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Random Thoughts

31 Jan 2004

chips, cracks and a new windshield

as the unsightly and dangerous crack in my car's windshield kept growing larger and larger, i had no choice but to take the whole thing out and put a new one in. today i finally got around to replacing it, for the low low price of $275 (moulding included). props to jacques at custom body and repair (near dundas and roncesvalles) who once again did a great job on short notice.

it all started 6 weeks ago when a small stone hit my windshield while on the highway, creating a small chip. at this point, i should have had the chip repaired. (later i found out that had i repaired the chip before it became a crack, the repair would have cost only $60. should have paid attention to those auto glass commercials!) of course, i didn't know (or didn't believe) at the time that further damage was likely. a few weeks later, i was driving again on the highway and <SMACK!> another stone hits my windshield. however, this time the impact sounded different for some reason. i look at the glass and SHIT!!! there's this huge crack going right through where that chip was!

well, everything's fixed now. this new windshield is even tinted at the top, unlike the old factory model that i had. i am happy. the only problem is that my car smells like a mix of plaster, glue and sealant. ugh.

moral of the story is: fix those chipped windshields before they turn into cracks!

27 Jan 2004

awd: overrated or not?

is all-wheel drive really such a big deal? i used to think awd was all hype and no substance. that was, until i tried driving home last night in a wild snowstorm.

everything was hunky-dory until i tried to climb the steep hill on weston road just south of black creek drive. once i was on the slope my tires started to lose traction. okay, i thought, just step on the gas pedal a little harder. no luck. i hit 4000 rpms in first gear and the car was still crawling up at a pathetically slow speed, the tires spinning madly. second gear didn't prove to be any better.

of course my speed had been the least of my concerns at that point. first, i was worried i would completely lose traction and start rolling backwards into the cars behind me. the particular dumbass immediately behind me insisted on tailgating. second, each time i revved high, the car would start swerving to either the left or the right. now, since i was going so slowly, there was time to compensate, but i was worried that i would lose control and either skid right, going into the curb, or left, into oncoming traffic. meanwhile, several awd suvs were flying by in the left lane without any problems, mocking my little predicament.

in desperation, i turned on the emergency flashers, hoping that the driver behind me would give me some room. fortunately, i never did slide backwards and after 3 long minutes i finally made it to the top of that !@#$%#$& hill.

could i have avoided this dangerous and embarrassing incident if my car had awd (or at the very least, snow tires)? something to keep in mind the next time i find myself in a car dealership ...

22 Jan 2004

i cannot be played on record player 1

the more of geb i read, the more i am convinced that it will become one of my top five favourite books. i don't know what it is about hofstadter, but i like how he is able to describe some fairly deep concepts in mathematics, such as recursive sets and formal systems, in fairly intelligible ways. i am pretty sure that even a layperson, with no formal mathematical training, would be able to follow hofstadter's explanations without too much difficulty.

all this talk of geB reminds me of bach and makes me long for a piano. i haven't practiced piano in over a year because i no longer have access to one after moving out of my parents' place. at western, the music faculty has about 30-40 piano rooms where anyone can just walk in and practice. i thought it was really nice of western's music faculty to allow this, seeing as how by doing this they are accepting the possibility of vandalism and theft. unfortunately, u of t and york u don't subscribe to this philosophy. both schools have practice rooms, but they are off-limits to the general public. <sigh> if i ever win the lottery, one of my first purchases will be a steinway grand.

to all the chinese people out there, happy chinese new year! i can't believe i still receive lucky money from all my relatives and married friends even though i'm no longer a kid and i work full-time. it's actually kind of embarrassing. i think the rule is, as long as i'm unmarried, i can continue to collect $$$, but once i tie the knot, not only do i no longer receive $$$, but i have to give $$$ to unmarried people!

lastly, if you are curious as to what the title of today's entry refers to, read the dialogue "contracrostipunctus" between achilles and the tortoise at the end of chapter III in geb. it's quite entertaining.

