Vincent Cheung

Vincent Cheung's Blog

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Friday, December 29, 2006

It's a Quinzee!!!!

Snow Quinzee!!!

Video tour of the quinzee

I built a quinzee! (Ya, I still don't have a Nintendo Wii...)

They're pretty easy to make:
  1. Make a big pile of snow (the dry powdery stuff, not the wet stuff like the first snowfall)

  2. Let it sit overnight (no packing or water required)

  3. Dig out the inside (stop digging when you start to see light through the walls)

It's one of the bigger ones that I've made. I figure you can fit 4 people inside. Rather cramped, and the people have to be my size, but 4 people.

The snow piling took about an hour. It was harder than it looked b/c shoveling snow on grass is hard. You can't just shovel normally otherwise you rip out the grass and there was only a few inches of snow cover, so there wasn't much to scoop up. The excavation took me about 2 hours today. It would've been easier if someone was outside to shovel away the dug out snow, rather than me trapping myself inside :). It was rather surreal just sitting inside the quinzee with the entrance blocked. The world just disappeared as it was eerily silent. The snow is translucent, so it was still light enough to see inside the quinzee.

With the huge amount of snow I excavated, I decided to convert the bachelor apartment quinzee into a 1 bedroom! I'll dig it out this weekend.

1 bedroom quinzee suite available for rent Jan. 2007

Quinzee building has turned into a bit of a tradition for me. My older sister taught me and my younger sister how to build one after she learnt how in winter camp, which would've been like 1989 or 1990.

"Snowman Quinzee" 2002 (some rotten kids kicked it in) and Quinzee 1991 (there's a picture of Lucky inside of it, but I can't find it right now)

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Mysterious structure in my front yard

I saw this appear over a 1 hour period. It doesn't look finished. I wonder what it is...

I think the only logical explanation is aliens. First they do Stonehenge and crop circles, and now this???

At least it's comforting to see that they use simple tools like shovels, and not crazy high-tech-laser-beam-matter-changing-nuclear-light-saber-human-genocide devices. Or is the shovel there just to throw us off and lull us into a false sense of security???

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas! ...or whatever you celebrate

Presents under the Christmas tree

My loot!
Yes, I got a Nintendo Wii!!! ...but I have to find it first :s

I WON THE LOTTERY!!! This should help me with the expectations put upon me.

Tiggy playing with his new mouse toy

The mouse was no match for Tiggy...

We started the day late, like 10 am, as we slept in. We opened the stockings (gifts from Santa, which reminds me, I forgot to include the chocolates I got from Santa in the picture above), then we opened the presents under the tree from family. With Marigold closed for Christmas, we went to Kum Koon for dim sum. It was pretty busy. The restaurant is pretty big, housing a good 200-300 people or something, and yes, all you Torontonians, there are Chinese people in Winnipeg and pretty much everyone in the restaurant was Chinese, and no that wasn't the entire Chinese population of Winnipeg :p. The afternoon was a bit of a blur (mostly involved me and Pobo), but 2 sets of {aunt, uncle, cousins} + "uncle" Bob + cousin Edwin came over for Christmas dinner (mmmm.... turkey and ham!)

Now I'm planning my Wii hunting...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy 16th Anniversary Mittens!

On this day, 16 years ago, my life was forever changed, as me and my family brought Mittens home. Don't listen to the rumors that I spent part of the day in fear on top of the freezer.

Sometimes Mi-Mi goes nuts

Super Mario Bros. 3!!!

I think I still have this outfit somewhere...

Her current activities include sleeping on my bed

And drinking from the water fountain

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Offline blogger gathering

Justin, Vince, Jill, and Rob

First time the four of us have been in the same place since we all started blogging, except Justin has basically stopped blogging. Jill, I checked, and your first post was Jan. 14th. Since then, I was out of town, and then Justin was out of town, etc., etc. Things overheard this evening:

Oh, it's weird seeing you here. I don't expect you to be in town. I expect to talk to you online.

It's in my blog. (This was said several times)

Some how we got talking about blogging (however did that subject come up???) and one thing led to another and we started a new joint venture! Nothing big, but it'll be pretty cool. I'll leave the real announcement to later once we've got it going in a more developed state.

Despite having many movies and video games on hand, we ended up watching the "fire channel" all evening. It was always exciting to see the hand put the new log on, and the point of the video where it fades back to the beginning of the loop.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Rocky Balboa Surprisingly Rocks

I know what you're thinking and I was thinking it too. I was extremely skeptical about this movie. This movie had trouble written all over it. Sequel of an old cheesy movie that had like a billion sequels, Sylvester Stallone is playing his old character, but is now 60 years old, I never saw the originals, so I wouldn't really "get" this one, but can probably tell you the plot of the originals (Rocky struggles, but wins and gets the girl), I don't usually watch "dick flicks", and finally, Kives was recommending it (he doesn't have a good track record of taste in movies, or frankly, anything). I went to go watch it with Kives tonight on his suggestion.

I expected the biggest piece of crap I have ever seen, but it was actually good!!! I still can't believe that it didn't suck!!!

I was fully expecting zero plot, zero character development, and an extremely large amount of cheese. I was wrong on every count. The plot was actually pretty good, and was built up well. It was a little unbelievable, but at the same time, just believable enough. It made complete sense despite not having seen the previous ones. The character development was actually surprisingly good for a "dick flick". And while some of the lines could have been cheesy, it came across as genuine and actually left me with some memorable quotes:

You or nobody ain't never gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit... it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.

Sir, do you have a reservation?
Do I look like a freakin' Indian?

(ya, it's bad, but it's so bad it's funny)

Despite not having seen the original movies, I had seen enough clips and parodies of them to know the soundtrack, and I have to admit, I was getting into it when the key songs were playing. Running up the stairs with the Rocky theme (microphone arrays memories) playing in the background is classic. I wanted Eye of the Tiger, but it wasn't in the movie itself. I think it was playing in the credits though.

I got fully absorbed into this movie. I felt for Rocky and I was cheering him on. When I forget about everything else and I'm fully engrossed in a movie, that's when it's a good movie. It was definitely entertaining and it was worth the $8.95 (that's the full admission price in Winnipeg).

Of course, Kives and I followed it up with some ping pong in my basement for old times sake :). For the record, I kicked his ass, 3-0 in games to 5. He's totally lost his game having not played for so long.

By popular demand...

My room in Winnipeg, or at least a part of it

Mi-Mi on my bed

Mi-Mi (cat, not person) has been sleeping on the same spot on my bed pretty much 24/7 since I got back. She leaves only to eat and visit the litter box. She will scratch at my door to come in if my door is closed and once inside, she doesn't budge from her sleeping spot despite the door being open, causing much jealousy in my sisters. I joined Mi-Mi for a 2 hour cat nap this aft :). She loves me and misses me and I do the same in return. Now if only she came in human form... And no, Mimi (the person), I'm not talking about you :p

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Identity is a horrible, horrible show

Let's ignore the fact that Identity stretches out what should only take, at most, 5 min. of matching 12 pairs of things into an hour long show infused with artificial drama through commercial breaks. The whole concept of the show is exactly what is wrong with our society.

