Friday, April 28, 2006

Today is a good day


I got my bonus money!

It's Yellow Lunch Day!

I'm getting a facial today!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stephen Harper a Trekkie?

Wha?!?? EW!!!!!

(Picture found here. Thanks IT Plumber/Janitor!)

KOOKY: How Many?

One thing about working in a large, disjointed organization like a
university is that you don't know how you should count the number of
employees that actually work at your organization. It's not so much a
problem that there is constantly a great number of employees influxing
and outfluxing; that does happen. The logistic nightmare occurs when you
try to categorize who you belong to.

As I surf around on the Internet, I occasionally run into a survey that
someone wants me to fill out in order for me to get to the information.
One of the questions they ask is: "How many employees work at your
organization?" Normally, this should be a simple question. But it's
anything but simple when you consider the nature of the university.

For instance, I'm a separate group that's a part of the Dean's Office,
and they in turn are a part of the Faculty of Medicine, and the Faculty
is a part of the university. However, our group is seen as a distinct
unit from the Dean's Office, with its own budget. So is the Dean's
office, and in turn, the Faculty. So in terms of the word
"organization", what do you mean? Please clarify.

Then you get the people who work for these units. There are some people
who, although they work for one unit, actually gets paid by another
unit. Are counted as part of your unit then? Or what about those people
who are shared by different units? We actually have quite a number
people who are partially funded by the Faculty, and partially funded by
a party; some of these parties are even outside of the university. Do we
only count them as 50% of an employee? 74.52% of an employee?

So back to the question: "How many employees work at your organization?"
If this response exists, I choose: "I don't know". It's a pity I can't
answer: "You have got to be kidding me, right?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

FLIB-ur-tee-jib-it (n.) is Spammed!

I received my first piece of spam today: Click here and scroll down to the comments section at the bottom.

I have the option of deleting any of my comments if I so choose. I suppose that it's also partially my fault that this has happened as I left my comments section wide open for anyone to post. I'm just glad it's not porno. It's such a novelty that I think I'll leave it up.

IT Plumber/Janitor thinks it's probably a bot that did this. I have to concur with his thinking. (For those of you who don't know what a bot is, check out the definition on Wikipedia).

So now that has me thinking, if I put a lot of "XXX" and other porno-like phrases in my posts, will a porno bot spam my blog next? Well, anything is possible in Internet-land.

SQL Server trivia

I’m doing something really mind-numbing right now: Checking that my database lookup table data is correct and up to date. Correction: checking that the scripts to create my database lookup table data are up to date. Like I said, fun.

So here’s my trivia question:
In SQL Server what’s the difference between TRUNCATE TABLE [tablename] and DELETE TABLE [tablename]

TRUNCATE TABLE doesn’t write each record being deleted in the log files, like DELETE TABLE does. It only records that the table data is being deleted, and that’s it.

Not much in terms of end result, but if you want to do a restore, you’re hooped. However, if you really want to be geeky about it, it does speed up the performance of the SQL quite significantly, especially if you have a large table to delete.

Of course, any good Database Administrator would tell you NEVER to delete any data, it’s just bad practice.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Real Estate, Lotusland Style

Yesterday, my friend M was lamenting the fact that it's so hard to find affordable housing in Lotusland, particularly for a first-time home buyer. M is a first-time homebuyer. To further complicate his financial situation, he's a first-time home buyer who already has one kid, and they are planning for more, so buying a 500sf closet is out of the question.

I look all around me, and they are still building new condos, townhouses and houses like mad. And most of these places get snapped up really fast. Even the housing that is not new gets sold within hours, if the price is right.

Why is the market so crazy? A small percentage is actually local first-time home buyers. There are many who already own a home and they have some leverage to buy something more expensive. I'm certain there are those who are at the point of over-extending themselves (the "Keeping-Up-With-The-Jonses" phenomenon), but these aren't the main group of people who are the ones buying.

Many people are house flippers. Those are people who buy new developments, in particular condos, before they even have dug a hole in the ground, and almost right way, turn around and sell it for a hefty profit. The unit may even change hands a few more times before someone actually takes possession of the unit when it's actually built.

