Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Here comes the rain again...

It appears that Vancouver has set a new record for most number of rainy days in January. 29 days. 29 long days of gloomy weather. I try to keep myself thinking positively. After all, the rain makes things grow. And indeed, with the long stretch of warm weather we've been having, I've already seen the trees and bushes begin to bud. Yup, rain makes things grow.

Must keep reminding myself of that...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dine Out Vancouver

I had a really shitty day. I normally don't swear, so if you see me swearing, it's bad. I can't even rant about work on here as most of what I do is confidential. And I didn't sleep well last night. I still need to do Evil Homework, but I'm ready to keel over and go to bed. Not happy about that, I'm behind as it is.

So I'll talk about the restaurant we went to last night instead.

Every year around mid to late January, Vancouver Tourism runs an event called Dine Out Vancouver. Traditionally, January tends to be a slow month for restaurants in and around Vancouver because Christmas and New Year's is over and Valentine's day isn't for another little while. Plus people are flat broke from Christmas. So what the restaurants have done is create $15/$25/$35 three course meals to entice people to come out and eat. Of course, you don't need to order from the pre-set menus, but it's sometimes the best way to afford a meal at a really expensive place for relatively cheap.

This is where we went to dinner last night: Romano's Macaroni Grill. The neat thing about this place is that this used to be someone's house. No, mansion. The place is huge! I can probably fit three of my houses in that place (that's house small my house is). I can't believe that someone used to live there, and it's right smack downtown, by the beach. Would have been sweet living there.

My verdict on the food: meh. I've been to the Macaroni Grill in Vancouver a few times before, and it's okay at best. Sometimes waiters will break out into an operatic song (although they didn't last night), and while it has a certain charm, it wears off quickly when you want to eat in relative peace. Another feature of the restaurant is that you can draw on the tables. I wowed my mom and grandmother last night with my Chinese writing skill demonstration.

When we got home, my sister and I talked more about the trip we are planning to take in September. Any time I had planned for Evil Homework went out the window. I think the same goes for tonight. Heaven help me.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

K - O - O - K - Y

For those of you who don't know, I work at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and specifically, the Faculty of Medicine. The picture to the left is the UBC campus. Yes, it's surrounded by trees and water. UBC also happens to be located the western-most part of Vancouver. So it's a huge pain for me to drive to work as I have to transverse the entire city of Vancouver to get to work. And though you would put Vancouver on as part of the address, it's actually sitting on Indian land, go figure.

Last week, I went to the New Employee Orientation. There were about 50 people there. I cannot believe that there are only 50 new employees since the last one they held a few months ago. UBC is the second largest university in Canada (I'm guessing it's behind U of Toronto). There are 42,000 full-time students, 20,000 part-time students, and about 15,000 full-time and part-time staff (and this doesn't even include all the people they hire out on contract).

Needless to say UBC is one big-ass place.

I've actually been working there since May 2005, but only signed on as of late November 2005. So that's been eight months already. I have to say that I'm learning a lot about working at a university. Coming from the private sector, things work very differently in some respects.

