May 2006 Archives

Today, I helped with assembling the Ikea furniture. Four very very large closets that literally dwarved my parents on the picture I took afterwards. It's hard to explain in words, but now they are against the walls, and we're going to put planks of wood to give the impression that they are closets-in-the-wall. (Man, I re-read some of my recent entries, and I feel as if my English is really sub-par...)

My hands are full of some sort of heavy-duty glue we used to stick the hind plate for the closets. It's Ikea stuff alright, and glue is just for being overly careful that the pieces we put together, stay together. The problem with Ikea is that it's cheap cheap cheap quality. I can't stress it too much. But for someone like me, who has never bought furniture, it is also the only place I would go to if I ever needed to buy anything that's home furniture (and my parents buy a majority of their stuff there too). So, the glue. My hands are slightly dark, as if I played with a too fat of a pencil, and the texture of my skin rippled like if I took an hour-long dip at the swimming pool. I just found a blood bubble on my left hand thumb, that might've been caused by the glue-thing asphyxiating my skin until I have to have my hands chopped off.

I slept 11 hours, depite going to bed relatively early (because on Saturday, I had a less-than-acceptable amount of sleep). Now it's shock-therapy, I'm going to try a nap until 7AM, and take my father's lift downtown, and see if tomorrow night I'll sleep at some more decent time. *g*

[music: The Pancakes - Arcturus]

Computer blues

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I run a partition of Linux/Ubuntu, and of Windows XP at home. Depending of how I'm feeling, I'd use one or the other. More than anything, if I feel "lazy" I go for the latter. :P But in fact, little advanced computer skills are required to use a typical modern graphical Linux install, especially Ubuntu.

In any case, I don't know for Windows Vista, but as far as WinXP is concerned, it is totally replaceable in a work context (edit: erm, what am I saying?). The multimedia support is the only point against Ubuntu, as far as I'm concerned. I can't play Flash stuff (but the developer's blog states that a plugin of 9.0 for Linux 64-bit is being developed), and have lots of inconsistent trouble with multimedia streams... I suspect that it is the predominance of non-free formats in the digital world, more than some sort of negligence. I am using mplayer as my browser multimedia plugin, and officially, Ubuntu supports gstreamer. It's not that I haven't tried gstreamer, but it just wouldn't run half the things I try to play on it (with all possible non-bad plugin sets installed).

(Edit: for the Vista bit, what I mean is that there's nothing fancy to the WinXP interface that can't already be found in Linux/Ubuntu... To replace Mac OS X's interface is still unnatainable, by all means, and Vista is apparently going to be gorgeous by today's WinXP standards, so I don't know. But if you need a computer that "works" and does the now-standard user interface stuff, then Linux/Ubuntu with Gnome is good-enough.)


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In other news, the Oilers won! And are now leading the Best of Seven 3-0!

I didn't watch Game One of Sens-Sabres (7-6, in overtime, with both teams never trailing the other by more than one goal), but this Game Three of the Oilers-Ducks series is by far the most cold sweat inducing game of the fantasmagoric Edmonton run for the Stanley Cup. Fights and serious roughing in the first period (at least forty minutes of penalty!), a fluke goal given up by a slumbering Bryzgalov, Roloson stopping everything during the first two periods, and then a great finale, with three more Oilers goals scored in like three minutes time, followed by a monstrous awakening of the Ducks team (circling in the Oilers zone for about the rest of the game) who scored three to make it 4-3, until the Pisani goal made it 5-3, but not until the second Selanne goal made it 5-4 with about two minutes left. And basically for the remaining time, not only did the Ducks continue to pass the puck in the Oil's zone, but are also creating massive players pile-ups in front of faceoff circles and goalie's crest.

It's not as exciting as if Montreal were still in the series (b/c there are no street celebrations on Ste-Cath after each game), but it's passionating enough if a Canadian team were to win the Cup for the first time since... 1993. If one doesn't know hockey, one should know that there are 15 Canadians on the Oilers team, and also 15 on the Ducks' team - basically, the large majority of NHL players are Canadian.

