect much from me next week, even if 3G from my phone happens to work. I'll be too busy eating seafood to post, anyway. :)

The following weekend we're off to Denver to see The Three Bears, and also Other People. Long-planned trip, finally happening. I've never been to Colorado!

And a week after, with a weekend at home again, I'm taking a 3-day Project Management course, way far away at the University's extension office just a few blocks from my house. It should be useful, and there will be two colleagues in the course to trade ideas with also.

I have been keeping up with my friends-list, even if I'm not posting or commenting much. I do appreciate hearing what's up with you all; you inspire me and also give me great stuff to think about; as well as grounding me a bit. So, thanks.

Spinning Wheels...

Monday, 23 March 2009 11:39 pm
Not figuratively, literally. My bike has developed a (dangerous) tendency to lose its gear, often when I'm starting up from still, and also when I'm coasting. Not the chain, but likely the freewheel, according to [ profile] elbie_at_trig, who was conveniently going home at the same time as me, just as I was thinking, "if only I could ask someone to jog along next to my bike..."

So, yeah. Tomorrow morning, cycle shop is my first stop on the way to work.

Otherwise, I feel like I'm not spinning wheels, quite the opposite.

Work is going, and the three active projects are interesting, if potentially long. But the structure of things allows me to interleaving the work, and I can't imagine getting bored with it. Really, this still feels like perfect job for me. And hey, I missed my boss, who was gone a week on vacation, but I can hardly fault her for that.

Life feels adequately social, these last weeks. Care and feeding of my introverted self- it sometimes feels like I need a push, but I'm getting most of what I need.

This Thursday evening is the third and final Quaker Seekers at Laurier session we have planned; we're speaking on Equality. I think there's an LJ post sitting in my brain, to help me organize what I'm saying in my two 6-minute pieces.

Last week I had a conference-call with co-organizers for the Quaker Quest Traveling Team. A month from now I'll be one of two presenters to a regional Quaker gathering, and in early May they're sending me to Pendle Hill for a weekend conference with other trainers. This work feels both like something I'm pulled to do, and a big side-order of "what the hell was I thinking when I said yes?" Where it goes nobody knows, but I am loving the finding out.

In late May [ profile] melted_snowball and I are taking a vacation to Nova Scotia for my birthday; it's our first time to Atlantic Canada and I am already having dreams about rocky shorelines and whale-watching.

This week has featured two meals with duck (breast; and burgers), and two meals with pesto. It is a good life, my friends.

I'm midway through installing linux on a mac mini. I'm in love with this hardware; it's so quiet, runs cool, and is barely bigger than my hand. I'm putting Xen-enabled debian onto it, so alongside the web and email services it can run virtual servers such as Asterisk, or possibly freePBX. Anyhow, my server will move over some time in April, I hope.

Also in April, my geek crew of Perl Mongers are doing a hardware hacking workshop with Arduino microcontroller boards. So far, I've tested sample programs that play a simple tune; flash LEDs; and (sort of) replicate a Clapper but send a signal over USB to computer. My goals are to control a 600x200 pixel LCD display, and to precisely control a stepper-motor to... well, it'll be cool if it works, that's all I will say for now.

So, all you folks who haven't posted about yourselves recently- what's up with you?

Happy Pi Day!

Saturday, 14 March 2009 09:19 pm
Today's high points included [ profile] nobodyhere and [ profile] psychedelicbike's Pi Day party.

I had peach pie and blueberry pie and tiny lemon tart pie and bread-in-the-shape-of-pi and Caesar Salad Pie with crouton-crust and an almond-flavoured custard-filled pie and the Birthday cake pie and just a bit of the woven bacon crust of a Tourtière which is sort of a pie, right? [ETA: and a cream-cheese/smoked pie layered with pita bread.] All of these were yummy. I skipped the shepherd's pie, shepherd's pie pie (with pastry crust), cheeseburger pie (with side condiments), and at least one other meat pie.

To finish off, I had an entire cheesecake.

No, just kidding. I think.

...[ profile] melted_snowball is still not-well from this flu bug, but it certainly seems he's on the mend. Thanks to all who've sent their well-wishes; we're both grateful for them and it's good to know people are thinking of us. It's been a long week.

A Good Day has Sushi

Saturday, 17 January 2009 09:02 pm
Today I mostly was away from the computer, which is what I needed.

This afternoon, I went on a mission of rice-mercy, because sushi-making preparations work best if there's actually any short grain rice in the house.

This evening, [ profile] melted_snowball, [ profile] metalana, mutual friend Kevin, and I managed to roll three cups of rice worth of sushi in probably about 20 minutes. It was seriously fast. I guess that's what happens if you have four experienced sushi-makers, four rolling mats, and a totally prepared mis en place (thanks to marvelous work by [ profile] melted_snowball).