Identity is a game show where a contestant has to match 12 people with their occupation based entirely on appearance. The contestants cannot ask them questions and the people do not speak or do anything. They just stand there.

This is wrong on so many levels. First, it reinforces the concept of stereotypes of occupations, even worse is that it's based only on looks. Second, it defines individuals solely by their occupation.

It's very common to get those "oh, one of those" reactions when you tell someone what you do. Occupational stereotypes are very strong, but I don't think you should be defined by your job. If all you are is what you do for a living, then I think that's rather sad.

I read something once where the guy said that in introductions, most people start off with what their job is. He thought this was inherently wrong. He said that we should not be defined by our occupation, and rather, what is a better reflection of himself was that he was the son of Bob and Mary, husband of Sarah, and father of Paul and Wanda. I agree with this that "what we do" is not "who we are". Pragmatically speaking though, it's a decent introduction.

I don't like to be categorized into any type of stereotype - occupational, ethnic, cultural, gender, physical, age, or otherwise. I fight against them and like to have my own identity.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New camera!

The cameras face off... but how am I taking this photo of the cameras???

HP 812 (old)

Canon SD600 (new)

I got an early Christmas present! I don't think this counts towards my quota of Christmas presents either :D. It helps that my parents own a computer store and can get stuff for cost. It also helps that it's partially a business cost as the store is going to use my old camera in its business operations.

My old camera still works and the image quality's decent, but it's rather clunky, using AA batteries sucks, and the eye viewer is busted (it's permanently zoomed in). The old camera's a 4 MP, and the new one is 6, though the optics and sensors are better on the new camera. If you zoom in on the images above, you can tell the difference, though the focus is a little off for the HP camera. Of course, the first pictures I take with a new camera are of my pets :)

The new camera has a lot more features and you can control things better in manual mode (not that I know what I'm doing). It also starts faster, has less of a delay when taking pictures, is smaller and lighter, and uses a lithium battery, which lasts way longer than AAs. I was particularly frustrated with how my old camera did with things close to the camera as the flash would often ruin the image, but without flash, it'd be all blurry. The new camera seems to deal with the flash reflection much better and also has a bunch of low-light settings for me to play with.

In truth, this gift is not really a gift for me, but a gift for you readers out there! Expect more, and better quality pictures from this point on!

I'm sorry Shaftesbury, I disappointed you

I was flipping through the old high school yearbook and in my graduating year, I was voted the most likely to make my first million by the age of 25.

I'm sorry Shaftesbury, it doesn't look like that's going to happen :(. I do however, still have a little over 4 months to go, so I'm currently accepting donations. Show some school spirit!!! Together, we can make this happen!

Oh, and I retract my yearbook quote. Frankly, most people should retract their yearbook quote. Good on those that didn't submit a quote.

Reminder to self: bus stop is on the East side

Stupid 192 Airport Rocket (bus) left the subway station 2 min. early and I just missed it. I was about 1.5 bus lengths behind, but thought I was ok, b/c there was a girl in front of me running.

I even tried to be all clever today, as I walked all the way to the West side of the platform when I got onto the subway to save time later, only to find out that the bus stop was actually on the East side, so not only did I waste effort walking the entire length of the subway twice, but it also caused me to miss the bus. I ended up having to wait 20 min., at which point, that bus left a few min. late :s. The airport wasn't busy though, so I was still plenty early.

Home is just as I left it. There's actually snow here, not much, but there's snow and it's refreshingly cold (below -10), so it feels a little bit more Christmasy. The tree's up as well. I donno though, I'm just not feeling the holiday spirit yet. It'll hit sooner or later...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Congratulations Chris and Dayna!

Congratulations Chris and Dayna! I'm pretty sure I'm the last of the SSEA (Shaftesbury South Enders Alliance) to know. Thanks for telling me. No, wait... Justin told me. And he only found out yesterday. Rob, Jill, you two better come up with a good excuse. I'm sure both of you knew. Chris, you're not off the hook either. I know you've been to my blog several times this week.... from work :p

I already have the key point for my speech: "I slept with Dayna right in front of Chris". No, I'm not going to qualify that statement.

5th engagement this year.

iCook Sugar

I am disturbingly full...

First, I went with Jamie, Esther, and Trish to iCook. Hot pot buffet! It blew my mind. You got your own little pot, with whatever soup base you wanted (I just went with the regular chicken stock), then there's an actual buffet line of raw food for the hot pot! Usually with hot pot, you have to keep ordering. I've never seen a buffet line. They had a lot of spices and sauces as well and free fountain drinks :). The execution was quite well done and I ate A LOT. Two massively high piled plates. The food was alright, not amazing though. I was a little disappointed with the fish balls. They weren't very "song". They were also running out of stuff (namely veggies) near the end of the night. I liked the beef, tofu, and mushrooms :). I've been to places with better food (Times I think), but I really like the personalized little pot and the buffet line.

The girls were too full for dessert, but I insisted on going as I have been craving Chinese dessert for a while. I had red bean earlier today at Pho Hung (well, the "3 colour" drink), but wanted more red bean still. I didn't get red bean tonight though. We went to The Sugar to get takeout. I got the "House Special Super Golden Sago Mixed (sea coconut, mixed fruit, and ice cream golden sago mixed)". Ya, I wouldn't know what it was either if you just told me that. It was mango "sei mei lo" (small tapico) with fruit. It was rather tasty. Oh, I just found a picture:

I don't get either of these two things (hot pot in a restaurant and Chinese dessert) in Winnipeg and there are no Chinese dessert places in downtown :(

I'm struggling to fight against the food coma right now. Still SO FULL.

All I do is attend Christmas parties

I kept meaning to blog, but there was too much going on. Plus, I'm leaving in 12 hours and my suitcase currently has 2 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of socks, and 1 pair of underwear. There is clean laundry all over my bed and my room is a mess...

Seems like all I did this week was go to Christmas parties, which is bizarre b/c up until now, I hadn't gone to a single Christmas party in Toronto. The reason why I suddenly had so many is b/c I've met a bunch of new people this year, and I'm also staying in Toronto later than I usually do.
  • Last Saturday - Tina's potluck

  • Tuesday - Centre for Cellular & Biomolecular Research (CCBR)
    • Party in the middle of the afternoon, but we got a free drink and appetizers, but there wasn't much by the time I got there.

  • Thursday - Probabilistic and Statistical Inference Group (PSI, aka, my research group)
    • Sat around eating cupcakes for Ofer's belated birthday and twizzlers telling jokes for an hour.

  • Saturday - Toronto Chinese Alliance Church (TCAC)
    • Went with Elsa and Phila to Aaron's church's Christmas party. Free dinner :). The bread was really good. I had about 2 loaves... The program was pretty entertaining, though I was struggling to avoid food coma. It probably would have been funnier had I known the people performing/talking.

