joanbits 2008.03

As the snow finally melts away, I start to get busier and busier. Here’s what I’ve been up to the past week:

  • Work: supporting new projects as usual, writing position papers, working on newsletters, technical enablement, beta testing.
  • House: cooking every night (pasta from scratch, ramen from scratch, gourmet hamburgers…will try and post some pics soon), planning garden, staring at wall that needs repairing and trying to motivate to fix it, regular cleaning, indoor gardening…
  • School: Developing axiology, epistemology, methodology for design research approach. Gave guest lecture on internal Wikipedia politics.
  • Other: Dealing with horrendous migraine. Developing novel database application. Attended One Of A Kind show with friends and got fabulous clothing, jewelry, housewares. Reverse engineering synth. Looking at motorcycle today. Petting cat to deal with stress from everything else i listed.

argentina’s charms

I have recently returned from my second trip to Argentina for my current employer..

While the work is generally hard, and I don’t get a lot of time outside of the office, what little time I do have to enjoy Buenos Aires is spent eating.

Here is a perfect summary of that experience, amazing writing, the sort I wish I had time to craft myself: Argentina on Two Steaks a Day.

I disagree with some of the opinions expressed; for instance, dulce de leche is fantastic in alfajore cookies and spread on your Sunday morning biscuits.My experience with mate is that I don’t get jittery like I do on coffee, and I don’t get tachycardia unless I drink 15 or 20 gourd-fuls, but Iwillingly admit it’s full of caffeine. (I suspect I’m sensitive to one of the other thousands of alkaloids in coffee that’s not present in mate. Why the obsession with just the one alkaloid, anyway?)

A worthwhile read, which should make your salivary glands kick into action (except you vegetarians out there. And you should read this anyway, since the Argentine approach to animal rearing is vastly more humane and reasonable than the North American approach.)

2007 accomplishments

A friend on LJ reminded me that I should post my 2007 accomplishments. I’m having a day (week? month?) of very low self-esteem, so it’s good to take a moment and reflect on what I’ve managed to achieve this year:

  1. Got my admissions corrected at University of Toronto from the M.Ed. program to the Ph.D. program. (2008 is the year of getting going on that again.)
  2. Became a certified Project Management Professional. That’s right, now I’m a certified P(i)MP. Donations of purple crushed velvet or felt hats now being accepted.
  3. Managed to stay at my job for another year. Despite being frustrated at corporate life, and how mega-corporations seem to stifle (then destroy) your creativity, they do pay well. And, when I’m not traveling to a project site, there’s about a 10 foot commute from my bedroom to my home office. Can’t beat that! (Seriously, I accomplished a lot for my employer, and they seem pleased with my performance. I should count my blessings.)
  4. Found the patience to spend more time with children, and helped when I could with my friend’s 18-month old. (No, I’m still not having kids.)
  5. Took the plunge and started work with $boy on the big workshop out back. I didn’t do as much on it as he did, or some of the people who have come by to help, but I did learn a lot about building design, the Toronto planning office, concrete foundations, and excavators.
  6. Visited both Brazil and Argentina for work, and made some good friends down there. If all else fails with my life, I can probably relocate to Mercosur and find happiness.
  7. Visited Japan for 3 weeks with $boy and $girl, seeing old friends and haunts alike. Had a great time.
  8. Climbed Mt. Fuji (from the 5th-station to the top, not from the very base. Still, about a 1km vertical climb.)
  9. Converted my US pilot’s license to Canadian. I can now rent and fly Canadian planes! Yay. Also completed some additional training I needed to do that.
  10. Attended no less than 4 weddings of some great people I’m pleased to know. (No, I’m still not getting married.)
  11. Helped a lot of friends (mainly on IRC) with their work/school/projects/music. I may not have been very creative on my own in 2007, but I think I deserve some brownie points for helping others.
  12. Acquired an exercise bike last month and started working on losing the 20 pounds or so Canada has put on my body (5-7 of those are “winter only” pounds.)
  13. Cooked big meals for lots of friends. Cooking remains one of my core joys.
  14. As much as I love OSS OSes…I learned to suck it up and actually be productive in Windows for work. I can now say I know more about XP & Vista than I have ever done; “at least it pays.”
  15. Strengthened my friendships with a lot of great people.
  16. Settled into home living. I think I am finally done with living in apartments (until I become too old to handle living in a home without assistance.)
  17. Visited my grandfather in New Orleans, at the home he’s moved into. Difficult but touching moment for me.