We had: squid, salmon, salmon skin, smoked salmon, cream cheese, seasoned carrots, seasoned shitake mushrooms, umeboshi plums, scallion, and I'm forgetting something. And miso soup and my favourite kind of steamed spinach salad (with soy and sesame). And great conversation, plus bonus wagging lap-dog (not applied during dinner).

I fear tomorrow will be long; Quaker Meeting and Business Meeting will include three reports by yours truly, and then our outreach group has a final planning meeting before our first-ever University info event next Thursday. And then I come home and spend time with my sweetie, away from the computer!
Great Galloping Weekends.

Friday night, d. and I celebrated our 12th anniversary with dinner at Charbries, one of our favourite local restaurants. Originally I was going to come into Toronto and meet up with d. after his Professorial Speaking Tour, but since he was somewhat under the weather to begin with, and staying here meant he could relax on the train for 1.5h before dinner. So we had a late dinner here (and I worked late, nach). The woman who owns Charbries is delightful; and she and dan have a similar bounciness, and so *I* was feeling a bit exhausted as they verbally bounced off each other through dinner. They have been a restaurant a bit longer than d. and I have lived here, and they're becoming more and more adventurous with their foods, and they are sourcing as much as they can locally. I had rabbit spring rolls and duck breast; d. had Caesar salad and emu cabbage roll. Mmmm.

Anyhow, we each spent a chunk of dinner trying to figure out how d. has managed to put up with me for twelve years and vice-versa. And you know, I'm still not clear on it, but whatever we're doing, it seems to be working, so we're gonna keep at it.

Saturday morning, d. slept in, I did errandy cleanup, and early afternoon, [ profile] tocityguy arrived for an overnight visit. We lounged, showed him around, and eventually drove off to Paris (Ontario) for wings and ribs at Camp 31 BBQ. Which was quite tasty, though we didn't get to have the Sunday Special (click through the below photo for a better look).

Sunday saw us off to [ profile] persephoneplace and [ profile] bodhranman's housewarming. What a wonderful mix of people. What a lot of food! Oof. The chocolate fountain was a great touch. ...We're convinced [ profile] persephoneplace must have been a Jewish or Italian Grandma in a previous life. And did I mention the lovely people? The massage table did get some use, and the pagoda out back had an Irish band playing for a while. It is really a good life.

And now, I think, to bed; tomorrow is calling.

Since I'm up

Friday, 20 June 2008 11:29 pm
On the balance, this has been a good week, (and it still can end up a good week assuming the drain augering and fixing goes smoothly tomorrow morning, but I'm trying to not think about it).

A few high points in the last week:

- Work has been rewarding. This week I worked on: php, shell scripts, sql, perl, and WebObjects. I have challenging tasks, and more importantly, I have a plan; and the things I do will make my group's jobs easier. This is most excellent.

- Last Saturday afternoon, I participated in a community witness that went more smoothly than we deserved (given the weather forecast, number of participants, and the structure of the event). And the food at the reception was excellent. And it included home-made lemon meringue pie.

And we learned that our Quaker Meeting is going to have another wedding, next year. The couple met on Lavalife. He's 70, she's 50.

- Ye's sushi with my sweetie.

- semi-wild strawberries from the front yard. I've eaten a few, and they're delicious.

- In a week, I'm seeing a huge pile of Friends at FGC Gathering, in Johnstown PA this year. I'm fairly intentionally making the week a challenge for myself, as instead of taking a workshop, I'm doing service work. Which could be draining, and it could be extremely rewarding. The only thing I know would make the week better would be if [ profile] melted_snowball were able to come, but I expect we'll both do OK. My car will have at least one rider, and possibly 1-2 others if they get their acts together. I don't know any of them, but that's fine. We'll talk about workshops and figure out who we know in common...

- And not one but two successful real-estate hunts among friends! [ profile] chezmax & [ profile] the_infamous_j bought a house locally that sounds well-suited to them, and [ profile] sulle_stelle bought a stunning-sounding house in Tampa! Both were long shots, of a sort. Congrats, guys!

It's a good life

Monday, 26 May 2008 07:20 am
Friday I took a vacation day, but I spent half of it at work, because my time was flexible for the morning and I wanted to release a project for people to test on Monday. At noon I zipped home, mowed the lawn, turned in my first homework for my Peace and Conflict Studies class, and drove to Yorkdale to catch the subway to Toronto.

All of that was an exercise in "what do I *need* to do now?" which I managed well, except for the failed bit of spending so much time at work- when I didn't absolutely need to- which meant I got caught in 3pm traffic on the 401. Ah well.