Things I like about working at UBC:
  • Nice looking campus
  • The people are friendly
  • It's a university, so their primary mandate is education and research. This is cool as I feel that I am some how (mostly indirectly) a part of helping others with their education and research. I don't really do so now, but I will be in the future, helping out some of their research groups with their IT needs, and that in turn will facilitate their research.
  • Kick-ass benefits
  • As a campus, UBC has a lot of nooks and crannies that I've never been to, even when I was an undergraduate student here all those years ago. I plan on doing some exploration of the campus when the weather improves
Things I don't like about UBC:
  • For some reason, we never seem to have any money in our budget for anything. But when push comes to shove (or the situation goes beyond desperate), money magically appears
  • The organization is too decentralized and fragmented, and a lot of processes are made inefficient. This is a big thing for us. My director and manager figure that there are about 60-70 IT people within our faculty and research groups alone. That number should be cut in half (at the very least). Each department (and even groups within the department) tend to do their own thing, have their own budgets and thus make half-baked decisions that they tend to be ill-qualified to make or the decision should have been made by a (non-existent) centralized unit.
  • No one is willing to take responsibilities for certain things (not even the ones up at the very top), even though it ultimately may improve communication, streamline processes and save the faculty a lot of money in the long run. Why? Politics. Don't even get me started on what they are, I don't think Blogger will have enough disk space to store all my gripes. This ultimately makes us IT folk's job harder as we are trying to run an IT infrastructure as cheaply and efficiently as possible, but because of internal politics, we can't. You would never get away with this sort of crap in a private corporation.
  • Because of said dis-communication and lack of poor processes, I am still trying to find out a lot of things regarding benefits, holidays, etc. on my own (with the help of my co-workers). Orientation notwithstanding. As an employee, I still have this fish-out-of-the-water kind of feeling.
  • I still don't know if my paycheque direct deposit is set up properly, and it's been almost two months.
  • Etc, etc (trust me, I can, and probably will go on at some point later in time).
Now why am I griping to you, especially when I can't change most things. Well, since this is a public institution, you, the taxpayer, are paying for a lot of this. It really boggles the mind how much waste of money is going into a place like a university because no one wants to bother or care to make changes. Large corporations go through a house-cleaning once in a while, why can't a large university?

I've already come to the conclusion that this place is in a separate reality/dimension/planet unto itself. "KOOKY" is definitely a great word (and may be the only way) to describe this place.

(*KOOKY - I have to thank ms eyre from Hitched for the title. She's worked at UBC longer than I have, so she knows how weird things are around here).

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year everyone! (Okay, it's actually still new year's eve)

Apparently, it's the year of the Dog.

No red envelope packets yet, and I doubt I'd get any more. In fact, you're suppose to be giving them out if you're married. I'm married. I should have given one to my sister and my younger cousin when I saw them today for dinner. I've yet to give one out to anyone, and I've been married 3.5 years. What can I say, I'm greedy and tight-fisted.

So as I mentioned, we had a family dinner tonight. Hot pot. For those of you who don't know what hot pot is, it's essentially what's in the picture. You boil food. The soup can be anything you like, from water to animal stock to something more exotic. It's actually more flavourful than you would imagine, the food that is, as everything is boiled together at the same time, so whatever flavours are in the soup, get absorbed by the food stuff you put in. What do you put in? Anything that can be chopped up into small-ish bits to go into the pot.

This is also the second hot-pot I've had this month. The other one was our annual Christmas hot pot (that got pushed to last week because of poor planning, partly on my part). There were 10 of us, and my friend who usually buys the food spent $80. That's $8 per person. We couldn't finish the food, and trust me, we have at least 3 or 4 really big eaters at the table. Imagine being stuffed on $8 worth of food.

I've noted in the past that a lot of Western non-Asian people have problems imagining boiled food as anything tasty. If you've never tried hot pot before, do give it a go. You may end up to be pleasantly surprised.

Tomorrow, my family decided to be non-traditional and go to a Western food at one of the Dine Out Vancouver restaurants.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Happy Robbie Burns Day!

Today (January 25th) is Robbie Burns day. His 247th birthday, to be exact. Not bad looking for an old guy. Robert Burns is best known for his poems "Auld Lang Syne" and "To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough".

I for one am not a huge Robert Burns fan. Really.

But he wrote one of my favourite poems, "To A Louse".

What I really love about this poem is that here Robbie is watching this louse on a lady's head, and he's scolding it for having the balls to be there in the first place. What he actually should be doing is telling said lady to go take a very long and through bath. This cracks me up every time!

And of course, somehow only Robbie can tie a louse wandering around the lady's head with a lesson on life. Brilliant!

So raise a glass for Robbie on his birthday!

