Tuesday, September 30, 2008

smartphone achieved

I went to a Rogers store last week to find out what it would take to get an iPhone. Yes, I've been tempted by the fruit of others. It's funny, really -- I've always wanted a phone-PDA-camera-mp3 player, but when the iPhone, a seemingly ultimate all-in-one came out, I was STILL not ready to commit to it. Other than that, nothing is really prompting me to upgrade except that the $30/6 GB/month offer ends September 30th. Anyway, so I went to the store and apparently I have to pay a penalty above the regular price! What rot was that, I wondered? It seems that if you spend less than some number (I'm guessing $30) a month, then you fall into a "beggar's tier" (my term), in which you're not considered a very good customer and thus must pay extra to upgrade your hardware! I ranted to the Rogers store rep about this, who agreed that it was a bit draconian (I would add capricious and arbitrary) and that I might be able talk to Rogers sales to get them to give me a break or something.

Which I did, today. Thirty minutes or so of back and forth and eventually me threatening to switch providers, which got the lady to offer me a credit for nearly the difference I was complaining about. This worked to abate my frustration, though I do feel a bit of hypocrite for thinking of continuing business with these technology sluggards. On the other hand, iPhone!
I started on that one hundred pushups program. My initial test was 30, so I did the week 3 thingy today. Man that is a good workout. You can check on my progress with the pushups logger, which is handy, I guess. When I first heard about it (over on girl's blog), I was skeptical (as I often am) but upon closer inspection it seems a fairly reasonable schedule. I admit I am somewhat excited to see how it goes.

Oh, and I did get to see and meet (though briefly) Judah Friedlander, who seems like a really nice guy if you were as drunk as I was, where everyone seems like a really nice guy.
I looked into getting an XBox 360, and came REAL close to laying down the shells for one, but just couldn't quite do it. I'm not sure what it is. Habit? Miserliness? Fear of letting myself get consumed by console gaming? Or perhaps sincere lack of interest? Something like.

Oh hey someone tore off my bike light! Literally ripped it from the handlebar, which I had taped over to keep it steady. I don't mind losing the light so much as losing those rechargeable AA batteries, since I also use them for my digital camera. Curse these casual city thieves! And it's not like the light is worth all that much, maybe $8 or so. Eh, just not worth whinging about, but the thought of it does rile me a little.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Haircut, beginning karate again

Just a quick update from work. Weekend, frustrating because of the Gardiner closure, made worse by the lack of parking in the downtown area and then just nigh unbearable by that damn The Score closing the intersection of King and Spadina. Yargh, an unhappy, a most unhappy camper. I'm going to try to write this entry without going back and editing/censoring myself, so excuse the spelling and such. Oooh, I almost deleted what I just said because it was so boring.

Anyway... Saturday, instead of going to a dental appointment and getting my car looked at and dropping into Future Shop to see if XBox 360's were on sale, I played Team Fortress 2! Like, all day. And I have been playing pretty much nearly every hour since then, at home. Perhaps it's better that I stay at work, where the temptation to play games is not nearly so high.

Oh right, I cut my hair the other day. Twenty-three centimeters, according to the salon. I was tempted to keep it, perhaps use it as a brush or the like. Haha, so gross. No, I got it wrapped up and have sent it in for donating, though whether they accept it or not is another story. The requirements list is kind of hefty, but my concern is that it's not long enough -- my hair is layered so some of it might be under the minimum 8 inches.

I did find some time Sunday to try my friend's karate class, which turned out to be a heavy cardio and conditioning training session. I felt like an out of shape smoker, huffing and sweating and looking just awful. I did very much enjoy the hand and knuckle conditioning, delicious battering pain.

Yes, that's right -- I was tempted to consider buying an XBox 360. I must, once again, say that I absolutely dislike the controller, that crazy, knobby, thumb-centric glob, it frustrates my 1st-person dreams. Still, playing games like hockey is fun on it. And the new Star Wars game sure looks purty.

I'm just killing time, waiting for the Judah Friedlander show at Second City. Killing time, killing virtual avatars, what a waste!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Into Korean movies

Two Korean films. First, I mistakenly saw Seven Days. I say mistakenly because I do not know why I got it -- I'm not a fan of grisly murder mysteries (aside from perhaps the fantastic Memories of Murder). I guess I figured that because it was so popular it might be worth watching. It actually builds up well enough, but when you start to realize what's going on and who's behind what, well, it simply doesn't meet expectations.

Speaking of expectations, how about that The Good, The Bad, the Weird? The action scenes? Woo-eee, man they are smoking! But what was all that junk in the middle? And by junk I do mean all those pointless plot bits. Seriously, we GET IT -- there's a treasure and everyone wants the map! It would've been nicer if the backstory was more coherent/relevant, but to have all that unnecessary running around was a bit much. And the opium house? What was all that about? Anyway, some great action (the opening 30 minutes or so pretty much blow you away, and the final big showdown is impressive and fun) bogged down slightly by the director's attempts to make the film heavier than it needed to be. Trim that fat and you've got a memorable shoot 'em up.