Do you ever find yourself up all night, reliving mistakes you’ve made 5, 10, even 20 years ago? Tonight’s one of those nights for me. I’m alternately thinking about social faux pas & mistakes at work, white lies that’ve gotten me into troubles and hearts I’ve broken over the years.

Unlike the grieving widow who blames herself, I think these particular memories haunt me because they were all reasonably preventable. “If I’d just…” I think. But I didn’t. And I don’t have a holiday for atonement, nor a confessional booth. I don’t feel any of that would give me peace of mind; it hasn’t in the past, anyway. But I still aim for perfection, even if I’ll never achieve it.

Maybe I’m upset because I know I haven’t corrected my ways? At least I feel remorse.

Scrawled on an SH-6.

high table

Hogwarts! by Jay Fienberg Tonight was my first High Table at Victoria College, part of the University of Toronto. I was an invited guest of the College’s Humanities Don, a fellow student over at OISE. Interesting facts learned:

  • High Table really is about as close to Hogwarts as you can get – academic gowns, raised platform, enforced dress code, enforced behaviour, etc. Really fun, actually.
  • College food tastes about as bad as it always has, though Yale’s food was a cut above UofT’s Marriott/Sodhexo crud. At least the dons sprang for cheese, wine and dessert!
  • Folks invited to these things really do enjoy talking about anything, any way, any time. And they’re glad to meet new faces.
  • Exactly what I needed was to meet new people in a non-confrontational setting, to explore new thoughts and ideas, and to exchange hopes for the future.
  • I’m more of an academic than I realized…but not as out of touch as many (tonight’s High Table company excluded!)

an atypical manifesto

il manifesto, by

I’ve been a bad blogger. I haven’t been giving back to “the community,” nor have I even found time to read what “the community” is writing. engtech says:

“…blogging is a 10 to 50 hour a week commitment when you include reading and commenting on other blogs. Blogging takes away from other aspects of your life. Are you prepared to make that kind of commitment? Is anyone?

I’ve realized I don’t blog here. I journal. I’m leaving a trace. It’s time to explain my motivation:

An Atypical Manifesto
Continue reading

a week of accomplishments

This week I have:

  • passed my Gearing Up course, certifying me for an M2 motorcycle license (and a substantial insurance discount!)
  • with a substantial dose of doozer’s help, finished constructing the bike shed (photos to follow)
  • completed the remaining fixup required to my 1977 Honda CB750 (photos also to follow)
  • finished off a bunch of interviews
  • got promoted to Officer in Training with my crew in Puzzle Pirates, and received my officer training
  • got out of the house more than last week
  • cooked a lovely meal
  • helped a lovely woman and her 1 year old move into waynemanor
  • spoke with my advisor at OISE/U of T and feel hopeful about advancing into the Ph.D. program there

I feel…..fantastic!

goodbye pants

I skiied all day yesterday up at Alpine. Wow I am exhausted (and a teeny bit sore). Still, I slept so well last night that I’m thinking I just need more exercise if I’m to fix my sleep schedule. Too bad I can’t goof off today, there’s just too much to get done for work.

Today while washing clothing, I got bleach on my favourite old pair of black pants. Stretch fabric from Express, they were medium weight, stylin’ and went with anything. They won’t re-dye correctly, either, I’m sure. Oh well, I guess it’s off to that horrid place known as “The Mall” tomorrow after work to find a replacement…

Oh, and my friend J. had her baby! Congrats to her, to her hubby, and to the happy new family!


My Berocca Performance tabs showed up today in the mail. Canada’s Redoxon-B isn’t a bad substitute, but I need my calcium, folic acid, vitamin C and zinc as well. The new Performance stuff isn’t quite as reddish as the original Berocca was, nor does it quite have the same taste, but I guess the new Tang-like flavour is preferable, anyway.

Wikipedia’s article on Berocca links to a serendipitous, fantastic study in the Medical Journal of Australia regarding treatment of anxiety disorders via various means, including Berocca. It covers just about every alternative treatment I’ve seen, and does a fantastic job of surveying the literature for evidence/lack thereof on efficacy. (For reference, Berocca is ineffective.)

We need more of these guides. And for those of my friends who are holistic health practitioners, remember: there’s nothing wrong with admitting that ‘faith healing’ is just that — based on faith. It’s not the Bach flower remedy or the raw vegetable that causes the improvement in mental or physical health, it’s the well known placebo effect. Be proud of the power of the human to heal itself. Just stop doctoring it up as “magic” (k or no k.) ‘k? k.

(On that last link on the placebo effect, at least read the first couple of pages, and the conclusion. It’s well written and conversational in tone. Look for the “PDF” link.)