  • Saturday - Nastassja's party
    • Party #2. Not very festive, but it was good to catch up with Nastassja, Jen, and Ron. I was pretty red.

Jen was pretty red earlier, but I easily surpassed her with just a single one of Nastassja's mojitos

The red faded as I discussed business with Mr. Appel

I missed the annual Shaftesbury South End Alliance Christmas party this year (it was on Friday). I just made up that name, but it's the people I'm friends with from Shaftesbury, but I wasn't friends when them when we were at Shaftesbury. You guys know who you are. North enders need not apply.

Other random things this week:
  • Semi-friend's master's thesis presentation
    • Novel application of graph cuts, but not enough results and overly simplified experimental conditions. He was getting drilled pretty bad by the committee afterwards and he wasn't able to answer some pretty basic questions. It was kinda painful to watch and I just wanted to shout out the answers :s. I had to do some stuff, so I had to leave halfway through the questions and I'm not sure how it turned out.

  • UTCCF Christmas / going away dinner
    • Met up with UTCCFers for a Christmas / going away dinner as "Little Jon" (Jon Fung) was leaving the next day to go back home for the holidays. We did the familiar Baldwin, but went for Korean instead of Kowloon.

  • Indoor beach volleyball
    • Dinner at some ramen place near Finch station with Mike, Christine, Michelle, and Newton, then 3+ hours of indoor beach volleyball, meeting up with Tina, Donna, and other beach bums. Not many people were there, so we took over 3 courts and played 2's. The net was low, so I had a fun time hitting :). It was pretty fun. Afterwards, we went for *more* food. Korean again... I left my ball sac and balls in Michelle's car :s

  • UTCCF Christmas / going away lunch
    • Michelle (different one from above) called me at 9:30 am on a SUNDAY. That's just inhumane. For future reference, the general guideline is to not call me if you see a single digit on the clock in the morning. She is lucky that Tony picked up b/c I would not have gotten it. I went to bed without setting my alarm clock and my cell was off. I met up with the UTCCFers at Pho Hung for lunch.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


My new snowpants and a look into my bedroom, a place where unfortunately, few have seen. My previous offer still stands.

Finally got a pair of waterproof snowpants! That should help me in times of rain, like last year and my recent trip to Snoqualmie.

I had the hardest time finding a new pair as Men's "small" is too big! MEC and REI didn't have a substantial kids section either, and the women's snowpants were just too fitting :s. I found myself in Eaton Centre today and in SportChek. I tried on like 10 pairs of snowpants, and finally settled on this one:

I still wear kids clothing

Even with a "youth" size, I have to make use of the elastic waist adjustment band :s. I tried one size lower, but it was too small. Using the adjustment thingy makes the back all scrunched up. I may have to find a belt instead...

I found the attached sizing chart rather humorous :). Europeans wear XL (18/20) when they're 14, but people in Japan and Korea wear it when they are 19!!! Heck, I'm still wearing it! I know that growing up, I would typically wear the same size as my age, as advised by this sizing chart for Asians, and I guess I just stopped at 19, which is about right, as that's about the age people guess that I am :p

Asians are small

Not only was the snowpants on sale ($80), but since it was kids, there was NO PST!!! Unlike in Manitoba, in Ontario, all kids clothing automagically gets the PST (provincial sales tax, 8% in Ontario) off, and you don't have cashiers asking you if you are under 14.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Takes me back to junior high school

I went to go play badminton at Brown Community Centre with Tina, Donna, Sue (who asked that I bring her some mango pudding), and Darren. It took me back to Laidlaw as that was the last time I had played badminton. It was pretty fun, though it took a little bit to remember how to play and I'm still not that great. I was able to beat some old people though.

There were tons of people - 30+. 3 courts. Even with doubles on each court, there was a lot of sitting off. I think my record was 2-3 for the afternoon.

My right arm is pretty sore. My forearms are tired from gripping the racket for so long and my shoulder is tired. I was using muscles I just don't normally use, which is odd b/c it should be similar to a volleyball hit, but maybe I just used it more, or more likely, I used muscles I wasn't supposed to use b/c of my poor form :p

Afterwards, we went to Teppanyaki Sushi (maybe that's not it's actual name) near Don Mills and Eglinton (Ontario Science Centre and one of the few Superstores, but still not as Super as in Winnipeg). It was my first time having Teppanyaki, which is Japanese food where they cook it right at the table. I found it very amusing to watch. It's cool b/c you get to eat the food right after it comes off the grill, so it's nice and hot. You also eat as it's made :)

Tina dropped me off at the Loblaws near her place and I picked up a giant bag of frozen fruit (for blending of course) and some miscellaneous groceries before rollerblading home (only took like 10 min. b/c it was downhill :)). Then I did some hardcore vegging. Nice start to my vacation :)

Partied from 5 to 5

Second pan of mango pudding (first one was pretty much finished at the potluck)

First, Yue has his going away party, which started at 5 pm Saturday at the Korean BBQ place on Queen St. I had no idea that that place had an upstairs. Pretty much everyone there I had seen on a volleyball court at some point. We should have just held the party on a volleyball court :p

Then we headed over to the good 'ol Firkin pub right next to my apartment, where we had the back room reserved. I stayed for a beer, and then took off around 9ish to go to Tina's potluck. It was funny when I got there b/c I saw Mike and I was like "I already saw you tonight..." as he was at Korean BBQ, but skipped the pub to presumedly go to the potluck.

I feel that I was responsible for seeding the potluck idea into her head b/c it was obviously not her other friends seeming as how a few of them brought pre-made stuff!!! That goes completely against the whole spirit of a potluck!!! You're supposed to make something!!! Half the fun is poisoning your friends (or strangers) :)

Anyways, after going to the C-Lounge a couple weeks ago with Tina and Donna, we hit Chinatown for some late night food. Donna only wanted the mango pudding from there and I commented that that's my specialty. They asked me to make some, and I said, half jokingly, that if they had a potluck, I'd make it and bring it (if I could find the necessary special ingredient).

Tina hosted a potluck and I was obliged to bring my signature dish. No, it's not made from powder. That is insulting! No, I didn't get the recipe off the internet. No, it's not an old family recipe passed down through the generations. I made the recipe myself! No, you can't have the recipe.

It was quite well received, despite the mango pudding not in its most amazing form, as the coconut milk I used had congealed and left a white film on the top, but it tasted fine. Most of the pan I brought was finished, which is good b/c I wouldn't know what to do with all the leftovers, considering that I had a whole second pan. I've realized that I can pick up girls, or at least greatly impress them, with this dish, and I could open a mango pudding store next to my Indian restaurant.

Anyways, so after my second dinner, wine, dessert, chilling & talking, and charades, it was 5 am. Nice way to kick start my vacation ;)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Now I'm really done

Happy Holidays!

Just submitted the supplemental material for my CVPR paper, i.e. pretty videos. So, now I'm really done, and am on vacation!!!

I even have a Christmas / Holiday potluck to go to tomorrow, which reminds me, I have make my dish for tomorrow right now using that special ingredient I bought yesterday.