20 Jan 2004

wow, another 5 days already?

time sure seems to fly. i guess before i know it my 27th birthday will be around the corner. haha. no wait a minute, that's not funny at all.

yesterday i joined the u of t hart house singers! it's a non-auditioned choir and so far it's been a lot of fun. i've always enjoyed singing but i never had any time during my dark undergraduate years to devote to music (curse you waterloo!!). now that i'm out of school, i think i'm going to spend more time doing things i enjoy and less time in front of the monitor at work. now all i have to do is hit those low e-flats ... <wince>

anyways i had a good time in waterloo on sunday where i was witness to a disgraceful performance by the philadelphia eagles. i know mcnabb was hurting, i know westbrook was out, but that's no excuse. they were doing all right running the ball, but once they took it to the air their drives fell apart. once koy detmer (koy detmer, of all people! i can't get over that ... surely there are more competent backups in the nfl!) came in, i knew the game was over. i didn't see last year's nfc championship ... was last year's performance by the eagles uglier, or this year's?

afterwards, when i started my car for the return trip home, the handbrake seemed to be unwilling to disengage and i was driving around for awhile with the handbrake engaged (which wasn't too much fun, given that the ground was covered with snow). stranded 100 km away from home, i was considering calling the mazda roadside assistance people until mercifully, the handbrake decided to obey. is this why they say, in the user's manual, to not use the handbrake in cold weather? now when i park at work, i only pull the handbrake up a little bit (at most 4 "clicks") and hope for the best. come on car, don't fail me!

15 Jan 2004

the heater in my apartment sucks

hmm, seems like it's harder than it seems to maintain a weblog. i can't believe it's been 5 days since my last entry! i need to be more conscientious.

after a few days of intense reading i finally finished reading hegemony or survival. reading so much chomsky in such a short time frame makes me feel depressed, because after all, american state-sponsored terrorism isn't exactly a pleasant topic. at times it seems like there is nothing the average citizen can do. i was surprised to see chomsky express some optimism in the closing pages of the book.

anyways, time for me to talk about more cheerful matters. i got an e-mail from keith earlier this week, wow! it was good to hear from him again. we'll be meeting in waterloo on sunday for the nfl conference championships. (anyone heard of a bar called kickoff close to the uw campus? it's a great place to watch the big game!) ming and some other people will be there too. i remember watching the super bowl between the rams and pats at kickoff two years ago. the pats were 14-point underdogs but yet they somehow managed to pull off the second-greatest upset in super bowl history. i don't even know why keith bothered to watch the game, seeing as how he hates both the rams and the pats with a passion.

lastly, i guess we here in toronto had it coming in terms of cold weather, especially after the warm december. i recall walking around downtown on january 3rd and it was plus 8 in the evening. oh well, the cold weather can't last forever, can it?

10 Jan 2004

i choose survival

before i saw benny and rosa yesterday, i had some time to burn, so i went to chapters (the one right beside first markham place) and bought the book that willem from work told me about: hegemony or survival, by noam chomsky.

i guess i should state my political views first: i'm left-of-centre, liberal but not socialist. i prefer liberty to security, i'm a believer of free speech and believe that the rights of workers, including those in developing countries, take precedence over the profitability of large corporations. i also support global environmental initiatives like the kyoto protocol. i'm also anti-war, and i believe that war can only be justified as a last resort, and only when acting in self-defense. i support the role of international organizations such as the united nations to mediate international disagreements, and in agreements such as the geneva convention to protect civilians and prisoners of war from atrocities such as torture. this explains my strong distaste with the current bush administration in washington.

for some reason, i've always been interested in international political science, even though my major in university has nothing to do with politics. my interest began when i read orwell's 1984 back in high school. later, after studying grammars, formal languages and "chomsky normal form" in university, i wanted to learn more about the linguist himself. i was surprised to learn that he was not only an expert in linguistics, but also an outspoken critic of american foreign policy. i decided to buy two of his books, necessary illusions and 9-11, and found both books to be intellectually challenging and stimulating.

hegemony or survival is chomsky's attempt to outline how america's pursuit of world domination threatens the survival of the human race. i've only read about 30 pages, but i couldn't agree more with chomsky's arguments. if this is where the "human experiment" is headed, we are in trouble indeed.