My kind of laptop

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Flash memory as main storage for a laptop! Samsung did it. "Perhaps the most significant, according to the company, is that the Q30-SSD will operate in complete silence, lacking the quiet chatter of the hard drive or even a processor fan", it says in the article. The computing power is only so-so, and the price tag expectedly still prohibitive...

Sounds for mindless work

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While putting on the primer, I switched on the FM tuner, and fell on the replay of Indicatif Présent, probably the best background process to run during mindless pieces of work. In the same 2h30 show, they talked about What An Army Was (whether Canada needs an army, what does an army does for a country - and cool fact that only two countries don't have a national army but have a national guard - and only one country, Iceland, doesn't have an army at all... heh, who's going to invade Iceland?), Ants (as in, this guy when in university went on a particularly boring fishing trip, so decided to do some fieldwork for his prof by gathering specimens of ants, which turned out to be a new species of Quebec ants), Prêt-à-Manger (not the British fast-food chain specialized in freshly made sandwiches and with a branch in Causeway Bay, no-no, just the general meaning of it, with oddities like the basic English Beans 'n Toast in its pret-a-manger version, which looks like a pop-tart, and yogurt-in-a-tube, etc) and last but not least, Da Vinci Code: The Boardgame (it sucked big-time, but they had a good time talking about it for 10 mins).

Then there was some jazz at 12:30. And then there was Bande À Part, which had a cool selection of electro in preparation for Mutek, and some, what, Norwegian exploratory electronic jazz?

Satisfying day of work. I just finished eating simple Chinese night snack: shrimp noodles, frozen wontons and some leftover choy sum.

But right now, what I think is that I need some sort of nice HK indiepop. Not something one finds everyday, 'cuz i've decided to stop downloading from p2p networks, and rather rely on music blogs I find from time to time. So, for the regularity of music input, we will pass (and we're not even talking about music that I actively want to hear). Recently, I got a tune from HK girl duo At17, called 你有自己一套 - great music for many reasons. And I suspect that the person who ripped it had it from a compilation album called "Indie Queen" with psychedelic green/brown/beige design that is now out-of-print, and which also included stuff from The Pancakes solo-band (can't find many references to it, but this Japanese label/distributor's site has (had) it, along with other familiar-looking stuff).

Guessing that Yesasia's site is encountering a few problems... (Indie Queen - wrong link previously)

I'm painting with something that's called primer. You put it on drywall so that later you can paint real paint on top of, and certainly with the mess I've managed to do (jeans, t-shirt with stripes of white - which is kinda bum-chic, shoes I've thought were forever-damages - but in fact the promise that "primer" is water-based fulfilled itself, and water from washing the painting equipment - err, brushes, paint tray - soaked the Ikea boxes in the garage thanks to my legendary lack of planification), we will delegate the painting to experts...

As for my room, I am torn between Vancouver Canucks mahogany-like (it's too strong of a color, say my parents - and if I know myself well-enough, it's probably as extreme as choosing yellow seven years ago, and surely to be an eye sore within a few months) and something light suggested by my parents to be something like what I would describe best as Blue Smurf. They are probably thinking a blue like the one from the "Random Pictures" icon at the top of the sidelinks. Maybe beige. Hmm.

(Why Blue Smurf? Because they are choosing some sort of beige, and so to balance things out with the color configuration of the bathroom -blue-, another bedroom needs to be blue. My brother's room is apple green, and he has no interest in changing the color.)

You read, especially this bit, and the comments that follow. XD

Retro fugly websites

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I guess that HTML and how people can screw up less with it has come a long way. This (1999 - not me on pic, but close :D - edit: from the times when alternately colored visited links were in) was one of the first website I made myself that was of "production" grade. Then probably came the schtroumpf chronicles archives site (circa 2000). I mean, wtf is the difficulty level today? Then, eventually there was the BUGS website, which was originally designed by a designer friend and then butchered by yours truly on bulky and un-simplistic software like Dreamweaver. I tend to code by hand, but moreover, I tend to hate things that require the point-and-click, since I knowlingly go for anything that is hardcore ("I drink motor oil in the morning"). Truthfully, it'd be cool to know how to make Flash animations, but since I was told you can code Flash animation *by hand*, then why the hell not do so?