Ok, so I'm not technically on vacation, but I don't have any more hard deadlines for some time and everything can resume it's regular leisurely grad school pace, though it was nice to be uber-motivated again and it definitely paid off.

I sleep so little, I watch the stars fade into day

-- Tegan and Sara

Friday, December 08, 2006

I should open an Indian restaurant

Secret ingredient

I went to Little India today to get a secret ingredient, which is unrelated to the meal I made today, but the trip led me to buy curry and other ingredients necessary for my dinner. In Winnipeg, I can get mango pulp in Superstore, but I couldn't find it anywhere here and had to go all the way to Little India, where one small grocery store had like 4 or 5 different brands!

Today's dinner menu was inspired by Sarah's curry.

It was the first time I tried making curry and it was AMAZING!!! I swear that the flavour was exactly like chicken jalfrezi from a real Indian restaurant, except without the obscene amount of oil and more veggies.

Onions, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, chicken, curry paste, coconut milk, and naan-like bread

  1. Cooked the onions in some oil in a pan

  2. Threw in the chicken and scooped several teaspoons of curry paste in

  3. Cooked for a few min. and then added the coconut milk and veggies

  4. Simmered for a while, using a lid to help cook the vegetables

  5. Wrapped the bread in aluminum foil and warmed it up in the oven

  6. Made a fruit smoothie

  7. Ate to the brink of food coma


The only thing I'd change next time is to cook the potatoes separately for a bit b/c they took a while to cook despite being in small chunks and caused me to cooked the whole thing for longer than I needed, but it wasn't over cooked. I used "boiling" potatoes. I'm so confused at all the different potatoes - frying, boiling, baking, batteries, satellites...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Seattle wrap-up

I'm sure that this is going to be a long post, so here's the executive summary for those of you who have exams and don't have time to read the entire entry. Wait, people with exams need to procrastinate :). Ok, this summary is just for you lazy working folk then. Except those of you who read at work. You know who you are :)

My trip was quite good overall. Interviews went well (I think and hope), wrote and submitted a good paper (I think and hope), snowboarded twice (Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie), played volleyball twice (Pro Club and Kamiakin), GReunion 2.0 (Jonny!), saw most of the people I wanted to see, and had the most amazing dragon boat practice.

Dragon boating with Hot Sake

Being on the water on Saturday was simply amazing.

Bright shining sun. Clear blue skies. Still glass water. Fresh cool air. Magnificent mountain backdrop.

The most fascinating thing was putting my bare hand in the nice, cool lake water and watching the steam come off my warm hand.

I still remembered how to paddle and my technique improved with Charlene coaching me. Dropping my shoulders when the paddle enters the water made it so my arms were way less tired. My endurance and power were way up. My ass got bruised from the hard plastic seat of the boat, but I'm told that's a good thing b/c that means I'm rotating instead of just using my arms.

Chinese restaurant tradition

I've noticed that I've been privy to several Chinese restaurant traditions.
  • After dragon boat practice, we always go to Jade Garden in Chinatown for dim sum.

  • It's always Jeem's for dim sum with Nebojsa

  • UTCCF always goes to Kowloon on Baldwin after fellowship

  • I don't even have to ask where we're going for family Saturday dinner when I go back to Winnipeg, b/c the answer is Marigold

Tradition is good, but some variety is good as well.

GReunion 2.0

By freak coincidence, Jon and I were both in Seattle at the same time.... for interviews.... for different companies (MSR and Amazon)! Crazy. I always knew that we'd meet again, but I figured it would be here in Toronto since I'm here for school and his family lives here.

I was meeting up with Dmitry, his wife, and Sarah for dinner, and Mr. Deyo blessed us with his presence. We went to Bluwater Belltown Bistro in Belltown near Sarah's place. Nice place.

Sorry, no pics b/c I forgot my camera in Toronto. I had the battery charger and USB cable, but no camera :(


I went to Snoqualmie by myself on Monday. Pretty close, like a 1 hour drive. I wasn't impressed. Only a small portion of the mountain was open and there was only 1 good run. And it was raining / freezing rain. I got my bindings ladder fixed, now all 4 of the straps have been replaced and they don't match - 2 grays (instead of black from Blue Mountain), 1 ugly beige (from Stevens), and 1 shortish bright red (from Snoqualmie). The guy said that he wished he could give them away for free, but he couldn't and asked me if $3 sounded fair and I said 'ya'. I went to go pay, but the cashier was just ignoring me. I was obviously standing in a place to butt in (like you'd do at McDonald's) to just do a quick payment, plus I was next in line anyways, but in the wrong direction. Anyways, I got sick of waiting and just left.

The best part of the trip was when my fuel gauge hit empty on the way there and I took the next exit to get gas, only to find myself driving for a few miles into the town of Snoqualmie. I saw signs for Snoqualmie Falls and decided that I'd go take a look as I had heard about it previously and it was close by. I was impressed. The water flow was quite low when I went, but it was cool to see the huge drop. Again, no camera, no pictures :(


Volleyball at the good 'ol Pro Club was fun. Good to see all the familiar faces. Not as many as I had hoped to see though.

I went with Alex and Stacey to Kamiakin, which was a bust at first b/c there was no open gym, but they didn't change the hotline. We had to wait until the league playoffs finished. I ran into Reiner (Rodney Blanco's older brother) there who was playing in the league, which was pretty random.

Alex and Stacey have definitely improved since I last played with them in March.

Flight entertainment

Flew direct back to Toronto on Air Canada. They had screens on the backs of each seat with on demand entertainment. I was watching My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and it was fine for a while, but then it started to get freeze every few seconds and it was so annoying that I just had to stop (they should really do some buffering or something). Sleeping was a better alternative anyways since I only had 4 hours of sleep the night before.

At least my luggage wasn't overweight - 46 lbs, only 3 lbs heavier than I went, but that's only b/c I moved a stack of papers into my carry-on and stuck my gym shoes and some socks into my snowboarding bag. I went shopping at Redmond Town Center and Bellevue Square on Monday and Tuesday, and dished out like $300, which translates into a couple pounds of clothing...

Clothing rant

Clothing is expensive. My credit card bills were much lower when I didn't like shopping. Recently I've been thinking about the (approximate) amortization cost of clothing. If I buy a (relatively cheap) $30 sweater and wear it once every 2nd week, for 4 months out of the year, for 2 years, then that's ~$2 / wear. If I wear a pair of jeans 80-100 times, then it's about $1 / wear. Shoes are probably the best deal. I've been wearing my new pair of Sketchers (the infamous pair where I was asked if I was under 14) since Aug. pretty much every day, so that's already $1 / wear even if I were to throw them out now. I always thought underwear was cheap, but it's not. I have enough to last me about 2, maybe 2.5 weeks, so that's about 26 wears / underwear / year. Some of the boxer-briefs (yes, that's what I wear, and if you're a girl, you're invited to my bed to check them out for yourself ;)), are like around $26 (after tax, etc.), so that's like a dollar every time I put one on! 50 cents if the pair lasts 2 years, 33 cents if they have holes in them. Socks, I'm not sure about. I have a bunch and I don't know the price and I don't know how long they last, but I'm guessing around a quarter per wear. Coats are very seasonal. $100 coat, 3 months out of the year? If I wear that coat every day for those 3 months (unlikely) for 2 years, then that's still more than $1 / wear. So, given that it's fallish, every time I walk out that door, it's costing me more than $6. Say I'm wearing a few layers, and put on a toque and gloves. It starts adding up! Summer I suppose is cheaper though.