Time, how does it go? Arrived at work late, coffee, worked, ate fish and chips at Wayne Gretzky's, got tickets to see Judah Friedlander next Tuesday, got my picture taken with a Shoppers Drug Mart witch, worked, a game of backgammon, worked, NHL '09, a couple hours of Go, rode home, had a sandwich, fried up some pot-stickers, mailed a letter to the NDP, got some groceries, found a dead pixel on my new monitor, watched some SNL digital shorts. Seriously, where did the day go?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

TIFF 2008

I have, thanks to the generosity of a co-worker and friend, been able to see no less than four TIFF films thus far.

  1. Ghost Town, the new Ricky Gervais romantic comedy of a jerk who can see ghosts, a kind of Sixth Sense, only replace the scary bits and whispering with Gervais' signature awkwardness. He was actually at the showing (no pictures, sorry), but he didn't speak. Also there was the director, an editor, as well as Kinnear and Kristen Wiig, who was wearing this great electric blue dress with lacy black stockings. Oh, the movie was mildly good. It's a romantic comedy, has a "feel-good" message.
  2. Detroit Metal City, a story of a country boy moving to the city in the hopes of becoming a "trendy" pop music star. Instead, he finds himself as the lead singer of a death metal band Detroit Metal City. Eh, it was fun and all but I often find with these Japanese films that for all their quirkiness there's an equal amount of lulls and missed jokes. A little tighter editing and this would've been a pretty good film. As it was, eh.
  3. Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Kevin Smith's latest offering. I freely admit that I was not looking forward to this. I think the last thing I really enjoyed was Clerks, and it was generally downhill from there. I look upon Smith's films as live-action versions of South Park, only with less likable characters. At the same time, I had no idea who was in it or what it was about, apart from what the title implies. So it's with a big, surprised smile that I find myself liking (and possibly even recommending) Zack and Miri. I blame the cast, which is chock full of talent. I laughed quite a bit and some of the scenes rang quite true, which for a raunchy romantic comedy is saying a lot. I dare say this is Smith's best film, but only because I do not care much for the hyper-articulate characters of his previous works -- here they are quite down to earth and relatable.
  4. Not Quite Hollywood, a documentary on the exploitation films of 1970s Australia. In structured, precise format, director Mark Hartley manages to give all the goods on this little known pocket of B films. Plenty of anecdotes, interviews, stories, trivia, it's quite a ride and given in the spirit of those pioneering directors and actors. Both entertaining and exhausting.

Whew! I do have The Good, The Bad, The Weird lined up for this Saturday. I may also try to catch Chocolate.

Friday, September 05, 2008

a quick rant on browser tabs

While I love tabbed browsing, I simply cannot stand the default behavior of browsers that place a little Close button on the tab. What rot is that? Right, when I click a tab I don't want there to be a chance that I can hit this button and have the exact opposite of what I want to happen -- the tab I want to see is gone and closed, with no Undo other than to hunt for it in the History or from the page it was spawned. Who thought this was a good idea? Me, I remove those buttons (when the option is available) and use middle-click to close tabs.

Feeling better today, but mouth dry and gross. Plans for weekend.. eh, nothing.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

sore throat, a night in KW

Sick with a strange flu-like malaise. I was up at 4 AM, my throat a channel of broken glass. Slept most of the day away. Am somewhat better now, but still out of sorts with grogginess. I did go for a bike ride, the weather being excellent for that.

I went to KW to hang out with Growli this past long weekend. Played hours of Rainbow Six Vegas 2, which is a lot of fun for two people working cooperatively. I still find 1st-person shooters on consoles a claustrophobic experience, like driving a very slow vehicle. The storming of rooms and setting up zones was otherwise quite rewarding.

We also went to Phil's Grandson on Sunday night, which I'm pretty sure is the very last time I ever go down there, that dank, sewer-like club. Ever foreboding, ever unrewarding.

Oh hey, did you get a chance to try Google's new Chrome browser? It's neat how they can just throw together a bunch of different engines and make something fairly decent. I would make it my primary browser if not for Firefox's extensions (AdBlock Plus, Firebug, NoScript, Google Preview) and search engine bar. If you're not addicted to Firefox extensions like myself, it is definitely worth a spin. Excellent performance, clean interface.

