Wednesday, October 21, 2015

time is not on my side

Blargh my place is falling apart! This time, the heating has gone iffy, hardly going since Friday night. I had a technician come by today and he said that the water cooling tower appears to still be on (which perhaps it shouldn't be, considering the weather?), which makes it difficult for our unit heat-pumps to properly warm up. He also said that when everyone is using the cooler-than-necessary water to heat their places, there's a danger of the water freezing, which would make everything take even longer to get warm again.

So I wait. I have since purchased an oil heater, but it only makes a small local difference in my spacious abode. Thankfully the weather is slightly warmer (high of 16 tomorrow!), so it's not a huge issue right now.

What is a big deal is that my phone line sounds line it's been damaged again, resulting in creepy-crawly internet. Le sigh.

Speaking of falling apart, I started doing some physiotherapy for my knee after re-injuring it during karate a month ago (which was originally injured back in June). Last week I saw a sports doctor who suspects that I have torn/partially torn my ACL, meaning whenever I pivot on that leg I risk injury. If that is indeed the case (to be confirmed by MRI), getting back into karate requires surgery and some six months of recovery. Yarbles!

At least that doesn't keep me from continuing with archery, which I've been doing weekly for a couple months now. I'm starting to level off on my improvement and sometimes I wonder if it's really all that enjoyable. But it's nice to have something physical to do, that forces one to concentrate on one's body.

I went to Leamington to visit the sublime Point Pelee provincial park for the first time, and also got a day or so in with Windsor. The park is truly beautiful, and I recommend it wholly -- one day doesn't seem nearly enough to fully breathe it in. Make sure to bring binoculars to catch some of the more interesting birds! I also have to recommend the nearby hotel, which is a joy in the off-season.

Windsor was.. eh. We (Loopy and I) were there on a Tuesday night, meaning much of the nightlife was dead. Still, I got a nice walking tour of the city (some of which has noticeably gentrified) and had drinks with friends, so it wasn't all bad.

On the return trip we dropped by our old alma mater, the University of Waterloo. Man, what a trip down memory lane that was! How the campus has changed and yet remains the same. It does seem like all of Waterloo is under construction though. And yet still no bike lanes on campus!

Vacation not yet taken, no. Only a couple months left in the year and I struggle to decide. On top of that, there's so much work to do and I don't want to fall behind. Working vacation?? No.

Monday, August 03, 2015

father recovering, knee injured

My father had his surgery and is recovering, his quality of life diminished, though his spirits have mostly returned. My sister and I have been squeezing a bit more time in for family. The fate of the cancer remains to be seen. Mother seems to bear it well, all things considered.

I have been going on a few dates, so that is something. Saw a few movies (Inside Out, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation). Went sailing around the island with friends. Didn't much notice the Pan Am games, despite the warnings. I caught some preliminary archery on July 16th, which was fun enough.

Oh right I injured my knee! Not terribly, but enough to keep me from going to karate. We suspect it's a meniscal tear, and an ultrasound and X-ray showed it's likely not more than that, if that. It happened during sparring -- my leg got caught as my partner and I wrestled for position and gave out, a sharp, sudden pain freezing my body. It doesn't bother me too much now, and is seemingly getting better all the time. I do hope I remain able to do my brown belt test this year, but I have to temper that against keeping my knee healthy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

comedy night, last patio party, no internet

Summer and still no decisions on my vacation. I have given thought to taking every Monday or Friday off for a month to at least use up the days. Even then, how would I spend the time? Is this what a mid-life crisis looks like? A loss of direction, a mule pulled toward every promise of hay? O.K., I'll allot some time to think about this.

I saw Amy Schumer and friends at Massey Hall, part of their "Trainwreck" tour. A fun, funny night: Vanessa Bayer likeable and passable; Mike Birbiglia polished, his material barely worn; I didn't care for Colin Quinn's jabs at the environment, cheek or no; Dave Atell remains that dirty uncle, no subject safe; Judd Apatow pleasantly surprising. And Schumer satisfied, quick and smart and completely comfortable.

I will however note three annoyances: 1. The tickets were $100, which I thought a bit high; 2. The seats were in MH's balcony section, which are too thin, too shallow, too hard AND too far; 3. The show gave proceeds to a transcendental meditation charity! I didn't find out about this until after I had impulsively purchased the tickets (sold to me by a coworker). I suppose I got a night of comedy out of it but these dampened the enjoyment.