I understand that Toronto had a similar problem a while ago, but they had put a stop to it by not allowing a re-sale until the units were taken in possession for at least a year. I'd really hoped that they would do something similar here, if only to slow down the sheer craziness. But my friends speculate that this won't happen because the local government doesn't want to appear unfriendly to foreign investors, particularly with the Olympics coming in 2010. Sigh.

Ah, the foreign investors, another big player. In BC, they had added an additional fee for home buyers who either aren't BC residents or haven't been BC residents for more than a year. This, I've been told, was introduced to slow down the housing price insanity we've seen over the past five years. Frankly, this hasn't deterred them one iota. If you're a foreign investor, chances are if you can afford the $1 million plus dollar price tag that comes with the house, a few thousand more isn't going to faze you one bit.

If you look at the graph at the top, although it's a graph for condo prices in a very small (but very trendy and sought-after) area, it's a pretty good reflection of the craziness that has hit Lotusland over the last couple of years. This report from TD Bank certainly doesn't think that it'll slow down any time soon. (Oh, look, housing prices went up by 22% from last year, the highest in the country. And I thought that honour went to Calgary). The BC economy is good, unemployment is low, and interest rates are low. All good indicators that more people will want to buy houses.

Another friend, who's in the real estate business made a comment that about the same time the Dot-Net bubble burst in 2001 and stock prices crashed, the housing prices started to rise dramatically. Those with money to burn turned from investing in stocks to investing in property. After all, even with housing prices crashing (and it will happen, it's just a matter of when), property always generally goes up over time. But the craze has hit everyone. Heretofore, everyone was speculating on what the next big stock would be. Now we have a new breed of real estate "experts".

The same friend also mentioned that many analysts are saying that we may have to wait for the interest rates to go up a couple more percentage points before people can't afford housing any longer and are forced to foreclose, if it happens. Many point to what happened in the 80s, but I think there is a vast deal of difference between interest rates rising to 7% and interest rates rising to 21%.

And finally, to play the MLS game a bit, just looking at comparable units in my own neighbourhood, if we decided to sell now, we could probably list our house $80-100K more than what it was worth when we bought it Summer 2004. Like I said, insanity.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pride And Prejudice: A movie review

I had some doubts the first time I heard that they were doing a Pride and Prejudice movie. I didn’t think that they could do the book justice in 2-3 hours worth of film. My doubts further increased when I heard Keira Knightley was cast in the main role. Even though hubby thinks she’s cute *** ROLLING EYES ***, her acting ability I think, leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve seen her in Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates of the Caribbean, and thought her acting abilities to be mediocre at best.

The first time I saw the movie, I saw it with 18th century eyes, and much of the movie fell short. It certainly fell short of the novel. Then, because I felt that I was being unfair, I watched the movie in the theatre again. This time, I sat back and tried to enjoy the movie as it was presented to me, and I found that I quite enjoyed the movie.

Now, after several viewings of the movie (of course I had to go and buy the DVD), here is my (not-so-short) summary.

