had choir practice again tonight and with the concert less than 2 weeks away, it was crunch time. i noticed during the warm-up that my voice wasn't feeling as strong or as crisp as usual, which was a bad sign. i was ok until we started the gloria movement, which i had a solo in, and i did not feel completely secure in hitting my notes. furthermore, my throat felt really dry and it seemed that drinking water was not really helping. when we reached the break halfway through the practice, i was already feeling winded and my voice started feeling a little hoarse.
i somehow managed to make it through the second half without losing my voice. of course, when i reached another solo, the conductor told me to sing it more loudly and use a more operatic sound, not knowing that i had already sung it as loud as i could. according to henry, it's important to be properly hydrated, so for next practice, i think i'm going to need two bottles of water instead of just one.
by the way, if you'd like to come see our concert, click here for more information!
rogers video was one of the few places which was open today. so, with nothing else to do, i rented a beautiful mind and good will hunting.
"a beautiful mind" was quite interesting. i'm not too familiar with schizophrenia, but if the portrayal in the movie was accurate, it makes all of us ask the question: what is real? how do i know that the person standing in front of me is real, any more than john nash knew that the people around him were real?
i did notice that nash and his colleague played some go at the beginning of the movie. hmm ... i wonder if the real-life nash played go, and if yes, what his strength was ...
on this lovely day before the easter long weekend i found myself working on the one thing i had wanted to do for several weeks running ... my annual income tax return. i had put it off because i thought i needed my T3 slip to proceed, but it turned out that the reason i didn't receive a T3 slip in the mail was because i didn't earn any income off of my investments this year. so, i sat down at my desk, and an hour later i managed to reward myself with a nice little refund courtesy of revenue canada. and yes, i do my income tax return the old-fashioned way - with pencil and paper!
i guess the thing i wanted to debunk today is the common misconception, propagated by accounting firms (like h+r block), greedy accountants, and software companies (like softron), that doing one's own income taxes is of the same difficulty as completing a PhD in rocket science. ladies and gentlemen, it isn't that hard. anyone with a grade 8 education who knows how to follow instructions can do their personal tax return in one hour. it just kills me to see h+r block charge people upwards of $50 per return, and software companies charging $20-something for their little software packages. if this software package could be re-used year after year, the cost might be justifiable. but, these companies come out with new software every year, using the excuse that "since revenue canada changes their taxation rules every year, we need to update our software accordingly". what a crock.
(i'm not trying to disparage accountants. they do serve a useful purpose in our society.)
try doing your own income tax return this year. take ownership of issues with regards to your personal finances instead of delegating them to your accountant or whomever. do you know what percentage of your charitable donations can be deducted? do you know how to claim unused RRSP contributions? learn how federal and provincial income taxes are calculated and try to see how you could pay less income tax next year.
learn how to do your own tax return and you will never have to pay another person to do it for you, for the rest of your life. if you like, think of it as an investment - an investment in yourself.
after almost a year of inactivity, i started making trips to the gym at the office again. and oh boy, did i ever pay for my inactivity! after my visit, i was feeling sore all over (and i mean, ALL OVER) ... everywhere from my diaphragm, to my groin, to my upper chest was aching. bad bad bad!!
now that the weather is improving, i should be able to start jogging along the waterfront again in a few weeks. even though i'm really rusty, i'll try to pick up badminton again this spring.
here are a few tips when it comes time to renew your car insurance policy:
first, be sure to shop around with as many different insurance companies or brokers as possible to ensure that you aren't getting a raw deal. a company may tell you that their deal is the best deal that you're going to get, but don't take their word for it.
second, make sure that your deductible is as high as possible. basically, if you report an at-fault accident, you pay the amount of the deductible and the insurance company pays the rest. so, if you report a $3000 accident and your deductible is $500, you pay $500 and the insurance company pays $2500.