09 Jan 2004

actually yes it is kinda cold today

so i must have pissed off the weather god(dess) yesterday with my remark, because today had to be the coldest day ever in toronto. my poor car had to sit in my office's parking lot, naked and defenseless, for 9 long hours and starting it at 7pm was no fun at all. none of the moving parts inside the cabin wanted to move. the gear shift felt like it had been dipped in a giant pool of liquid sugar, the clutch felt stiffer than the brake, and the steering wheel ... well let's just say it reminded me of an unpleasant experience at the go-kart track two months ago. a handy tip from clement (my automobile consultant at work) is to spend less time warming up at these temperatures, because the worst thing you can do is to idle your car when the engine oil has not been warmed up yet. he suggested to idle for only a minute, and then drive the car slowly to let the oil warm up.

at 10pm i drove all the way up to markham to hook up with benny and rosa at this drink/dessert place at first markham place (the name escapes me). poor benny and rosa are having their hands full taking care of their 18-month old son justin. justin seems really well-behaved, but according to his grandma he's a really bad boy who cries a lot and likes to climb over things (making him prone to dangerous falls).

during the time at the dessert place i found out that benny has never changed justin's diapers, not even once. i mean, that's disgraceful. c'mon benny, how can you call yourself a father without experiencing the joy of changing your son's diapers? maybe i should change "poor benny and rosa" to "poor rosa" ... but maybe i shouldn't criticize. i doubt i could do a better job if i was in his position. parenthood? not for me. at least not yet.

08 Jan 2004

it's not THAT cold

the weather people claim it's going to be minus 22 tonight. hmm ... i was at loblaws around 9pm buying groceries and it didn't seem that cold. in any case, it's times like this when i'm glad i park my car in an underground garage so i don't have to spend forever warming up my car in the morning.

work is slow right now. i guess it's just me. everyone else on my project is going crazy, but i seem to have paced myself well and finished my stuff on time. now i have the pleasure of watching everyone else freak out while i get to take it easy. branavan and some other people at work are planning to go to blue mountain for some skiing/snowboarding next thursday. i wanted to go, but i didn't want to go mid-week and have to show up at work the next day aching all over. hopefully he'll plan something later this winter which takes place over a weekend and then we'll all head up together. really really hoping they have some gentle beginner's slopes there ...

my evenings are currently spent doing one of two things: playing seiken densetsu 3 on a snes emulator, or reading goedel, escher, bach by hofstadter. sd3 is the last adventure rpg on the snes which i feel is worthy of my time and effort. this will probably be the last video game this old-school gamer plays before retiring from the video game scene altogether. they just don't make games these days like they used to. <sigh>

sd3, however, is (so far) an amazing game. as a last-generation snes game, the graphics are truly beautiful, exceeding those of final fantasy 6 and chrono trigger. the bosses are sufficiently challenging and the gameplay is rich and varied. the only negative is that the music suffers occasionally from slowdown, possibly due to my emulator. right now i'm about 3 hours into the game.

geb is a classic and a virtual must-read for lovers of music, mathematics, logic and computer science. i bought the book way back when i was still in school, wondering how ideas as disjoint as the incompleteness of first-order mathematical logic, musical fugues, and visual artistic patterns could be related to each other, but i never had a chance to read it. one of my new year's resolutions is to read and finish this book before spring arrives.

in other news, i was hoping to take some mandarin language courses this year and i managed to find a place which offers them ... it's only $75 for ten 90-minute classes, which i think is a pretty nice deal. yay! the only downside is that the classes are on saturdays at 10am and i have to drive over half an hour to get to the community centre. <groan> but i'm looking forward to these classes, they should be fun and i hope i get something out of them. winston from work might be signing up as well. c'mon winston, it'll be a lot of fun! classes start feb 7th.

after having left school behind for over a year, it'll be strange to sit in a classroom once again ...

05 Jan 2004

all good things must come to an end ...

today was the dreaded day when i had to return to work after 12 amazing days off. i didn't think i would be able to get up at 8:30am but somehow, i managed.

i had scheduled my annual (but actually more like quadrennial) checkup with my doctor for this morning, so off to scarborough i went. my doctor says that i should see him once every year for a checkup. now, i'm not against annual checkups, but i think once a year is too frequent, at least for guys my age who are in good health. i can understand going every year if you're 65. i wasn't really keen on making the appointment, but i did feel somewhat guilty, plus i thought it would be nice to know in advance if there was something terribly wrong with me, or if my cholesterol levels were getting high, or whatever.

anyways, since i hadn't had a checkup for almost 4 years, my doctor got his pound of flesh, or in my case, 100mL of blood.