What else... oh, I saw that new Ben Stiller movie, Tropic Thunder. Eh, it was alright. I laughed plenty, sure. Some great lines, but I think I prefer Pineapple Express.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Reflecting on Vipassana

Well, it's been over a week since my Vipassana experience. Adequate time to analyze my state of mind and mood. Simply, I only feel slightly different. See, I've been, of late before the retreat, constantly trying to calm my temper down which flares frequently at work. Not because of the work itself (not lately anyway, now that I have a pretty good grip on what I'm doing) but rather due to the after hour gaming sessions, usually xbox gaming and StarCraft. Not in a terribly serious way, but enough that afterwards I had to pause and ruefully reflect on how I felt.

And it happened again today! Oh dear. So, perhaps thinking 10 days of meditation would help is a bit much. But again, am I different? I think yes, very slightly so. My perspective is clearer, I think. I am more inclined to believe the meditation did some good, which is practically the same as it being true, no? I'm afraid I haven't been keeping up with the mediation itself. I did fix my eggtimer page so that I had an easy way to time my meditation sits, but have only so far used it twice. Maybe nothing has changed at all.

In any case, I will continue with my discussion of my time at the Vipassana retreat. I'll talk now about the stay and the environment instead of the technique.

My lodgings were a grave disappointment. I was not made for the outdoor life. Sure, this was something like camping, but when camping you have the camaraderie of friends, the tactile enjoyment of cooking your own food over a fire, the pleasures of the outdoors to soothe over any gripes one may have with one's sleeping environment. Here there was no such balm, and every night I begrudged the cabinette that was to be my home for 11 nights, a choice (over taking up a spot in the comparatively hotel-like residence) I both rued and lamented.

My needs are simple enough -- for example, windows. Oh, we did have a view of the outdoors, but the only shield over our windows was a screen, letting wind and sound pass easily into our homes and over our faces. Going to bed at 9 PM meant the evening was still warm to only require a sheet of cover before dropping to sub-ten degrees come 1 or 2 AM, at which time you'd wake up shivering to zip up your sleeping bag only to be less than amused at 4 AM when the wake-up bell was rung. A Hwan without sleep is not exactly in a peaceful state of mind.

I wasn't ready for the bugs. I mean lots of bugs. The bathhouse, inexplicably, has an unused swimming pool behind it, which is covered in a tarp covered in puddles of water -- mosquito central. Unwilling to use my supply of DEET every day as I do not much care for spraying myself in chemicals, I ended up giving lots of blood. At first I avoided killing the little jerks, but by the end I would slay those that dared to come into contact with me.

The food was vegetarian and for the most part tasty, but by the third day I dreamt of beef and chicken and spices and BEER, of all things. For breakfast one could serve oneself oatmeal, stewed prunes, congee, whole wheat toast, and fruit. Very nutritious but it was the same for all 11 mornings and was hard to enjoy with the lack of sleep banging about my head. Lunch (the other meal) was varied -- I recall pasta, curries, soups, and noodles, always accompanied by the same salad choices. There was both coffee (instant, blargh) and tea, but for the most part I drank water.

Speaking of which, I started to become nauseated by the fourth or fifth day. I worried that it was the old colitis coming back, as it often does during times of duress. And I wondered how long I would be able to hold out this time, far from pain medication and the comforts and ease of being at home. But no, it turns out I was dehydrated. Or at least, that's my theory, because after I started drinking a lot of water the nausea seemed to pass. I had been avoiding drinking much water for fear of my bladder bothering me while meditating, a foolish notion thinking back on it now.

As mentioned, I lost about 8 lbs, noticeably from my behind. Less calories and less exercise, that'll do ya. I haven't really been eating piggishly since, though I probably overdid it the day I returned. Oh, to quench my gluttony!

There were about 20 males and 30-35 females who took the course. We would see each other in the main meditation building (which was much like a large portable from high school), but otherwise we were separated. The days started at 4:30 (with the first wake up bell at 4), breakfast at 6:30-8:00, lunch at 11:00 to 13:00, and a tea break (fruit and whatever drink) at 17:00 to 18:00. Bedtime at 21:30. The rest was hour upon hour of meditation, with a video discourse at 19:00, which ran about about 60 to 90 minutes.

My mood began poorly, mostly due to my cabin and the bug thing. On the night of day two and three I was very strongly tempted to leave, mad at the conditions that were preventing me from sleeping well and getting rest. Oh, did I mention that there was a frog living in the shower?? Yeah, little things like that. My physical low point was the nausea and the lack of air conditioning in any of the buildings but the meditation hall and there it wasn't too strong. Still, I'd say that my "wall" was that second and third day. I kept thinking, "How am I going to endure eight (or seven) more days of this?" That final day seemed so far away, and I felt like a prisoner counting the days of his sentence.

After that, I pretty much resolved to stay, even with those trying Sittings of Determination. On the ninth day I was very ready to leave, and lost focus during meditation more often with each session.

Whew! I think that's about it. If I were to do it again (and I'm not saying I would), I would definitely opt for living in the residence over the cabins. I would also only do this in the winter months, to avoid the mad bug situation. Bugs... why can't they just leave us alone?