So, more recently, I discovered PHP and liked modularizing my code with include tags, like for the CTF website (currently unavailable, becoz we got totally Russian-hacked/pwned two weeks ago, w/o a backup system whatsoever - thank Gott it happened right after exams!). Building on my knowledge of include tags, I did the Cool McGill web design... although the design isn't much of a feat, rather just the structure that I injected, which the previous site didn't have.

Afternoon at the beach

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Waves reaching beach

Hong Kong Heritage Museum

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A museum you have to visit if you are in HK is certainly the Heritage Museum. Located in the tranquil suburb of Shatin (also known as the first "new towns" of HK), the Heritage Museum was completed in 2000 and houses a number of permanent and temporary exhibits. It's considered one of the main museums in the HK SAR and for some reason retain better memories of the exhibits I've seen there versus at the Museum of Arts and other ones in TST.

In 2002, there was the Baihua Qifang exhibit of selected works from the 9th Chinese National Art Exhibition (my photo), with what seemed like deliberately propaganda art (one painting with a Zhou Enlai portrait at the front of steam train).

Since then, the KCR built a new train line called the Ma On Shan Rail, which is right across the bridge from the Heritage Museum, but when I went last year, we took what was a pleasant walk proposed by the HK Tourism board.

That time, there was an exhibit called redwhiteblue, after the tricolor fibrous plastic fabric ubiquitously used in HK to cover things (from rain, etc) or used to make bags for blankets and other bulky things, but now used in an artistic context. Really a "cool" exhibit. I feel sorry to have missed Spaces and Places, despite still being around.

A lady approached me with a marketing questionnaire as I were about to leave the museum. With the CCA exhibit Les années 60 : Montréal voit grand in mind, I wrote in the comments section that some sort of exhibit on HK in the 60s or 70s would be very very interesting (at least that genre of exhibits seems to attract crowds in Montreal - why wouldn't they be just a wee interesting in HK?). Both of the upcoming ones, megARTstore and Hong Kong's Popular Entertainment are definitely must-see.

Looks like we're having a house party, but no, it's instead the representation of North American lifestyle gone totally bad.


Not shown in pic is a fifth car parked on the street belonging to the renovations' guy. My brother bought a second-hand end-of-lease red Acura. I get to have his old car (bottom-right), Toyota 1993, which used to be my mother's (who drove it only sporadically) and was then taken over by my dad 2-3 years ago for city-driving, and ultimately went to my brother at the end of last summer (who, says my mother -I paraphrase- treated it like crap). Anyways, it's mine, yet I can't drive it. Ouch, the irony.

[Current music: At17 - 你有自己一套]

Smoked Salmon

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I was looking for this, but instead got to this article on smoked salmon, and it reminded me that I could get freshly sliced smoked salmon at some fishmonger on Victoria (appended with a Greek restaurant), a 1-minute walk south from Plamondon Metro. The last time we went, the vendor passed us some smoked, but cooked, salmon (I believe the term would be "hot smoked salmon"). There was a lot left over on the counter, cutting "waste", that they gave us to try, and I kept on sneaking over that counter to get more pieces as we waited for our number to be called. And the NYT Magazine article then points to a recipe suggesting the use of the smoked salmon fat to aromatize salads, etc. Hmm...

Whoo, signed up

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In another one of those lifetime firsts, I signed up with a dragonboat team! :D Now, something to burn all those zhong I consumed during the past week...

Full bloom (Sunday, May 14th)
Indeed this year is a bad bad year for o-hanami. The only time we could sit under the flowering trees with pleasant weather was about the end of last week, and it wasn't so warm at all. If the tree on our front lawn is an indicator for the state of other trees of the sort, then congrats to my lack-of-planning, just missed the o-hanami season. In any case, there will be other flowers (roses in June - perhaps I will make an attempt this year), and other reasons to take a walk at the Botanical Garden.

Il Modo Italiano at Montreal Fine Arts Museum
I went to see Il Modo Italiano at the MBAM. It's really really interesting and eye-flashing. Makes me want to decorate my room with various mid-Century Italian-designed objects (like, 1' by 3' numerical clock, Olivetti typewriters, and the walking Org table) and is just about the right amount of designey input I need for deciding on a color for my room. I was thinking that in the breadth of modern-themed exhibits, there ought to be something on video games art, or digital art (or, throw in mix, Japanese post-WWII design).