What I liked about this Pride and Prejudice:
  • The cinematography and music were very well done, to the point of making the film a bit too artsy for my tastes, but I can still appreciate it, artsiness and all;
  • I liked the fact that the actresses (except the one who played Lydia) who played the Bennet sisters were actually close in age to the Bennet sisters in the novel. Past adaptations had older actresses. I particularly liked the actresses who played Kitty and Mary, I thought that they were atypical Kitty and Mary castings;
  • The people didn’t look perfect. They had messy hair and wrinkled clothing, just like we do today.
What I didn’t like but was willing to overlook, because this film was, after all, an adaptation (read “someone’s interpretation”) of the novel. Plus, they had to modernize it somewhat to allow for a wider audience who didn’t know about 18th century etiquette, propriety, language and sensibilities. And they had to cut some major character/plot development out to accommodate the film’s short length:
  • Lizzy and Mr. Bennet’s father-daughter relationship. It just wasn’t there, despite their attempts at trying;
  • Lizzy’s relationship with Aunt and Uncle Gardiner also wasn’t well developed, and Aunt Gardiner’s part was greatly reduced;
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s relationship. It wasn’t apparent to me that Mr. Bennet really didn’t think very highly of his wife and made fun of her when he could. Vulgarity is actually a big theme in the novel; apparently, vulgarity is a norm these days if I couldn’t notice it in the movie;
  • For some reason, Mr. Wickham didn’t appear as evil as he is made out in the book, and every time I watch this version, I just don’t feel that he’s evil. Just whiny. It may be because they didn’t have enough time to develop his character sufficiently;
  • People walking around half naked or in their PJs. It just wasn’t done then;
  • Jane and Lizzy going on their respective holidays unescorted. The ladies’ reputations would have been ruined in real life;
  • The Bennet Family shabby-chic look. The Bennet Family are not poor, they never were. They lived from paycheque-to-paycheque, so to speak, and didn’t have much saved up for the daughters. (And I still don’t understand the pig).
Characters that I liked in this movie:
  • Mr. Darcy: When I first heard that Matthew Macfadyen was cast in this role, I was quite skeptical that he could pull it off. I’ve only seen Mr. Macfadyen in MI:5 and only thought that his acting was okay. But what I like about this Mr. Darcy is that he shows more emotion and feeling, and is not some stiff, walking robot (As much as many people loved Colin Firth’s performance, I never liked it, and have always felt that it fell short of what I imagined Mr. Darcy to be like).
  • Mr. Collins: previous adaptations had the actors portray him as being an uncouth, pompous ass without any sense. Tom Hollander decided to take a different angle, and I have to say that I really liked his interpretation of Mr. Collins;
  • Mrs. Bennet: not so screechy as her predecessors, but still very flighty;
  • Jane Bennet: I actually didn’t think that Rosamund Pike would do a very good job. She was okay in her role as a Bond girl, but in this film, I feel that she really gave Jane a depth that was lacking in the other adaptations, and she seemed more real than the others;
  • Mr. Wickham: this is the best looking one out of all the adaptations, but I was a little disappointed in the character development;
  • Lady Catherine: It’s Judi Dench. She practically stole the scenes that she was in. She is my favourite Lady Catherine.
Things I didn’t like (and not too certain if I can forgive) aka The Joe Wright Gripe Section:
  • They changed Mr. Bingley’s character. Whatever Mr. Bingley is, he is not some putz with a donkey’s bray. The guy has a brain, yet they decided to lobotomize him and make him look silly. The worst line in the whole move was the “Unmitigated and comprehensive ass” part. Okay, I know you need to modernize the dialogue, but there has to be a better way of saying this. I blame Joe Wright for allowing this piece of dialogue. I could have accepted this version of Bingley if it weren’t for this line.
  • Joe Wright’s comments about bonnets being a “Jane Austen cliché”. What the heck kind of film did you think you were making? I suspected he didn’t like them because they blocked out some of the actress’s face and made it harder to film.
  • Joe Wright’s constant griping about letters in the novel. I’m sorry, but this is how people communicated with each other back in the 18th century. It may be difficult thing for you to try to incorporate in the film, but that’s how things were done, given they hadn’t invented the telephone or email at this point.
  • Joe Wright, I felt (especially after listening to his commentary on DVD), decided to pick the 18th century items he liked and ignore the rest, especially for the sake of being artsy, in my opinion. Pretty jarring in my mind. Hey, call me a purist, but this is how I see it;
  • I still don't know how Lizzy managed to fall in love with Mr. Darcy. That's just weak plot development, any way you look at it.
  • The last kissy scene. I have one word for it: Barf!
And finally, why I think Keira Knightly makes a not-so-great Lizzy Bennet:
  • She slouches. Seriously, this girl makes millions of dollars, but has no one had the gumption to tell her that she would look a million times better if she didn’t slouch? She reminded me of a goose the whole time, and I thought she would topple over if you pushed her hard enough;
  • She mumbles. This girl has had no theatrical training, and I felt at times that I had to really strain to listen to what she was saying, so garbled was her speech. Enunciate. Please.
  • Now, I know that not many can shine brighter than Judi Dench, but the scene where Lady Catherine confronts Lizzy with a rumor that she is to marry Mr. Darcy, that really stands out in my mind as some really weak acting on her part. Judi was excellent; Keira was sleepwalking and reciting lines. She didn’t seemed pissed off that someone was standing there insulting her and her family.
To be fair to Keira, she did a good enough job, just not a very good job.