(By the way, am I the only one in the world who thinks this is funny?)

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's official, I hate coffee

This morning, to fortify myself for a day of really boring policy writing, I had gone to my usual Starbucks shop for a hot chocolate. Well, I paid for the hot chocolate, picked it up from Barista, and went on my merry way.

I had taken a sip of my hot chocolate when I was walking back to my office, and instead got a mouthful of coffee! My first though was how utterly vile the taste of coffee was. I thought that maybe the Barista didn't clean off the machine as well as he was normally supposed to, so took another sip to see if the taste would go away.

No, more vile coffee taste. I had to try one more time to be certain. Yes, the vile coffee taste was still there.

By this time, I felt very green and was seriously ready to puke. I went back to the store and complained to the Barista. Not only did he apologized, but he whipped me up a brand new Grande hot chocolate (I usually order Tall), and he gave me a free coupon for a free drink.

Now I am in no way angry at said Barista. After all, he admitted to the mistake, corrected it and apologized, and I left satisfied. He's human, and humans make mistakes all the time. No big deal.

However, I hate coffee. I hate everything about coffee. I hate the smell, it gives me a big headache. And now I know (because I've actually never drunk coffee before), I detest the taste. Vile actually doesn't even begin to describe how I felt drinking the thing. Bleh. Not a great start to a very boring day.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Goodbye, old friend

If you ever ask my dad, he will tell you that the first 12 years of my life, I was a Coke addict. Every meal that we had out, I had to, no I demanded that I had a glass of Coke to go with the meal. Needless to say, I was a snotty little brat.

I eventually grew out of it, but I still enjoy drinking Coke quite often.

Until yesterday.

I've been steadily trying to cut out pop drinking in general to reduce my sugar intake. The last couple of months, I had managed to cut out any sort of artificial sweetener from the diet, the stuff's just nasty for the body. The next goal was to cut down on the pop drinking.

Now, I had rationalized that I would still drink pop once in a while. After all there is sometimes a limited choice sometimes when you go to a friend's place for dinner or a social outing. I don't drink coffee (can't stand the smell) or tea (hot or cold, and will only make an exception in Chinese restaurants). So that usually leaves pop, and sometimes juice or water.

Yesterday, I bowed to my McDonald's craving and bought a sandwich and fries for lunch. The Coke I had, was from our little office mini-bar fridge, where there is a steady supply of Coke cans, thanks to one of my co-workers.

About an hour after lunch, I experienced the crash from the sugar high (and probably the caffeine too), big time. I have experienced these crashes before, but never quite like this. I felt dizzy, listless, out of sorts, tired. And really gross. However, I desperately wanted to open up another can of Coke to go back to my previous high. This feeling got me really worried. Apparently, my body doesn't handle certain substances the same way as before.

I did prevail however, and didn't succumb to the little devil sitting on my shoulder. I was planning on going to the gym after work, and didn't want to risk another sugar crash when I was there. I did go to the gym, but couldn't shake the icky feeling I had since I had the sugar crash. And so I had a crappy workout.

Now, I'm swearing off pop, and in particular Coke, for as long as I can. I certainly can't avoid it completely, but if there is an option that is not coffee, tea or pop, I may take up the alternate instead.

This is a real bummer, since I still love Coke.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I am the computer police

Today was Policy Writing Day. I have to update the Web Publishing Policy as well as write a brand new Web Design Guidelines for the faculty.

Basically, the policy states that this is a university site, so watch what you put on there. We are legislated by the Copyright Protection Act, the Trademark Act, BC Privacy Act, Canada Criminal Code, and any other university policy that falls under web content. You cannot plagerize, give out advice or sell anything, information only. And no pictures of your dogs are allowed. Oh, and you need to put on the university logo and the faculty's logo (affectionately know by insiders as "The Frog"). Can't do it? I get the perverse pleasure of shutting your site down and removing it from Internet-land.