Edit: a mix of sun and clouds being forecast for Sunday.

♥ Habs

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That is pretty bold a statement.

It's called the Interweb

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Was a Digg story, but ultimately "digged" out from the CBC online archives.

That thing is hilarious. Newsgroups. E-mail. Emoticons. _O_

My introduction to the Internet came during an end-of-school pool party a schoolmate was throwing during spring 1995. He was a total geek straight out of WarGames; his father was with the RCMP - and at some point, he showed off his computer, attached to some box with lights flashing on it. And so that was the Internet. Absolutely thrilling.


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Early bloom in Montreal. Seven degrees above average forecast for this summer in southern Ontario/Quebec. The crabapple flowers are losing their petals already - I'm probably going to pick the next insanely beautiful day to take my stroll at the Botanical Garden. Screw the akkido demo and o-bento for $20.

(SCIM is so complex to use. wth with these 100-something input methods? With none of which being plain old hanyu pinyin? OTOH, anthy:わたしわセデリクです.)

Oh, now I get it. List of IME engines indicates that scim-pinyin is the package, and smart pinyin, the engine to use. While labelled as for inputting simplified, also does traditional (just like MS Input Method Editor).


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For Mother's Day, we went to this restaurant called "Tratorria Mundo" in the middle of the Pierrefonds-Kirkland residential area. When I mean residential, I really mean residential as the restaurant in question is located in a tiny out-of-place shopping mall, with only a gas station, a depanneur, a dry cleaner, drowned in a forest of upper-middle class residential houses. As its name implies, it's an Italian restaurant - one that is chic, yet homely (with decorative bags of fresh vegetables dangling from counters, portraits of stern Italian men in post-modern style, candle-lighted ambiance). I had the cheapest thing on the menu, b/c not feeling fancy at all, and it was a spaghetti bolognese. My brother took the same thing. It would've been better made if I made it myself. The pasta was supposed to be fresh...

On the bright side, my parents and grandparents took much fancier stuff (which is not fancy at all, considering the simplicity and availability of the ingredients) like porcini risotto, veal parmigiana, and a linguine sauteed with porcini and dried tomatoes and perhaps eggplants and usual veggie fillers. All and for all, it was alright, but totally stuff that I can make at home for 1/10 of the cost! Such is the drama with Italian food in general: won't find something really out of the ordinary unless you go to Italy.

(I do want to go to Italy. If my schedule allows - if I remain a freelance - I will travel to France for my cousin's wedding, first to Paris to join her and fiance up, and then to Toulouse where my aunt resides. And probably from there, travel to Barcelona or La Côte-d'Azur, Milano and Turino.)

The interesting plus is that one of the waiters is an (amateur?) opera singer, and did a performance for many tables (it also seemed like everyone except us was Italian-Canadian) in guise of happy birthday or singing performance to commemorate Mama's Day.

Today, for lunch, we went to Kam Fung for yum cha. I ate three of those fresh-out-the-oven egg tarts and indiscriminately stuffed my face with other very usual dim sum. I need to be impressed - and thus on top of Europe, I crave for a trip to HK (and China - this time, I will have my train trip to SH). However, I will wait for my gramps to go, next winter. Actually, they are juggling with the idea to go back to live in HK...

I'm reading this special report on Google in the Economist (which has an associated story on the concept of "Web 2.0", that buzzword coined in the seminal O'Reilly article). Things do look quite exciting around the corner. AJAX has been a buzzword of web programming for about a year or two (if you don't know what it is - it's used in Gmail and Flickr, basically so that small web requests are done w/o reloading a page) and it's on my top list of things to learn this month (along with the Google Maps API, Ruby on Rails and ActionScript), and it's just one of those new technologies that facilitate user interaction, thus encouraging user participation to the web.

Wireless life take two

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Currently hanging out at the Cafe Imagination on Sherbrooke and Du Parc. A bit very trendy, like a Starbucks, or a Second Cup. Nice couches, lounge music, overpriced desserts, warm colors, wireless Internet. But I don't know how it would be otherwise.