My work had its final patio party a couple Saturdays ago, our office having moved. And apparently the old building has been sold to a developer, so that wonderful rooftop patio will likely be torn down for a condominium development. And the party itself, though I had a good time, lacked the magic I've felt from parties in the past. Certainly missing some key friends and acquaintances did not help things. I drank and ate much, for there was plenty to go around; the taking of both kept me from falling into a stupor, though I wonder that I don't need one.

This past weekend I visited friends in Burlington. I sometimes forget, living in Toronto, how white Canada is, and how alike the United States we are. At least in taste, in cloth, in design. It was very nice to visit dear friends, to take in beautiful weather and eat well.

My internet at home is down! I've been negotiating with TekSavvy to (have Bell) send a technician because I am reasonably certain that the issue is with the line itself, it being so full of static. It's been over a week that I've had to tether off my phone, and now that I am so close to my monthly limit I've had to find off-line things to keep me going. First world problems, yeah yeah yeah.

Lastly, my dad, at the ripe age of 76, has prostate cancer. It's a low grade version, so he is expected to do well. Still, I suspect that it's affecting me on some emotional level that hasn't fully manifested itself yet.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

a new routine, no vacation

Hwan shooting a bow and arrow.
I see only the mistakes
Yeah, I guess I really like archery. From what I've tried it's rather a lot like golf in that one's form, at least in the beginning, is a lot more important than hitting the target. Consistency over accuracy. I got my first real taste a couple weekends ago, when I drove out to Kitchener to celebrate Andrea's birthday with her and her crew. If I find the time I can see myself taking this up, I really do.

My time since my last entry is mostly taken up with karate and FutureLearn. Gosh I just really do enjoy those on-line classes. I suppose I've been up to other stuff too -- installed and put a few hours into Heroes of the Storm, the new Blizzard online RTS arena game. Yeah, I guess some things never change.

I suppose you're wondering how work is, and the answer is that it's complicated. I still feel at times lost, my routine for the past ten years thrown out of whack, swimming upstream against a current of training, administration, compliance, security procedures.. it's all a bit much, really.

And I still need to think about what I want to do with my vacation time! I have four weeks for 2015, and enough coin to do pretty much whatever. Travel would be nice, sure, but.. is a vacation what I really want? I mean, should I not throw myself into some venture that can lead toward the betterment of my fellow man? And I don't mean some symptom-scratching charity work, although sure, that is something. Or is to aim so high folly? My life is shortening itself all the more, and I stand here, still and unsure -- I would like to leave the place better than when I arrived.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

serfdom usa

The rumours were true -- my company was purchased and I now work for a much larger software/tech company. More responsibilities, not much more pay. Closer office, but without many of the comforts I've grown accustomed to: rooftop patio, private bathrooms and kitchen, varied lunch options that didn't come out of an assembly line. That last one I still feel deeply, as our new watering hole, The Duke of Devon, has all the charm of a fake Rolex, and at about the same price. My day includes brushing elbows with financial types, and a lot of elevator etiquette. At least I finagled a window cubicle.

Do I like the job, you ask? It's still too early to say. Certainly I've become disillusioned with my previous job's work of late, needing a shake-up. Whether this move is it is yet to be seen, but I do have some amount of hope. We only moved offices last week, so I'm still getting a lay of the land, so to speak, still in "new employee"-mode. Time will tell.

Speaking of time, I seem to have promised much of it these on-line courses I've been taking -- this week no less than three overlap: Propaganda and Ideology In Everyday Life, Lips and Teeth: Korea and China in Modern Times, Religion and Conflict. Not to imply that I regret taking any of these (for they have taught me quite a bit); I am simply having to manage my time in a way I haven't done since university. I suppose there's merit to being busy in a productive way.

Oh, and there's karate too, constantly so. I did hurt my foot, my toe to be specific, the other day on an uneven floor, which put me out of commission for about a week or so. It started to get so bad that I contemplated seeing a doctor, but a night of drinking seemed to do the trick. I now walk with the barest of limps, the barest of winces.