I also had somehow volunteered myself to doing up a plan to help educate end users as to why they need to practice better computer security. The thing is that they simply don't. It's like giving a thief the keys to your house and opening up the door and saying, "Come right in, I don't mind if you take everything!"

Two common end user practices that drive us IT people crazy:
  • People writing down their passwords and sticking them on their monitors or under their keyboards. That is just like giving someone your key to your house. Many times, information is stolen from the inside, either a janitor or some disgruntled employee. Or someone just walking off the street and into your office. The office we work at is a very large open space, and lots of people come and go, you can't always know who should be there and who is an interloper.
  • People leave their computers unlocked when they step away from their desk. Now I have to admit, while I'm usually good a locking my computer, I have on occasion forgotten to lock the computer. As a joke, my co-workers had sent out a joke email to a few select people on my team. This has happened to me twice already, and I've been there less than a year. Not good. You can thus imagine the kind of mischief that can go on if someone happens to walk by your computer when you're not there, and your computer happens to be unlocked.
Don't even get me started on the rest of the stuff users do.

I was doing a bit of research today, and I ran across this article. Needless to say that I was horrified. Do people really disregard security that much? It's like a teen who's sexually active and believing that they would never get STDs. No that would never happen to me. People, it's a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode.

One more word. Those of you who think that if no one is looking, they can't tell how long you've been surfing on the net at work, or which site you're visiting. Let me tell you how wrong you are. Your IT staff don't need to be in the same room, or the same building, or even in the same country for them to find out. If they really want to know, they have their ways, trust me. You may be on the company's bad list and not even know about it. And yes, they can read your email too.

You have been forward.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Gang aft agley

I had an epiphany.

Well, maybe it's more of a change of perspective more than any thing else. My biggest stresser this year is to get The Project done. I have to do an 18 credit project as the last and final part of my degree program at BCIT. There are one of three ways I can achieve this:
  • Do one large 18 credit project
  • Do two smaller 9 credit projects
  • Do a 9 credit project and take 3 more courses
I've opted to try for door #1. However, the first hurdle is to get the project proposal approved. This is no easy feat. I've been actually discouraged by the program adviser to taking this route as it's very difficult to get a large project approved. In fact, most people tend to choose option #2.

The project itself has a bunch of requirements that unfortunately, cannot be fufilled by one of my work projects, so I had to look elsewhere. I've already started something with a third party client. However, things have been slow going with them. The project itself, is quite large, and I actually quaked at the sheer size of it. But I plowed on ahead.

Now here's where the stress comes in. I said that I wanted to finish this thing by the end of the year, partly because I've been living in a dark tunnel without seeing the light at the end for such a long time that I'm desperate to see the end, but the bigger reason is because I don't want to be doing school any longer. We want to start a family next year, and my grand plan was to finish school before then.

Right now, if you ask me when my project is going to be done, I can't even give you a ball park because 1) my project isn't approved and 2) there are a number of factors that is slowing the process down. My biggest stress is #1. Not that I don't think that it won't be approved, but they won't approve it as an 18-credit project (even though there are enough hours for an 18 credit project, they are looking for other criteria).

This albatross has been hanging around my neck for the past 1.5 years and has stressed me out to no end. An albatross partially, I will admit, of my own making. So I've decided to rip the albatross from my neck and fling it away from me.

In his poem, "To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough", Robert Burns writes:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley [Go oft awry]
Bob is a wise man.

I've been planning for something that may not work out the way I want it to. I've been so worried the project will become door #2 instead of door #1 that it's been making me unhappy.

So instead of focusing solely on door #1, I'm embracing uncertainly. This project may become door #2, even though it's going to take a better part of this year to finish it (if I even finish it this year). There are options, I just haven't allowed myself to consider them before.