Around 5 I met up with [ profile] melted_snowball at our hotel, we had a yummy dinner at Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar, and then off to the first of two percussion concerts. We shared an elevator with Adrienne Clarkson. She's so elegant. She read well in the concert. But my concert review is to follow when I have my program handy. I will say: it was too long. We fell into bed some time after 11. Yes, we are old; but neither of us had gotten enough sleep the night before.

Saturday included St. Lawrence Market, art-browsing at the Distillery district, discovering they had Doors Open Toronto exhibits in the Distillery, which was sort of neat, browsing two of the huge brick buildings that used to house spirits and now just have ghosts. We ate brunch at Fran's, and caught the second percussion concert; then a subway and drive home, getting home well before dark.

We spent a while trying to figure out why we don't live in Toronto. So sure, there are fine reasons: our jobs aren't there; rents are quite a bit more expensive; but... Yeah. I wonder if there are any U of T profs who need someone to watch their St. Lawrence-area condo on weekends while they're off at the cottage?... (A guy can dream, no?)

Sunday morning, I was off to Lucknow with a carload of Quakers. The day included some thoughtful conversation, a committee meeting, and an on-site meeting to help plan for a wedding which is to be held in three weeks. It's a beautiful setting- a farm at the top of a hill, with rolling countryside surrounding. And I got home around 5, which was too late to go to [ profile] catbear's open-house or Home Hardware.

Then I did laundry and looked forward to work. (Which is a bit of a hazard for me right now. Those of you who are at all obsessive, and are excited about your job: how do you manage to not obsess about it? Perhaps I'll become blasé soon enough, but right now, thinking about what I'm going to do next at work's sort of keeping me from getting enough sleep at night. Have I mentioned that this feels like my dream job? Hm, I did, didn't I...)

You may hate me now.

Sunday, 11 May 2008 11:07 pm
I can't wait to go in to work tomorrow. The stuff I'm working on is awesome. On Thursday I met with $boss for our second weekly meeting, which made me quite happy. He asked excellent questions, and we determined that my original task was actually subsidiary to a bigger task, which might make things much easier- and lo, I'm seeing about rewriting our (much maligned) inventory front-end. Rubber, meet road! I just need to get myself a decent PHP book, because I'm tired of learning PHP by experimentation. (Is there a standard dead-tree book everyone uses? Just curious.)

And on Friday, I spent a good chunk of the day essentially exit-interviewing a staff member who has been using this same inventory system for the last many years; I didn't expect our discussion to take two hours, but he had that many suggestions about things that would make the job easier (in the end, he suggested I might be automating him out of a job, which I had been thinking was the case, but that's not out of line what the facility wants to do as well). I spent some time transcribing notes and prioritizing changes, all 95 of them. Look at me! I'm a requirements engineer!

Dinner tonight was lobster, cooked by [ profile] melted_snowball for his mom and for me. It was so good. And [ profile] dawn_guy and [ profile] catbear brought by a sugar pie that was so sweet I think I'm still on a sugar high. Hope I can sleep tonight. ;)

this and that

Friday, 2 May 2008 10:36 pm
Commuter happiness: they finally street-cleaned the bike lanes on part of my daily ride. It's only a few hundred meters each way, but it's been filled with crud and it's made me grumpy every time I have to swerve around the glass. I've apparently gone 80 miles / 128km in the first three weeks of bike-commuting season, including a few trips downtown. I should get my bike tuned, but I'm riding it too much to spare for a few days. My legs are starting to feel better about the extra exercise, though I still feel quite out of shape.

Office happiness is also mine. My office feels like home. I really did miss working for CS, in ways I keep rediscovering. I'm digging into maintaining some php code- and it's well written. Wonders never cease. I'll probably have more techie notes next week. All I'm really missing is a window (I wonder what it would take to bribe one of the local readers of this blog to plug my spare webcam into their computer, point it out the window, and save a still image to the web once a minute or so... I have a few candidates; once I make sure the webcam works.)

I got two emails which amuse me today. One was from me, eleven months ago. I said, "Subject: Renew (domain name) now, nitwit. Thanks, D."

The other was spam with the subject, "Listing of general practice physicians and 34 more specialties." My assumption was that they were trying to sell me the very valuable list of which Canadian doctors might be accepting patients. But no; it's a list of US doctors which they will spam on my behalf. Ick.

[ profile] melted_snowball and I went to the new Marble Slab Creamery ice cream shop last night. Aside from the horrible work-flow the (brand new!) store demonstrated, it also showed off how to still make a profit even if they don't churn through many customers: quite tasty product, and amazingly high prices. Like, $6 a waffle-cone prices. With a half-off coupon, our cones were each $3.50 with tax. But: I will say they were tasty. And giant (too big). They mixed in the mixins of your choice while you wait. So I had chocolate/cherry ice cream with fresh strawberries and oreo bits. And it was yummy, but I had a hard time getting to sleep from stuffedness. Serves me right.

The life? It is good.

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