I think this is a good argument for walking around naked. Again, cute girls are encouraged to explore this option in my bedroom. I am able to accommodate multiple visitors simultaneously.

Monday, December 04, 2006


CVPR (Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition) paper is done!!!

It's pretty phenomenal how much work I got done this past week to get the paper up to speed. Very little procrastination! I think it's b/c I had meetings with Nebojsa all the time and there was big pressure because of the hard deadline. I spent a lot of time at MSR, Panera Bread, and the lobby, i.e. places with wifi. Not much sleep these past few days, so I'm pretty tired.

It was hard doing it remotely without a desktop and a good, permanent place to work, but I pulled it off. Nebojsa was key as he helped to write a lot and of course his guidance in the research was very important. It was good to be here in the days prior to the deadline to meet with Nebojsa in person. Too bad he skipped off to Whistler these past few days, but he did a lot of work while he was there.

I forced Nebojsa to get on MSN Messenger to communicate. It was WAY better than how we did it last time. Last time we wrote a paper together, 2 years ago, I was in Toronto, he was here, Brendan was at home. I got like a billion e-mails. They didn't use IM!!!

Same story this time though. Rush, rush, rush, finishing within like an hour from the deadline and doing revisions and resubmitting up until half an hour past the deadline, which was at midnight. Last time was funny in retrospect with Brendan waking up at like 6 am to write the intro when the paper was due at 7 am. Nebojsa stayed up with me to finish the paper.

It's the best paper I've written since last time and the best results I've gotten since as well, i.e. last time I wrote a computer vision paper. I might even have a thesis topic now!!! We found out a few days ago that this paper can actually be considered an extension of my video epitomes work. I might actually be able to graduate at some point afterall :)

I'm not totally out in the clear yet though. I have to create videos and submit them later this week. The videos are very important for my submission. If I get it right, I'm pretty confident that my paper will get accepted. Too bad the conference is in Minneapolis s: (yes, that is a backwards emoticon, tilt your head to the right)

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Interviews for the fellowship (aka scholarship) thing was today. Not sure if I'm supposed to talk about it or give out these numbers, but here they are (I'll wait for the cease and desist e-mail). There were 190 applications, 60ish chosen for interviews, and 17 awards. That seems to be a large number of interviews. 3.5 : 1 odds...

I think my interviews went quite well. None of the interviewers were really drilling me. More like a friendly discussion of my research, prodding me into how I think, my view on things, etc.

I felt quite comfortable in the interviews. It helped that I had met all of them before (except one, but I had stared at his picture so much that I feel that I know him) and generally knew about their work.

The stressful thing was getting hold of people. It snowed a few days ago and it has been cold enough here that it didn't melt. Some small streets and parking lots are pretty icy, but the main thoroughfares are fine. Regardless, people here freak out with the sight of snow and stayed home. This is the second day in a row that schools were closed. Microsoft is open, but with limited services, i.e. not all building lobbies have a receptionist and the cafeterias are closed.

The recruiter that I was originally supposed to meet didn't come to work, so I had a replacement, but she didn't show up either, and I had a 3rd as a fill-in. One of my interviewers didn't come into work either, and I'm not sure what's going to happen there. I am here for the next week, so I can come back to do the interviews if necessary.

Now time to focus on CVPR. Deadline is this Sunday...

I work at Panera Bread

I'm no longer at school and now I work at Panera Bread.

Yesterday was funny. I drove into Redmond from Seattle at 8 am b/c stupid parking meters aren't free after 8 am. Anyways, I was at Panera Bread for 11 hours yesterday. 8:30 am - 7:30 pm. Apparently they closed at 6! Cozy little place. Nice booths and tables and free wifi :D. I had Nebojsa meet me there to meet b/c I needed to remotely access my computer back in Toronto to run stuff for my paper and I don't have Internet access at MS. Not sure what the Panera people thought b/c I was there all day. I wish Sean was working there, then I could've gotten free food and delivery to my table :D

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I was told that it doesn't snow here

First snow sighting this season and it's in Seattle of all places. I was told that it doesn't snow here. It snowed quite a bit esp. in Redmond and it was just a mess. People here freak out with snow. There was some hail today as well. Weird weather. Still skies, and then all of a sudden downpour of snow, and then it stops. Then it hails, then it flurries, and then it stops.

It was good for snowboarding Sunday though. Went to Stevens Pass with Alex, Stacey, and Deepak. Funny thing was the last time I went snowboarding was at Stevens Pass with Alex and Stacey back in March. That was their last time too. The chains on the car tires was fun, esp. when the chains starting ripping off. Snowboarding was pretty good. Tons of snow. Lots of powder. A bit on the cold side though. I was being pretty careful b/c I was a little concerned about my knee, so no moguls for me this time. I might get a knee brace to go snowboarding as a preventative measure. I'm not a huge Stevens fan b/c it gets very moguly. I don't like moguls. I fall in moguls and I'm pretty sure that repeated falling for 6 hours of snowboarding last time at Stevens is what caused me knee pains for like 6 months, though volleyball didn't help.

Oh, I got my luggage just before 1 am the night I landed. I also forgot some key things: camera, maps, and snowboard lock (though we didn't really stop b/c we got there late, like noon, and so we just kept going until it closed at 4).

Oh, another thing. I broke another adjustment strap on my stupid cheap bindings. This time it was the lower one on my back foot. I rode down the hill without it and it was ok. I went to the repair shop and got it fixed ($3ish) and got a hot wax while I was at it. OMG, the wax made a HUGE difference. All of a sudden my board could slide on the snow much better. Went faster, had more confidence, and other good stuff. Then, when I was putting my board away in the car, the other lower strap broke off!!! I didn't even see where it went! Stupid cheap bindings with brittle plastic straps. Grrr...

Gonna go to Microsoft Research again tomorrow to work on my paper. Have to leave by 8 to move stupid car. Sarah loves that I was at MS longer than she was today.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

In Seattle!

I'm so tired. It's 12:17 am, meaning that it's 3:17 am Toronto time.

Connected through Denver to get to Seattle, which if your geography is bad, is a pretty odd connection b/c it's way too far South. Flight to Denver was ~4 hours, flight from Denver to Seattle was ~3 hours, so in total ~7 hours, and a direct flight is like 4.5 hours. But at least I got here. My luggage didn't though....

I only had an hour to get to my connection flight in Denver. I made it and had McDonald's lunch to boot. My luggage didn't make the connection.

So, I'm sitting here in Sarah's apartment waiting for my luggage to be delivered. It's supposed to get here before 1 am.