What is certain is that I will finish my degree, it's just a matter of when. A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. There is a light at the end of the tunnel after all.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Well, I did my civic duty

I voted today in the advanced polls. I hemmed and hawed for a very long time trying to figure out who to vote for. Even thought I had finally made a decision and voted for someone, I really am not happy with any of the leaders, and no confidence and faith in any of them.

One thing that really bugs me is that the leaders still come up with new items for their political platform. Like today, Harper said that he would give Canadians another tax break. That's all fine and dandy, but some of us have already voted, so maybe they should make it a rule to stop making promises before the advance polling starts.

My predictions as to the outcome: It'll either be a Liberal minority government or a Conservative minority government. In any case, it's just going to be a big mess.

Well, we'll see what happens in 10 days time.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Welcome to Starbucksland

Anyone who has visited Lotusland in recent years have noted the vast amounts of Starbucks stores. Pretty much on every 3rd-5th block there is a Starbucks. I kid you not.

Here's proof:
  • Today, I went to go get a hot chocolate for the caffine/sugar intake because I was very sleepy and I had a fun day of reading university policies ahead of me. So as I prepared to head out to the closest Starbucks, I realized that there are, not one, not two, not three, but four Starbucks within a five minute walking radius. I can almost walk in any one direction from my building and find a barista, ready to take my order.
  • Metrotown Shopping complex. One of my favourite malls, and the largest mall in BC (second largest in Canada). Within that complex alone, there are again, four Starbucks. The shopper certainly need not go far to recharge when they start feeling weary from all that shopping. Another mall that's close to me, but much smaller, has two Starbucks, one on the lower level and one on the upper level, at opposite ends of the mall.
  • On Robson Street, a well-known shopping district in downtown Vancouver, there are two Starbucks that are diagonally across from each other. You think that the two stores would be competing with each other, right? Wrong. They've actually done demographics study between the two, and believe it or not, the demographics are different: in one you will find mainly people in their 20s, and in the other, people in their 30s and up.
I'm just sitting here wondering why I'm even writing all this. You don't care. I think this is evidence that I'm going nutters. Starbucks has done naught for my sleep-deprived state and I still insist on spending money there.

Okay, may be they are an evil empire after all.

Or maybe I just need to sleep.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My stomach hates me, my spine loves me (for now)

I just came back from my first Pilates class of the year. I've actually been doing Pilates for 5-6 years now, but I haven't done it for the few weeks because I was busy with Christmas holidays. Now that the holidays are over, I can get back to my regular routine.

I'm normally hunched over a computer for about 12 hours a day, both at home and at work. Consequently, I suffer from upper back problems, and which have been exacerbated from a very long bought of very high stress (seven months) a couple of years ago.

What a lot of people know about Pilates is that it strengthens your core muscles. It probably does give you defined abs over time, but you also need to shed that layer of fat on your belly before you can see the results. (At least I do). But that's not it's only purpose.

Pilates also helps you stretch and decompress your spine. After class, I felt taller, and the urge to naturally slump back into a slouched position is gone. My spine loves me. My upper back muscles love me. And even my stomach loves me, even though I'm hurting from a month's worth of non-use.

It's all good until I sit myself down in front of the computer, like I'm doing now. I'm even doing work at home, when I should be doing homework. Then everything goes to pot again. Sigh.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

CSI - In Living Colour

Has CSI come to my workplace?

Let me explain. I work for the Faculty of Medicine in the largest university in BC. Next door to my office is the Division of Midwifery office, and there are several rooms where they hold some of their classes.

Now, I have nothing against midwives, and in fact, I'm glad the medical community has embraced the midwifery profession enough to start a degree program at the university.

Anyways, back to CSI. As I was walking back from the washroom, I happened to glance in one of the Midwifery classrooms, and saw on the table, part of a female torso. With the legs spread apart. To show the female genitalia. In all it's glory. Plus, the body was cut off above the waist at one end and mid-thigh at the other end. Furthermore, there was a man in the corner of the room (I assume it was an instructor), who oddly enough bore a close resemblance to the coroner guy on CSI. Needless to say, I stared, several times. I thought I was in TV land.

