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

Summary:
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.

Reaction:
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.

Trivia:
- 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.

References
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_Machina_(film)
- Soundtrack https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9pIZkV2b2s
- Enola Gay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5XJ2GiR6Bo

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.

Friday, April 10, 2015

mom's kimchi recipe #1

Ingredients
  • 1 napa cabbage
  • 1 Korean daikon radish
  • 4 yellow onions, medium
  • 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salted fermented shrimp ("Saeujeot")
  • 1/8 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup Korean red pepper flakes ("Gochugaru")
  • salt
  • couple tubs or extra-large bowls, food-handling gloves
  • jars or tubs to store kimchi

2. Chopping cabbage into squares
2. Chopping napa cabbage halves

3. Layering cabbage with salt
5. Rinsing cabbage, draining
Prepare napa cabbage
  1. Fill up a tub with cold water.
  2. Chop up cabbage: Halves, halves again. Remove inner third, chop sections into 2 inch squares. Dunk chopped squares into water as you cut, making sure that each square is thoroughly submerged.
  3. Place layers of squares down in a new bowl, sprinkle a couple pinches of salt on the layer. Repeat for all cabbage.
  4. Partially cover bowl (i.e. not airtight) and let sit for 2-3 hours, until the cabbage tastes slightly acidic. 
  5. Rinse squares under cold running water, removing salt; drain.
1. Peeled radish and onions
2. Preparing porridge base

4. Chopping radish into squares
4. Radish with flakes

6. Adding pepper and ginger to porridge
6. Mixing porridge
Prepare radish and porridge (while waiting for napa cabbage)
  1. Peel radish and onions; set aside.
  2. Place rice flour in pot, add water and stir. Keep adding water and stirring until flour is completely dissolved.
  3. Heat pot while still stirring; remove from heat when boiling achieved.
  4. Chop up radish into 1 inch squares, about 1/4 inch thick. Place radish squares into bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes.
  5. Chop up onions into eighths. Place onions, boiled rice flour, fermented shrimp, garlic into blender; blend until porridge consistency.
  6. Add ginger and rest of red pepper flakes to porridge. Mix with spoon. Add 3-4 tablespoons of salt.
1. Mixing final ingredients
2. Kimchi!
Combine and make kimchi
  1. In a tub, mix the porridge, radish, and napa kimchi while wearing the food-handling gloves, evenly dispersing the porridge. Add salt if desired.
  2. Move into jars and cover. For quicker fermentation, leave out two days before refrigeration. To slower fermentation, place into fridge (or cold storage) immediately.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

for lucky best wash

What? It's been a week since my last post, and.. I don't have news. Oh no wait, I DID get one of those fancy Japanese toilet seats, the kind that washes your nether regions with warm water. Yup, while you barbarians are still scratching your poop-encrusted asses with paper I'll be enjoying a lovely butt shower, as well as a heated seat. The installation was, in theory, easy, but in practice a bit of an ordeal, mostly due to a) the seat not fitting my target toilet after I'd taken it apart (damn your bold look, Kohler!), and then b) the difficulty in changing the nozzle of the other toilet, as it's partially blocked by a storage closet.

I had thought about getting one of these seats years back, when I first heard about them but the price put me off and I eventually forgot about it. Very recently, I saw an article in the New York Times (Wet Wipes Box Says Flush. New York’s Sewer System Says Don’t) saying that "flushable" wipes aren't flushable at all (in that they don't break up in water), and are clogging sewers all over the world! So yeah, this bidet is my switching away from using wipes in the bathroom. Funny to come around like that.

What else. I might be doing my karate brown belt test as early as August, depending primarily on my stamina. So I have to ratchet up my exercise routine, which admittedly has lagged since finishing my blue belt test. And speaking of health, I've been cutting down on my meat intake. Not that I ate a lot before, but this year has really seen me shy away from beef and pork. The more I think about it, the more sense going vegetarian becomes (or pescatarian, whatever). Not only from an animal-suffering standpoint, but also an environmental one.