It wouldn't be too bad except for the fact that one of the pieces is my snowboard and I'm going snowboarding tomorrow!!! Oh, and all my winter clothing is in my suitcase.

It better come soon b/c I'm getting really tired. I'm super glad that I had my cell phone unlocked down in Cali and got an extra sim card b/c I was able to get a local number under a prepaid plan so I have a cell to use here. Sarah just got her new apartment and doesn't have a phone :s. At least there's a friendly "linksys" wireless network to get Internet access :D

Friday, November 24, 2006

The question of existence, stalking, and reverse stalking

You don't exist to me unless you fall into at least one of these categories and the more of them you fall under, the more you exist:
  • You're on my MSN Messenger or GTalk list

  • You blog (and it has an rss feed that I read)

  • You comment on my blog

  • You're on my Facebook and appear in my news feed

The following constitutes life, but you're under the knife in Seattle Grace's OR and Dr. Burke's tremor is back:
  • Friendster / Hi5 / MySpace / Orkut / LinkedIn

  • I have your e-mail address

  • You're on ICQ or AIM (damn Americans)

  • I have your phone number

  • I sometimes run into you in person

Existence requires you to actively push your presence upon me and constantly remind me of your existence and your doings and provides me with an easy and non-intrusive way to contact you. Maybe you cause a little pop-up on my screen when you come online in IM and you say something about what's going on in your name or status message, or your new blog post shows up in my Google Reader, or I get an e-mail saying that someone commented on my blog, or I see that you have had activity in Facebook.

On a related note, stalking people is very important. Everyone spies and stalks people online. No need to hide it. Everybody does it. And I don't mean "Googling" people and checking out their "homepages". That's so 2003. No. The epitome of stalking in 2006 is finding someone on Facebook when all you have to go off of is their first name, and you can't even spell it properly. Once you found them on Facebook, you have an immense amount of info at your disposal - contact info, life ambitions, interests, baby pictures, drunken pictures to bribe them with, and their popularity factor (how many "friends" they have :p). You can also try and find their blog (no one has a homepage anymore) or look for them on other social networking sites. Apparently Winnipeggers love Hi5. If a Winnipegger is on just 1 social networking site, it's Hi5 for some reason, despite the fact that it's garbage. This is all "innocent" stalking.... people just wanna know more about other people.

I had like 50 people at fellowship today comment about things on my Facebook and blog: "I didn't know you were doing a PhD!", "I read your post about 'Bible Study'", "Oh right, you were the guy with the flower in your hair", "You worked at Google and Microsoft?". I don't mind people spying / stalking me. I wouldn't put that info out there otherwise. Go ahead, stalk me!

Just know that I reverse stalk you. You stalk me, I stalk you back. Rostecki, you can stop with the silly "", it doesn't work, and upgrade to Firefox 2.0 already.

Random money talk

Had a conversation with a friend about money, b/c my credit card bill was $980 this month, and that's without having a girlfriend to pay for! Not sure what my typical bill is, but it's probably closer to $200ish, but the inflated amount is due to my recent discovery of shopping as well as buying concert tickets. Oh, and then my other credit card was like $750, but Mommy and Daddy pay for that one (groceries and other necessities as well as my flight back to Winnipeg for the holidays). They want to pay for it, so who am I to say no? They also pay my tuition and housing. My parents figure that they continue to pay for my older sister's housing, since she still lives at home, so then they pay for mine. I guess they want to provide for me as long as I'm still in school, despite the fact that I can support myself.

My friend said that that was great and that she'd want to do that for her kids as long as they know the value of money and don't take advantage of it. I save like 90% of the money I make and have done so since I was probably 13 (when I started working at my parents' store). So, I would say that I'm pretty financially responsible. I don't make any conscious effort to restrict my spending, it just happens naturally b/c I don't want/need to buy stuff or I don't think it's worth it. I'm frugal. That's the Chinese in me. But, I sometimes splurge :p

This brings me to a conversation I had with a different friend, asking me what to do with extra money that he had. I obviously don't just keep my savings in a bank account. That would be dumb. Most of my money is in GICs (guaranteed investment certificates, called a certificate of deposit, or CD, in the US) and mutual funds. A GIC is like giving a loan to a bank. They take your money for a specified period of time and they give you interest (4, maybe 5%), higher than what a savings account would give you. The interest rate is fixed before hand and is "guaranteed". That's the safest investment. If you need the money before the time is up, you can often get it, but pay a penalty, eg. no interest, or very low interest. There's this strategy called laddering, where you split your money up and invest it in spaced out GICs so that one of the GICs matures each year and then you reinvest for a long time period for the best interest rate, but still get the advantage that some money matures each year if you want, but more importantly, it mitigates fluctuations in interest rates (they change). It doesn't take much to get a GIC, some places, like PC, I don't think there's a minimum amount, and others it would be like $500 or $1000. It's a good idea that if you know you have a bit of money that you don't need for a year, to at least put it in a GIC.

Mutual funds have risk, but can lead to much greater returns. These are more for long investments b/c over the long term, they are better than GICs and saving accounts (so far I've been getting ~10%/year). I'm no expert at this. I just started with mutual funds about 3 years ago. There are many different mutual funds and some work different in terms of the charges. The one thing I know is that diversity is important. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. In one sector tanks, eg. technology, then having money also in say, natural resources, helps to mitigate the damage. One strategy I use is dollar cost averaging, where I automatically have my bank account transfer some money into my mutual fund every week. The idea here is that if you were to make a single large investment, you are not guaranteed that you will buy at a good rate. It is better to spread it out, and even if the market goes down, you will be investing, meaning that you will "buy low", with the eventual hope that it goes back up :)

Bonds are also talked about a lot, but I don't do much of this directly. Most of my investment in bonds is indirectly through mutual funds, though I have one Canada Savings Bond.

Stocks I don't do. I can't be bothered to figure out which companies to directly invest it. I let the mutual funds do that. Though I should've bought Google stock...

So, they say that for someone around my age, that I should have something like 60% in mutual funds and then the rest in bonds, GICs, and saving accounts. I don't have this ratio yet, but with my constant investment in mutual funds, it is slowly getting there.

One other class of investment that I've been looking into recently and is really interesting from a social and economic perspective and has the potential to flip the whole banking industry on its head is person-to-person loans. Banks make money by taking your money and lending it out to others. They charge others interest for the loan, and they pay you a little bit of interest for your savings account. The rest they keep for profit and to make up for loans that are not paid off. This person-to-person loan thing is a means to directly loan money to people, cutting out the bank as a middle man. The idea is that borrowers get a better rate than from the bank, and lenders get more interest than from the bank.