However, none of this horrified me. After all, a part of me had always wanted to go into forensics, and be just like that coroner guy, until I discovered I had to go to medical school for stuff like this. It is an odd twist of fate that I am working for the Faculty of Medicine.

What horrified me was the detail of the female genitalia. The labia, to be precise. The labia on the model (for lack of a better word), were big. Very big. The size of grapefruits.

Ever since my friends have started popping the ankle-biters, and the lovely ladies at Hitched have been doing the same, I have discovered a few things about pregnancy, labour and motherhood that I'd never known before. Here are some:
  • You can get long bouts of constipation while pregnant
  • You can experience heartburn while pregnant
  • If you have a vaginal birth, you can tear in many different ways (my RMT told me that you can actually tear in a shape of a star, she's seen it once)
  • Your nipples can get to be the size of dinner plates
  • Breastfeeding can hurt. A lot.
  • Your nipple can get dried, cracked and start bleeding while you breastfeed
Please, please, PLEASE do not tell me that the labia will swell up to the size of grapefruits! Please tell me that the model's genitalia were over-exaggerated, for demonstrative purposes. In fact, please tell me that the dummy model is a prop for CSI. Pregnancy, labour and motherhood is such a black hole right now, and all I can do is observe what may happen to me. What other delights will I encounter when it's my turn for impending motherhood?

Hmmm, maybe it's better I be kept in the dark.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy First Birthday Baby Blues!

Actually, they're Baby Browns.

And the first year date was actually December 9, 2005.

I went to get my eyes checked out today, and the optometrist has declared them just slightly better than 20/20! Whoo!

On December 9, 2004, I walked into a laser eye surgery clinic to get my vision corrected. The best $$$ I've spent, in my opinion. I actually didn't get nervous until I was actually lying down and the surgery had already started. But after several painful days, months of out-of-focus vision, I have been declared to have 20/20 vision. Yay!

I've worn corrective lenses since I was 7. Between the ages of 7-14, I wore glasses, which I hated every minute of the day. My ears are very crooked (meaning that they don't line up properly), and I have a weird shaped head. This resulted in glasses not sitting properly on my head, and causing me all sorts of grief. No amount of adjustment would alleviate my misery.

Then from 14-31, I wore contacts. While this was the preferred instrument of torture, I still hated having to take out and clean my contacts every night. And just before I decided to get the surgery done, I had started noticing that my eyes were beginning to have problems with the contacts.

This put me into a panic. Seeing that my sister had gotten her eyes lasered a couple of years ago, I decided to look into the procedure a bit. I ended up going to the same place as she did, and my former work benefits had paid for over half of it, so I took the plunge.

I must say, this news today has made my day as I started out not getting enough sleep (after 10 days off), and as I was getting out of bed, slipping and hitting my head against a shelf and landing on my arm. Having managed to drive to work partially in pain and partially concussed, I continued have a very dull and boring day. Until now.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2006! It's a brand new year, and anything can happen. Goals that I would like to achieve this year:
  • Finish my degree once and for all (it's been 5 soul sucking years where I've shedded a lot of blood, sweat and tear, never mind given over $15,000 to our great educational system. Sigh)
  • Learn the bass guitar and practice diligently
  • Learn French
  • Lose about 5 pounds and keep it off (Okay, what I really want are abs of steel. Well, I can dream, can't I?)
  • Re-read all the novels on my bookshelf. I've actually not finished some of them
Out of the list above, I only really want to achieve the first one. The school thing has gone on long enough! All I have left to do is one very big project. The problem is that there is no fixed timeline for this, and there are always unforseen holdups that are completely out of my control, so I can't even predict with any certainty that it'll even get done by this year. However, I will get it done by this year, come hell or high water! Ha!