First got a few books out from the library - some academic volumes on video games and Japanese post-modern society. As I walk on the Redpath promenade, I recognize Chanimal, Tenzin, the gang with whom I played ultimate frisbee two summers ago. Ultimate is an accident-prone sport, if you are me - when I was on the CS intramural team, I bumped a girl in mid-air trying to catch a frisbee - an ambulance was called, w/o anyone hurt, hopefully, and a year later, with these guys, I ran head-on with Jason, and we both had to go to the RVH emergency for stitches. Joined them for a friendly four-on-four for thirty mins, probably the last time or one of the last times before they graduate (we used to play some wild fifteen-on-fifteens!).

After that, swung by the lab, and then went to the swimming pool. Then went to see my grandmother, who's doing fine as ever (since a long pneumonia five years ago, her health has been relatively good), but a bit lonely because my father has been so busy supervising the renovation work. Then I walked on St-Laurent in search of dinner. At first, wanted to finally try that El Corridor Jamaican place, but at the last minute, I decided to stop by Salaison Slovenia to get some sausages. At the same time, I got a semi-dinner in that slovenian sausage sandwich for $3.00 ($2.50 plus $0.50 for the sauerkraut topping). And then at El Corridor, I grabbed just a beef jamaican patty (the chicken jerk is apparently their speciality, which I should try next time around). As summer approaches, I also want to go for pupusas, which are sold in restaurants and grocery stores up there in hispanophone St-Laurent...

Allergies delightfully killing me. My eyes are blood-injected and my nose, constantly stuck.

Edit: woaw, and the European server that provides my hosting service is so much more responsive.

In the meanwhile, I've uploaded pics to my Flickr.

The crabapple tree has flowered sometime between yesterday and Tuesday. It's now even more flourished that yesterday, and probably by tomorrow it will look more or less like a cloud of pink floating below my bedroom window. There are also pictures of a few things I cooked in the past month (the lamb couscous, and then the pork roast) and also when I visited my grandmother (and perhaps I should go again today - an occasion to take a breath of fresh air, go to the pool, get some work done, and not witness the Senators early playoffs elimination on TV).

This the second time I eat zongzi in three days. My other grandmother (my mom's mom) brought a couple of rice dumplings yesterday evening, on her usual post-dinner walk with grandpa. Extremely nice of her, despite that I got three of them at the same place on Saturday. Nonetheless, it must be the first time I eat freshly-made "zong" at home (we end up buying them or keeping them frozen), and not that I notice any real difference, but it's kind of neat to be able to steam them instead of boiling them away. Ok, it's beeping downstairs.

As for the domain, it's back to normal now. I've been relocated from their US server to one of them in Europe. One day down seemed like forever, can you imagine?

Oh great, a real tropical summer without having to leave the country. Those linen cloth shorts will feel very good in a month...

Wii versus PS3

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My first entry for a gaming section will just be to say that all about the Wii since announcing the name-change has been magistral. Grabbing the media, blogosphere attention; and then flashing us repeatedly with the idea that Nintendo is an innovator with its cool controlling devices. Originally, I thought that if I were to invest in the seventh generation of gaming consoles, it'd be the PS3 (for h8 of MS, I am not even seeing the Xbox 360) for its superior firepower. And then I remembered that I skipped the whole PS2/Xbox/GameCube generation, and generally disliked the then high-quality graphics that the PS offered.

The Nintendo seems to rock in the ingenuity department, and that's what I am looking for. Even if FFXIII goes to PS3, there is a pack of cool innovative offererings from the Nintendo camp (just by looking at some recent DS releases like Nintendogs, and the upcoming, super-nice, New Super Mario Bros).