Prosper is a site that does just this. It's like Ebay for loans. Borrowers post that they want to borrow money. Lenders then auction to supply money to the borrower. It's a pretty sophisticated site and it's legit (they gave a talk at Google when I was there). They do the same credit checks that a bank does and if you default on a loan, it pays the same penalty as if you default on a bank loan. It's cool to read the stories people have for the reason they need money, their current financial situation, etc. The strategy here is like with anything else. Diversify. Don't give all your money to one person b/c if he/she defaults on the loan, you are screwed. The site has an automated system where you can tell it to spread you money out across people that have a certain credit level, a minimum interest rate, and several other factors. There are risks. People will default on their loans. The site has stats to tell you how often people of certain credit level default, etc. And you adjust your interest rate accordingly, eg. if you assume that 1% of people with a B credit level default, and you want an interest rate of 12%, then you only lend out if you can get 13% interest. I take it from a completely objective view. I use the automated system to determine where my money goes and I give just the minimum amount to each person ($50). I do like to read the stories of the loans that I am investing in. I lend money to a girl who works for a photo production company in Miami and wants to consolidate her credit card debt. I'm also helping a guy buy an engagement ring (good luck! <-- not said in a sarcastic tone). Sure beats looking at numbers and watching if the ticker goes up or down.

I think it's a fascinating idea and I'm just trying it out with a bit of money right now to see how it goes. It's only for the States though. I managed to get an account b/c of my US bank accounts. One motivating factor for me is that I don't have any mutual funds for my US savings. I'm just starting to get some CDs, but it's not that easy, at least with the banks I'm with. Unlike in Canada, where you can do it online very easily at most banks without any physical paper work. I looked into getting mutual funds, but it was a bit of a headache to get it started and I didn't like how they charged you for it. Next time I find myself in the States, I will open up an ING account and get their mutual funds, as they seem to work the same way as the ones for the Canadian version of ING. Ya, so without any investments with risk, I decided to look into this person-to-person investing. My aim with this is to get at least 12% interest, which is way better than GICs (5% at best). So far I'm +$0.85!!! But it's only been maybe 2 weeks.

The whole microcredit thing that's been in the news recently is really cool as well, where instead of just giving money to people to buy food and necessities, you give them a small loan of money to buy tools to make bread baskets to sell. If they pay off the loan, that's bonus, b/c then you have that money to lend to others. If not, then oh well, that's no worse than just giving the money away for free. It's pretty cool b/c you can help to kick start the economy in impoverished areas and help them out for relatively cheap b/c you get some of the money back. And if they are successful, you can even make a profit, but that's not the point :p. You should then use that profit to help more people! (By the way, microcredit is like a new form of donation, that has up to this point, mostly been done by countries and very wealthy individuals)

Anyways, save as much as you can and make it "work for you". Start small and work your way up as you become more knowledgeable in investments. Diversify. Max out your RRSP contributions (or 401K in the US). Pay off your credit cards fully each month (the interest on cards are retarded). Get a card that gives you rewards (mine from Citibank gives me 1% back in cash).

Ya, so that's my money rant. Do not take any of this as investment advice. Consult your financial advisor before making any financial decisions.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blog Wall 2.0

Blog Wall.
Leave your mark. Vandalize my blog. Create chaos!

The old blog wall was broken b/c the site that was hosting the code for it was down. It did the job, but I wasn't totally happy with it. The new version looks nicer, has an undo/refresh button, and shows you the last time the wall was updated.

Searching around, I couldn't find anything else on the Internet that was a suitable replacement. So, I coded it up myself!

It took me a few hours and it was pretty straight forward. I even managed to create a Google Gadget and put it on my personalized homepage :), though I didn't make it public. I'm hosting it on my school's web server and all I used was a form and some PHP code. It's not every day that you can say that you learnt a new language! PHP is actually a really easy language and had very few surprises/quirks. Add in some html forms, a bit of css, some xml (for the gadget), and there you have it!

Don't be fooled by the "2.0" in its name, it's not Web 2.0 (yet). Ok, well, parts of it are in that it's collaborative and it brings about interaction with the visitors and between visitors, but the underlying technology is very Web 1.0. The old version saved it as you typed, but now you have to hit the "Save" button. I think the existence of the save button is good in that it will prevent accidental modifications by people just curious with it and decide to say, delete everything. This would be a good chance for me to play around with AJAX if you guys want the "auto-save" / "save as you type" feature. Might have some issues though if multiple people are editing it at the same time, though there are issues with the current implementation as well (the last person to save overrides even if it was based on an older version of the wall).

The blog is still anonymous and is just as chaotic as before. I was pleased with the use of the wall so far and I hope that it will continue. I love the randomness of it and the interaction on it. There are no guidelines as to what you can write on it. The messages don't even have to be for me. The only thing is that I won't tolerate advertisements. If I see something I don't like, I remove it. Well, anyone can do it for that matter. Everyone can change the wall however they please, so don't blame me if your message gets changed or removed :). I don't know who did it and everyone will feign innocent :) *cough* Rob *cough*

So, write on the wall. Write whatever you want...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Christmas lists in the Internet age

My Christmas List 2006 Edition

I never know what to put on my "wish" list. I don't usually wish for much. If you have any suggestions for my list, let me know...

My family always asks me and my sisters to make Christmas/Birthday lists to make gift shopping easier. Traditionally, we write on pieces of paper, maybe taping on clippings from flyers, and then put it on the fridge. Additions and modifications would be made as necessary. Sometimes the list would go missing when it was taken to go shopping and never returned to the fridge for the benefit of others and rarely returned to the owner for his/her record.

This year, I've moved my list onto the digital domain of the Internet! Flyer clippings have now been replaced by hyperlinks (I'm too lazy to get images). I can modify it and it is instantly reflected on the list for my family a couple thousand kilometres away.

You are probably asking yourself why I don't use a more web 2.0 thing like ThisNext. I think that's a great idea, but it has two problems for wish lists. First, somethings I don't know what exact product I want. For example, maybe I want a new pair of sunglasses, but I don't know exactly which pair, but ThisNext requires an exact product, or at least an example. Second, I would want to use ThisNext for all my shopping stuff, not just a seasonal thing. Plus, it would be a mix of things that could be gifts and things that I would want to get myself (so I get the right one). I would also have to remove things once I get them (like if I buy it myself), otherwise I could end up with duplicates. ThisNext is more of something that I would have for myself and I would know what I have and don't have and also what I don't like/want anymore.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bible study

The hardest part about bible study is when you're told to flip to a particular passage in the bible. "Turn to Psalm 36, verse 6". Ok, first, what's a "Psalm" and second, where is it in the bible? "Second Corinthian, chapter 11, verse 9". I don't even know how to spell "Corinthian" to find it in the table of contents!!!

I started reading the New Testament. It's actually very interesting to read. Things I've heard about previously make more sense now. I'm almost done the book of Mathew, which I'm told by the cheat notes in the edition of the bible I'm reading that it has been called "the most important book of Christendom-the most important book that has ever been written" by the French skeptic Renan. Too bad it's so poorly written! All the stories are disconnected, Matthew's thoughts are just all over the place, things are repeated like 50 times, and he's not particularly articulate. I was expecting more of a flowing story or something, but it's more like fragmented thoughts scribbled on a napkin.