So my final verdict: 7.5 out of 10.

And my favourite Lizzy? Elizabeth Garvie from the 1980 adaptation.

I'm having way too much fun...

Dressing Darcy and Lizzy.

Yes I'm a geek. Or just sad.

Another Star Trek film?

There have been rumors for years that there would be another Star Trek film. Many didn't think so after the last film Star Trek: Nemesis, bomb in the theatres.

(As an aside, I loved the last movie. I've even met the actor, Tom Hardy, who played the baddie and got a personalized autograph from him. Yes, I'm a geek. My sister said that I was positively flirting with him. I was not; I was gushing.)

Anyways, this report says that they are actually working on another film, to be released in 2008. I'm not sure if I'm really hot on the plot. And really, it's the actors who will be drawing in the the diehard fans, not so much the plotline. I'm certain that the diehard fans will be slagging the plotline no matter how great it is. We have to wait and see, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Chink in the Armour

IT Plumber/Janitor posted up an interesting video.

My hubby has actually read Banana Boys.

KOOKY: Vera's Burger Shack

So I decided to go get a burger for lunch today. I went to Vera’s Burger Shack. As you can see on their website, they’ve been voted as Vancouver’s best burger. I had the BBQ burger. Here are my comments.

Provolone: I was having a brain fart today because I thought that provolone was some type of bacon. It’s cheese. Never mind that calcium in general inhibits iron absorption, but baked or melted cheese tends to upset my stomach. So the burger’s now sitting in my stomach, feeling like a rock. Or maybe it’s the grease. Nevertheless, my tummy is unhappy, and that just takes away from the whole eating experience.

Price: it’s a good burger, but very pricy. For the amount of nutritional value that I’m getting from the burger, onion rings and Coke, I might as well gone to McDonalds. Okay, their burgers are not as good, but they are half the price.

Hubby refuses to go back there, after the couple of times he was served by “male airheads” (I believe those were his words.) I'm not certain if I want to go back there myself. The food expereience was okay at best, and the service tends to be very slow. Bah.

The upshot is that they gave me some free packets of ketchup for my condiment stash. This is a big commodity in around these parts as the hospital cafeteria only allows you 2 small packets of ketchup with your meal, any more you have to pay. Hey, 2 small packets of ketchup doesn't stretch very far.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On The Road: The Big Dig

If anyone has been to Boston in the last decade, you would have heard about the “Big Dig”. What this is essentially is the city removing the big knot of overhead highway that runs through part of their city and putting it underground. As you can imagine, a very big task for all involved, and a big inconvenience for all others.

Lotusland is involved in it’s own “Big Dig”, namely the Canada Line project. If you look at this map, everything in red is underground. They are aiming on having this done before the Olympics in 2010. Frankly, I don’t think they’ll be able to get it done on time. I briefly had talked to someone recently who has the inside scoop on this project, and asked him if it was doable. He response went something like this: Well, they had done something similar in Hong Kong recently. Dig, put in tunnel and cover. They had managed to get it done in time and under budget.

I beg to differ. People in Hong Kong don’t have to deal with the same problems as we do here. There is no minimum wage in Hong Kong, and people tend to work weekends and holidays. Here, we have unionized workers who earn way above the minimum wage (and probably get paid more than I do), and don’t work certain hours and days.

Why do I care? Because this hole that they are digging is adding about 10 minutes to my commute each way. (I cross the area marked as “3” during my commute). I’ve had to make huge circles to get around the stupid construction. Since they have started in November 2005, they’ve managed to dig a hole that spans five blocks! Six months to do five blocks! At this rate it’ll take them until 2017 to finish. According to the website, the construction won’t be done on my stretch of the road until May 2008! That’s two more years of driving around in big circles to get to work.

(I’ve been wanting to post this for a while, but I’ve been waiting for the whole construction thing to piss me off before I did. Well, I finally got pissed off this morning. Bah.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Anne, your hair!"

I can't sleep, so I'd decided to blog about something that's been rattling around my brain for a while.