Welcome to the wireless era

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Yessir, I'm now wireless! Earlier was under the sun outside Redpath library; currently scrambling to find a power jack. 38%, 13 mins left. :/

Playoffs make for interesting, but ultimately pointless, relations between actors of a series. The Edmonton vs San Jose series: Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov, both former Boston players traded during the regular season, whose former team didn't make the playoffs, are now facing each other in the second round. A few years ago, it was the Anaheim-New Jersey Stanley Cup finals, which saw the Niedermayer brothers going head-on (they are now aligning themselves with Anaheim - and both their current team and NJ are still alive). I also hope that Colorado and NJ get elminated quickly, so that the eventual winner of this year's Stanley Cup will be at least either a Canadian team or a team that has never won it before; and neither of those, besides Ottawa, would even have made it into most lists of Cup contenders at the beginning of the year, let alone on list of playoffs-qualifying teams.

After watching the movie, I met up with Danica, had lunch and did a bit of shopping in Chinatown for the house: a pack of shanghai bok choi, char siu, half a duck and a few rice dumplings (zongzi).

Got the zongzi at a place my grandma recommended, on Clark, in the Furama restaurant building (formerly Taiping and then big-Mingdo), in the basement, more precisely. The zongzi are handmade by someone from outside (from what I understood, not a company), and are $1.50 apiece, cheaper (and much larger) than the frozen ones I bought in TO. They come in green beans or nuts flavour, with of course, the lady assured me, a piece of fat pork. Another thing I discovered last year was soya sauce grades... for zongs, one should use at least a dark soya sauce.

For Chinese cold-cuts, diverged from the usual Hong Kong place on St-Laurent, and went to that one in the building housing Kam Fung restaurant. The char siu wasn't nearly as good (has a smoky sort of taste), but my dad says that the roasted pork (siu yok) is especially good there. I'm not very difficult as to siulap: as long as the char siu's color is not bordering fluo red, and the siu yok's skin is crisp.

Went to see Chinese Restaurants: Three Continents, the third of five films where the producer/director Cheuk Kwan goes around the world and recounts the lives of Chinese diaspora members from the perspective of the restaurants they own. In every city, little town out of nowhere, there is a Chinese restaurant. Mr Kwan, an engineer by training, left his job ("mid-life crisis") to focus on his project, which took him to fifteen different countries.

The three countries featured in this film were Madagascar, Norway and Canada. I was particularly interested in the Madagascar one, because my dad was born there and grew up there. Many of the familiar places my father told me about are described in the episode, the very long staircase going up the hill in Tananarive and which my dad escalated twice every schoolday, and a Chinese school opened by Chinese business people (it could've been the one my grandpa helped funding - but then the one in the movie was built in the 40s).

And the colourful Jim Chow from Outlook, SK, Canada, had one of the most interesting answers when asked whether he considered himself Chinese or Canadian: "I am myself". And my own "myself" is probably in a constant state of flux, with varying amounts of pull and push, of resisting, of letting go.

A heck of a series, and if I had $100 to fork out for the DVD set, I would (if it were just half of this, I definitely would - hey, it has it all: diasporic identity, immigration stories, Chinese food - from that-which-fools-gweilo and fusion flavours!). Available at the NFB centre on St-Denis x Ste-Cath in Montreal (first time I go there - and it basically has a couple of screening rooms almost as large as Ex-Centris' smallest, and half a floor with multimedia viewing stations, and that cool robotic film selection thing).


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Was playing with my newest Ubuntu install and found in the 'Examples' directory, a recording of Alice in Wonderland's first chapter in spoken form, coming from LibriVox, a free online collection of audiobooks from the public domain and recorded by volunteers. You will find works from Lao-Tsu's Tao Te King to Austen's Pride and Prejudice, poetry (Shakespeare) and other miscellaneous (US Declaration of Independence).

So I took the laptop my brother was using for school, formatted it, and reinstalled it to my taste. It's a machine he got over the Holidays in 2000-01, thus an antiquity of a few hundreds mHz and just 192 Mb of RAM. Of the 20Gb HD, I made a 10Gb WinXP partition, in case, but the Linux partition, an Ubuntu install for regular 32-bit PCs works just as well - there's a working Flash, and network/sound work like a charm, but I am guessing that the multimedia might be choppier than on WinXP.

Hockey monkey

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My last dream portion consisted of a junior hockey game where some pranksters dressed up monkeys as players. The chimps were hard-hitting and gritty, sending more than one human kid bottom on the ice. I'm not sure if it has a relation with my lack of interest for the second round of playoffs (I only watched the Ottawa-Buffalo game behind my shoulder, which finished with a baseball score - 7-6 - and none of teams with a lead of more than one goal).