I have seen the portrayal of the birth of Jesus in various forms and media with the whole manger, stars in the night sky, wise men, gifts, etc. But in the book of Matthew, Jesus's birth is described in 1 tiny paragraph and it's just to the point:

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

I was shocked!!! This supposedly huge event in the history of Christianity, with all these Christmas carols about the event, the point in time which our whole calendar system is based, and the biggest holiday of the year, relegated to a measly, undescriptive paragraph!!! C'mon people!!! Show me some emotion!!! Give me some feeling!!! Sigh.... I am however, willing to give Matthew the benefit of the doubt that something was lost in translation...

Fort Tablo

Who's up for going to Fort Tablo during Christmas break?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Free trip to Seattle!

For those who haven't already seen my MSN Messenger or Gtalk status messages...

Step 1:  Free trip to Seattle!!!
Step 3:  Profit!!!

I gotta go to Seattle, well, Redmond, to do interviews at Microsoft Research for the MSR Fellowship. Not sure when I'm going yet, but it has to be before mid-December. Scheduling is a bit of a pain with the CVPR deadline in there, plus volleyball playoffs, Nebojsa's skiing vacation, and NIPS.

Not sure if I'm supposed to talk about this, let alone blog about it... Worse over, searching for "MSR Fellowship" is probably going to lead to my blog soon.... Umm... Hello fellowship committee *waves*

Correction:  I'm already like #4 on Google.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Steak and potatoes


Made myself a rather tasty dinner tonight :). Red wine marinated steak (as suggested from this site telling me that everything I know about grilling is wrong) and fries made from scratch!

I marinated the steak in Robert Mondavi red wine (it was on sale at the LCBO) and the Keg steak spice. It was the first time I marinated meat. It was definitely more tender, though it had a bit too much wine taste. Maybe I just marinated it too much (overnight). Next time I'll try something else, maybe a little sweeter as it was a little bitter this time from the wine. I actually felt my face getting a little red from the wine :s. I guess I did a good job of sealing the juices in :).

For the fries, I cut up two potatoes, mixed in some chopped onions, oil, steak spice, olive oil, parsley flakes, red chili flakes, cajan spice, and probably some other random spices. Then, I laid it out on parchment paper, which is non-sticky, but absorbs and keeps too much moisture, and put it in the oven for like 30-40 min. I should probably use aluminum foil to make the fries crispier, but I get annoyed when it sticks, esp. with little bits of the foil sticks to the fries.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Keeping an open mind

I was inspired by this page about exercising an open mind about a year ago. Since then I have been making an attempt to keep an open mind - do things I don't normally do, work outside my comfort zone, break the regular cycle of things. It's fun to add diversity to your life and in doing so you also meet new people. I'm making it a point to not outright discredit things that I know nothing about, and rather, learn more about it.

Britton told us engineers way back in first year to expand our minds and not just do "engineering" things. He told us to visit art galleries, see the ballet, watch plays, go to the opera, etc. I have taken his advice. Davidson told us way back in AP English to read the bible. Not to try and convert us or anything, but to at least consider it as a literary work. There are so many biblical references in literature and popular culture, and I just don't get any of it. Plus, there are always Jeopardy categories related to the bible and I can't get any of those.

Today, I made progress in religion, specifically Christianity. Elsa invited me to go to the University of Toronto Chinese Christian Fellowship (UTCCF) meeting. I had no idea what to expect. I have never gone to church for a sermon or whatever. The only times I have been inside a church have been for elementary choir, weddings/wedding receptions, high school convocation, and to play basketball. I've also been in a synagog for Kives's Bar Mitzvah. That's all the religious exposure I have had. My family is not religious, so I never went to church as a kid.

I decided to go to see what it was about and keep an open mind about it. There was a lot of mingling beforehand with over 100 people in attendance. I got introduced to seemingly everyone and don't remember anyone's name. I don't think I've ever seen that many bananas before (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), with the whole meeting in English and I didn't hear anyone speaking Chinese before or after, which was strange. Two things always throw people off when they meet me. First, I'm in "8th" year. People were always asking if I was 4th year (probably b/c I was getting introduced by Elsa), and technically I am 4th year, just not 4th year of undergrad. I can also be considered 3rd or even 2nd year, depending on how you count things :). Second, I'm from Winnipeg. Who wouldda thunk that there were Chinese people from Winnipeg? People here assume that since I'm not fob that I'm either from Toronto or Vancouver. Oh, and another popular question was how I know Elsa. We... umm.... met "at" the beach...

So, today's meeting was mostly "worship". Worship of God through song (they had a band with people singing, a choir, and an acoustic set), dance, art (a guy from OCAD brought his thesis consisting of all the pages of the bible used as a painting canvas - it was pretty cool). There was also testimony and prayer. I was mostly observing today and seeing what it was all about. It kind of reminded me of this video where a guy went to Dearborn, Michigan (a mostly Muslim town) to be a Muslim for 30 days (a show created by the guy that did Supersize Me). It's a good watch. Initially, when he went into the Mosque with his host family, he was confused. The actions that the people were doing had significance to them and they were praying to their God, but without knowledge of Islam, he didn't understand it, was taken back by it, and could not bring himself to do it in fear of what the implications were with respect to his Christianity. Over the 30 days he learns more and becomes more accepting of the Islamic religion.

Muslim for 30 Days

Worship felt a little like that for me. I was actually rather amazed that people were allowing themselves to be so vulnerable and opening themselves up to "God". I enjoyed the music, I think Christian music generally has catchy tunes and the band was quite good. I remember sometimes tuning into the Christian radio station in Winnipeg for a change and liking the music (I didn't even know it was Christian music for the first little bit), I even downloaded some of the MP3s, though I don't attach religious significance to them. I like Christmas music, but I don't believe in Santa Claus. They had the lyrics on a projector today and I was carefully paying attention to the words, but didn't attribute meaning to them like the people that were literally exposing their souls. I'm so used to making sure that I do not make myself vulnerable and thinking that everything is in my own hands and it is up to no one but myself to make things happen. Prayer is awkward for me because of this. I'm not accustomed to asking for things, rather, I do them myself or make it happen. The only other experience I have in this is in school with The Lord's Prayer and saying grace before meals at John's house.

I do see why people tend to turn to religion in times of turmoil. I can see the appeal of knowing that someone is there for you and looking out for you, and the hope that that gives you. I also see the appeal in the whole fellowship thing. Everyone's friendly and genuinely interested in meeting and knowing each other. It gives people a sense of community and that they belong. I definitely felt that today and it is something I am missing here in Toronto. After the meeting, most of the people went to Kowloon restaurant on Baldwin for food (it's their tradition) and we took over the entire restaurant.

So, where does that leave me now? I don't know. I would like to read the bible and learn more, at minimum from an objective standpoint. Will I keep going to this fellowship thing? Not sure. I like the group setting and it would be nice to be a part of the group, but it feels kinda wrong if I go, but not believe. I still strongly believe in evolution and that is not going to change. Plus, come January, I won't be able to go anyways b/c of snowboarding :), well, unless I go straight from the bus in my snowboarding gear, do you think God would mind?
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