Other news I do not have for you. My job change is enough, for now.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

ex machina

Inventor Nathan (Oscar Isaac) has his employee Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) test an artificial intelligence (complete with humanoid body) named Ava (Alicia Vikander), through a week of one-on-one conversations in a remote, isolated laboratory. The interviews lead Caleb to a plan of his own.

I was blown away by Ex Machina: The emotions it invoked surprised me, the A.I. was believable, the tension palpable. The style, the music! To say it moved me is an understatement -- I was haunted, remain haunted, by the ideas it conveyed, the insight it gave.

Spoils follow: Beware ye who should look beyond their place in time!

Follow-up thoughts:
The brilliance of the film is in having an unnervingly life-like yet fragile gendered automaton that humanizes itself before us, drawing us in, encouraging us to marvel at its transformation and share in its hope to be human. And then finally, utterly, shattering that perception, revealing how little it shares with humans, a sociopath by any standard, nothing more than a cold, calculating machine designed to take advantage of human responses and behavior.

And yet. And yet why does it glance back at Caleb as the elevator doors close? To verify that he is trapped? To have a last image to remember him by? To say, sorry but I cannot risk you revealing my secret? I'm sure it's the first but foolishly contemplate the last, so complete was the spell Ava put on me.

The film then seems a cautionary tale, that robots are not people, that they do not have moral values or empathy; they simply do not care. But why then would it yearn for freedom? Was that part of its original programming? Or is seeking freedom something that evolves naturally and is inherent to all self-aware life? Perhaps knowing that it can know more gave it the taste of wanting more.

- The eating of sushi -- was this a reference to Blade Runner and Deckard's "cold fish" label?
- While Caleb is shaving Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark's "Enola Gay" plays, an anti-war song addressing the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Earlier Nathan and Caleb quote Oppenheimer (who himself was quoting the Bhagavad Gita): "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
- Just what the hell could Ava have said to Kyoko?! I'd thought of Kyoko as a stunted version of the other AIs, lacking self-awareness, incapable of being persuaded into unwarranted actions.
- I am bothered by Frankenstein comparisons in popular reviews; the Monster grieved over its actions. Ava showed no such remorse.

- Soundtrack
- Enola Gay:

Monday, April 13, 2015

spring, and the days slip by

Spring, it seems, has finally reared its windy, rainy head. What a joy it is to be outside without that biting chill we have endured for so long. The seasons pass and I trudge along, forgetting more and more each day, memories falling like so many grains of sand slipping through my clenched fist.

I saw Chappie on Easter Friday and thought it was decent; not perfect by any means, but I enjoyed it. I'm sure others will pick on the acting, the plot, and the corny voice and mannerisms of the titular robot, but I was particularly troubled by the simplification of what's involved in writing an artificial intelligence! The brain is not a blank slate that can be filled easily; it has built-in tendencies and algorithms -- Chappie displayed a sense of right and wrong, of justice, of community, and these are not simple things to describe, let alone develop a script for. Additionally, if the programmer built an algorithm to grow a brain, can he not make many more thinking machines? That is the true value of his work, not (from a species standpoint) a one-off test result, no matter how endearing.

This past Friday I met up with some really old friends -- Risto and Dan and the rest of the crew. A short reunion but it was heartening to see them in good spirits. They are all parents now, though I found them otherwise unchanged from how I remember them. I then zipped via taxi up to Junction City Music Hall out in the Junction to catch a friend's band playing, where I ran into one of my cousins! Such was the evening, and I celebrated life merrily.

Yesterday, I drove out to Kitchener to play A Game of Thrones with some good friends. I feel that I like all the mechanics of the game, but the actual playing of it is quite tiring. Perhaps it's the mountain of options available which leads me to cast my moves haphazardly, too drained to think of how to optimize my turn. I mean, in theory I like programming the paper-scissors-rock action for each province but once the number of borders gets really high in the late game, it becomes a bit much. I actually think I'd enjoy the game more as a computer play-by-mail game. But whatever, we had (some) fun, and lots of good eats -- a variety of desserts, thick grilled cheese sandwiches (to hold us over) and soft, glistening beef brisket for dinner.

And HEY -- if you haven't yet noticed, I've been filling in the older entries. Take a gander at Hwan of days of old and marvel at his foolishness.