Also, I realize that sleep, b/c of renovations (always someone at least talking loud nextdoor, if not hammer-banging or electric sawing), has been extremely bad for four weeks, and most probably another three weeks. Not bad to the point of falling asleep on days I actually need to wake up, but just an accumulation of slightly bads that makes everyone in this house greatly appreciate that day every two weeks when noone is working.

Allergies blues

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Just took a pill of Claritin, which, besides helping for the sneezing, itching, and secreting, ahem, is probably the cause of my sudden vertigo.

Was previously downtown with absolutely no plan at all. Just that, seeing that there wasn't a cloud in the sky (at least when I woke up), and that the temperature was decent for wearing shorts, I decided to take the next bus downtown-bound.

I had a short break at the swimming pool, swam less than ten lengths in a medley of styles (including the N00b's Breaststroke) b/c I've already been for longer stretches this week. Have never felt as healthy and physically strong in my whole life.

Then I visited my grandma, who hasn't been visited by a family member for about a month (since we really started renovating). She usually cooks for my father for lunch, but he is now spending all his free times worrying about how the house should be rebuilt. I helped granny with the census, chatted with her, listened to her laugh out loud like never does (I guess she has this same shroud of occasional shyness/antisocial-people-hating I have, but can be a very lively talkative person when un-inhibited) and had her take out her photo album with black and white snapshots of a different era (woaw do you preserve some things down the generations, like a gaze).

Then took the 55 down to Chinatown, but revised myself (as I wouldn't be making rice dumplings tonight, or be asked to get take-out char siu at that time) and got off at Place-des-Arts and took the metro for Guy-Concordia. Got a plate of pan-fried bai cai jiaozi at the usual place. There was a feature in the Mirror on the Asian Heritage Month across Canada, and was reminded about the Pony Up! CD launch next Thursday. Then had a craving for something sweet - and w/o a decent ice cream parlour in sight, went for a bag of dried apricot from the nuts counter.

I was thinking about food, and thought that I should perhaps attempt to make zongzi, those Chinese rice dumplings that aren't the same thing as the lo mai kai from dim sum. This seems like the most straightforward recipe found online, and could do, one day when my mother has her back turned and when I'll have assembled the ingredients (bamboo leaves?). Or perhaps, I should ask my own grandmother, who cooks Chinese exclusively, but never very fancy things, except those chicken legs stuffed with glutinous rice and shark's fin (an emulation of something she and grandpa ate in one of those trips back to HK, I may've heard them say). But as far as I know, recipe-keeping is not something we do in the family, and the cooking skill is not really passed on from one generation to the other (bare the BBQ) - as both grandmothers didn't really cook until they emigrated.

But I seriously lack motor skills, and it showed when I tried making xiao long bao with friends, and never quite managing to make the appropriate folds. So, I can almost predict that while making rice dumplings now sounds easier to make (seems like you need to hold the leaves to form a cone, and fill it incrementally with rice on the periphery and filling in the middle), I could manage to mess it up - oil leak, rice leak. Although it would also seem like a very fun lazy afternoon activity to sharpen my dexterity... Man, I'm hungry now. :/

Let's be a good sport

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Ottawa b. Buffalo in 7 (even if the Sabres have dominated the Flyers so convincingly)
New Jersey b. Carolina in 6 (NJ, just an outstanding team since the Olympics break)

Edmonton b. San Jose in 6 (just like how people in this city could pick the Habs in 6)
Colorado b. Anaheim in 7 (Avalanche has a much more potent and seasoned offense than the Flames)

My picks for the conference quarter-finals ended up 5/8 in terms of teams that won, and 2/8 right on (Ottawa/TB and Buffalo/Philly). NJ and NYR was much less of a contest with Jagr out in the first round. Anaheim and Niedermayer were too much to handle for the Flames. And Dallas' Turco just proved he's not playoff material.

The Dapper Drake beta

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Just upgraded to Ubuntu 6.06 beta. It's easier to install than Windows (didn't fully reinstall, b/c upgrading from the Badger release). The previous Ubuntu release still required you to go through a text dialog mode, but this time, they seem serious to have you boot directly into a graphical mode.