I've been recently reading Anne of Green Gables and am really loving the stories all over again. I've been considering buying the DVDs, but have hesitated, partly because of cost (each one is $40+, and there are three movies), but mostly because of something else: hair.

Or more specifically, 80s hair.

Mind you, the original Anne of Green Gables (the one with Megan Follows), was filmed in the 80s, and I didn't notice it too much then; I was too absorbed in the story. But now, looking at the pictures of actors in costume, the 80s hair really stands out. Perhaps the hair and make-up people were historically correct with the hairstyles, but big curly teased up hair screams, well, 1980s.

For example:

Mrs. Allen

Prissy Andrews

And the most shocking one of all, Gilbert Blythe

There is more, but I couldn't find good pictures on the Internet.

Now as much as I loved the 1985 version and its sequel, I'm convinced that we should have another re-make of AofGG. And rid ourselves of the horrid hair!

And just because I had to add my favourite scene in:

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"The Ultimate-Ultimate"

When we were younger, we would often go over to a cousin's house to hang out. One of the cousins would always pull my sister aside into her room and made her listen to "The Ultimate-Ultimate" song du jour (in other words, what her favourite song was at the moment). My poor sister had to listen to the song not once, not twice, not three times, but over and over and over and over...

Well, I'm one of those people who listen to the same song over and over and over... On my iTunes playlist, there are maybe 10 songs that I will really listen to, I tend to skip over the rest, depending on what sort of mood I'm in. I never like one artist or group, it's the song itself that get me jiving.

Like today, I played the same song on repeat, for about 3 hours straight at work. With all volume controls turn on HIGH. (Hey, I have a very loud talker on my right and a very loud clicky keyboard behind me, that gets extremely distracting). I will eventually get sick the song and never want to listen to it again, but I'm loving it right now.

"The Ultimate-Ultimate" song? Far Away by Nickleback.

Surprising if you know me. I'm a self-proclaimed non-romantic, so choosing a love ballad would be one of the last things you may expect from me. Maybe I'm more of a romantic than I let on...

But being the geek I am, I was trying to pick out the bass rifts during each successive repeat and thinking how easy it would be for me to figure out on my bass guitar. And I was figuring ways to harmonize with the lyrics. Anything is better than Evil Homework, which is what I'm avoid doing right now. Sigh.

KOOKY: And you think you have it tough...

The one thing that very few people who have never worked in IT don’t understand is that those people who work in IT are the end of the line. If there is a problem with your computer, you go to an IT Guy to get it fixed. If IT Guy has a problem he can't figure out, he essentially has no one to turn to for answers. Not one person.

Well, that’s not completely true. If there are others that IT Guy works with, then he can benefit from another co-worker’s experience (assuming they’ve had experience with it). And there is always the internet. However, as handy as the other IT Guy and the internet is, neither is perfect. It may be that IT Guy will need to figure out the answer yourself. There will be times when IT Guy will be staring at a Black Hole, and yes, sometimes it may staring at the Black Hole for months, nary a solution in sight. All the while he needs to make certain that everything else is running smoothly.

So please have some pity and understanding for the IT Guy. Yes he knows that you are without a computer, and yes, he knows that you are not able to work without a computer. IT Guy also has about 1,453 different other problems that he needs to deal with at the same time, all deemed high priority by some higher power, and probably have just as many people breathing down his neck, demading that he get their thing done. Now. Unfortunately, your high priority item is number 267 on his list of things to do. That plus he needs to to his regular job.

Now why the rant? I’ve just right now had to stare the said Black Hole. I just had a huge heart attack, mostly because I didn't have a clue as to how to fix it. But I managed to fix it thanks to the a frantic search on the internet. Thank goodness my Black Hole moment only lasted for a couple of days. Hopefully no one noticed.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

KOOKY: Retirement

I had decided to attend a "Know Your Pension Plan Benefits" workshop today. Even if I wasn't sleep deprived (which I am), I couldn't even tell you how everything works. The guy kept on throwing out formulas and example with calculations, and I just sat there thinking, "Can you talk about it in non-number terms?"