So the gang at Canonical delayed the release of Dapper Drake from April to somewhere in June to make the distro more user-friendly. So far, so good. I'm indeed happy about my glossier windows, although I'm still wondering if anything fancy like MacOS' dock (which has been more than two or three years old, and nothing of that sort was seen on either Windows or Linux) will ever arise - considering that eye candy means lifestyle improvement, and which is what I think pushes the need for computer upgrades (just look at Windows Vista).

To be satisfied completely, it will take Adobe to release a version of Flash that works on 64-bit OSes. I don't really need 3-D desktops (as much as people working on command-line environments didn't think they need a *mouse*), and surely, I've seen some beta-ish apps for Linux that do that and which I don't want to touch with a 10-meter pole for the sake of my system's stability.

Ubuntu Linux is a really cool idea, and free installation CDs shipped to anyone, anywhere around the world should be the alternative to Windows (or pirating Windows - if MS really becomes tight about this, like some sort of online registration system, people may flock to free alternatives).

Hmm. At least we didn't lose 7-1 on home ice. Four games lost by a margin of a goal. Both goalies making their first appearances in playoffs, and playing the hockey of their lives. Habs captain out-of-competition b/c a chance incident.

I finally made the couscous, but added way too much water. It also had a very suspicious aroma (after all, I bought that bag of couscous more than four years ago...). The lamb stew was great. Photos later, now I've got to ride the low in happy chemicals. :/

Is, for the next two weeks or so, will I be hating the Senators or not?

In other news, the most improbable partner of a Battle of Alberta got through, and Detroit is playing golf. Calgary versus Anaheim is going into a nail-biting seventh game tomorrow.

After spending some time at McGill, decided that it was enough of a nice day to walk from there all the way to Concordia. Down on University, cross the lower campus from Milton, then south on McGill College, east on De Maisonneuve, south on Peel, east on Ste-Cath, all the way to Guy.

The goal of this was to get to the big dollarama in Faubourg, thinking that I would be able to find a cheap couscousière there. Maybe I'll just cook it in the rice cooker... Nonetheless, I stopped at that Middle Eastern shop on Ste-Cath next to the bank on the corner of Guy, and got myself another contingent of random spice (ground cardamon, and paprika - cuz the paprika we have at home is probably as old as this house), and some dry-roasted peanuts to quell the aggravating hunger. Then, on my way to the metro, decided to stop by another shop, the one directly on the corner of St-Mathieu and De Maisonneuve, and also got spices (ground cumin), pita, and zahtar pita, which I had the pleasure of discovering as an undergraduate, as it was sold by the student-run architecture caf, right on our way to classes.

We've been going pretty Mediterranean these past weeks. We've started buying the Pheonicia brand of yogourt which, at about 2$ for its 750g format, totally whips the mainstream brands (goes for about 3$ in the same format). The taste is surely different, and caters to a clientele that does not mind to mix in their own flavours. One of my favourite is a pinch of ground espresso coffee with a drop of vanilla extract. Others would be just a spoonful of fig jam; or sultana raisins and walnuts with a bit of sugar (unless you chew on the raisins, it gets a bit bland otherwise); or just honey.

Last week at Adonis, I was intrigued by the rectangular plastic bins filled with fresh (goat?) cheese, and what people actually do with it. If it weren't for the very long queue-ups at the cheese counter, I would've gotten myself a portion of that, just to dip the Lavash crackers we bought at Cosco into something.

Now I totally have spices in excess and will want to season any sort of meat with it in preview of any garden party I would happen to host this summer (which would either be plenty or none at all, since almost all my Montreal relatives, including those living in the same house, would be gone to Asia...). And in terms of meat, I would suppose that anything exotic has to come with the seasoning, b/c, what sort of other meat than beef, pork, chicken, lamb and fish do people actually eat? And now, I should try to finish pop novel Guns, Germs and Steel... I think I'll read up on spices.

Lamb, merguez sausages. Now maybe fresh parsley, onions, spices and ground beef for some easy kebabs?

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