Here's what I did learn:
- I should always check my paystub to ensure that the right amount was taken out for my pension
- Only my spouse can waive the right to not be my beneficiary on the pension, regardless of who I name as beneficiary. Well, this is according to the BC Pensions Act.
- UBC has a pretty kick-ass pension plan
- It's highly recommended that I leave the money with UBC, regardless of what happens to me pre-retirement.

Of course, after this money talk, the next question that begs to be asked is: How much money do you really need to retire on?

I personally think it's more than most people think. So every little bit helps, like having a pension. But that will be a post for another day.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Food is confusing. Sigh

So after ranting about my blood condition, and almost fainting from the lack of iron in my diet one day, I've decided to do a bit of research regarding which high-in-iron foods and are more easily absorbed by the body. (I already have a pretty good idea what foods are high-in-iron).

There are two types of food-iron: heme and non-heme. Basically, heme iron comes from animal sources. Non-heme iron is the non-animal sources (ie, fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc). The body can absorb heme iron much better than non-heme iron. So, for instance, my body can absorb iron from a steak much more readily than iron from a spinach salad.

To help with the iron absorption, especially when eating non-heme sources, they recommend taking Vitamin C with your meal. So after I've pretty much stopped drinking juice because it has sugar in it (even though it's natural, hey, I don't want to gain more weight), I'm forced to start drinking more orange juice and other juices that have loads of Vitamin C. I can take Vitamin C supplements, but I don't always have them with me, so I must resort to juice or fruit.

Things like dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), coffee and black teas can inhibit the absorption of iron. Well, I don't drink coffee, and tea I never drink except in Chinese restaurants, and even then, it's rare.

However, I like milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. While I'm not allergic to these things, this now means that I have to time when I eat this stuff, either an hour before I eat my regular meal, or two hours afterwards. It's really sucky when the dairy item comes as part of your meal. Bah.

To further complicate things, my stomach doesn't do well with greasy foods, eg baked cheese, cream sauces. This further reduces my food choices.

To sum my dilemma: I must eat high iron foods regularly, and avoid eating these food items with other food items, but it's okay to eat other food items with these food items.

Did any of this make sense?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"We are Borg"

Last night, my friends and I had yet another Star Trek Marathon. This time, they asked for a Borg-theme evening.

Here's what we watched, all from the Voyager series:
- Scorpion Part I & II (Seasons 3/4)
- The Gift (Season 4)
- Fury (Season 6)
- Unimatrix Zero Part I & II (Seasons 6/7)

Okay, there were a couple of Kes-centric episode. I was watching with a few Voyager-uninitiated, so they were curious about her.

Things that I've re-discovered yesterday:
- Voyager is still my favourite Star Trek series;
- Kes still annoys me greatly;
- The Borg have the same excuse for everything (eg "Why do you do XXX?" "We are Borg." "Why do you think individuality is such a bad thing?" "We are Borg." Okay, these guys are just not great conversationalist, but we still found it frickin' hilarious!);
- Captain Janeway has big hairy balls. Well, she certainly has more gumption in her than in five men combined;
- The Borg Queen rocks;
- Species 8472 are still cool.

All in all, a fun evening. Next time, the guys want a 7 of 9 theme. Le Sigh.

Microsoft is Evil

I'm currently uninstalling a Beta version of Visual Studio 2005, so I can install the real thing on my laptop. Apparently the Beta and Production versions don't jive.

So far, I've identified and uninstalled about 10 different items, according to my Add/Remove Programs window. Why there are so many things installed in the first place, I don't know.

I'm not one to install Beta versions, simply because the software may still be buggy and in my mind, incomplete. Now, I'm certain that my dear friend IT Plumber/Janitor will point out that all software will always be somewhat buggy, and it being Microsoft software, is synonymous with buggy. Or a big living virus on your PC.

I will learn Linux when I my Big Evil School Project is done and over with, I promise. In the meantime, I'll be installing my free (and legitimate) version of Visual Studio 2005 so I can start with some development projects coming down the pipe.

(How did I get free and legitimate copy of a Microsoft Product that normally costs about $1000 USD? I subjected myself to a day of Microsoft Marketing Propaganda. Trust me, it wasn't pretty.)

ETA: Setup crashed. I am so not impressed.