why is a high deductible good? well, higher deductibles result in lower premiums. and second, since one should never report an at-fault accident to the insurance company unless it involved personal injury or was a write-off (see my rant from last february), you'll never have to worry about paying that extra deductible amount anyway.
third, be aware of personal anniversaries which will factor into reduced premiums. the most well-known of these is the 25th birthday - premiums will drop by as much as 30% after this date. other big anniversaries are: 6 years after an at-fault accident, 3 years after a traffic ticket, or marriage. all of these events will cause your premium to drop significantly. if you are in the middle of a one-year contract and one of these anniversaries falls within that year, it may be worth it to terminate your contract after the anniversary and get a deal elsewhere ... the savings will often be greater than the cost involved in breaking the contract.
anyways, after doubling my deductible, my insurance premium came down another $8 per month, making the total decrease $16 per month. since my lone at-fault accident occurred in september 1999, i'm going to be doing this all over again in october ... oh the joy ...
hmm ... instead of talking about myself today, let's talk about circles of four!
what's a circle of four? it's a group of four people, A, B, C and D, such that:
discovering that one is a member of a circle of four is not only surprising and unexpected, but a lot of fun! case in point: christine and i have been childhood friends for over twenty years. eight years ago, i met vincent through a common friend from one of my co-op jobs. so, one day, vincent brings me along to florence's birthday party - florence was a fellow student of vincent's at u of t's scarborough campus. at that time, i had no idea who florence was, and had never met her before, but halfway through the party, in walks christine and it turns out that she and florence are friends! how strange is that?! (of course, for this to be a true circle of four, it is also necessary that vincent and christine don't know each other ... which is indeed the case here.)
a few days ago, another circle of four was discovered: in my first and second year of undergraduate studies, i had a tutor called yee whye, who i didn't know very well, for advanced linear algebra. he finished his undergraduate degree around 1997 and left uw. a few years later, in my third year, i met an undergrad by the name of yew jin - apparently yew jin was good friends with yee whye. however, that didn't create a circle of four, as only three people were involved so far. enter good old stu of korean bbq fame! stu knows me from our time together as officemates in winter 2002, and a few days ago, he told me that he knew yee from their days together as undergrads in the early- to mid- 90's! as stu doesn't know yew jin, the circle was complete.
it's very easy these days to find circles like this with the help of online social networks like friendster, but it's a lot more fun discovering these loops and links on your own. so, today's exercise for the interested reader is: how many circles of four do you belong to?
i found out today that i was chosen for some of the solo parts in my choir's concert this april! it's great news, considering that it's the first time i've ever auditioned for a solo part, but i'm starting to get a little nervous. what if i mess up in front of everyone? also, the solo parts are pretty extensive, which means that i'll have to do quite a bit of practising on my own time at home.
there's only a month before the concert, so i'll have to get my act in gear!
hmm ... can it really have been one whole year since my last go tournament? i've been really rusty and i haven't played a serious game in ages. thus, i showed up at today's one-day tournament completely unprepared and expecting to get crushed.
indeed, in the first two games prior to the lunch break, i lost. the first game wasn't too bad of a loss - i was losing by about 15 points heading into the endgame and had to overextend in an attempt to catch up - one of my groups wound up dying. however, in the second game, i misread a big capturing race and had to resign only about 150 moves into the game. that second game was mighty embarrassing. my opponent and i were done before many of the other boards had entered their endgames, and i longed for the proverbial "big hole" to crawl into.
however, after lunch i came back with a renewed sense of purpose and gave myself the goal of finishing the day with a even record. the third game started out pretty evenly, but my opponent left a weak spot in one of his groups which i was able to exploit. as a result of this mistake, i was able to win the game by resignation. in the fourth and final game of the day, i fell behind very early as i made a careless blunder in the early going. however, i was able to claw my way back and take the lead. my opponent fought very fiercely but i was able to hang on for the win.
due to my mentally unfocused state early on, i didn't bother memorizing the games which i lost, so i can't provide sgf files for all of the tournament games like i did last year. i'll have to work a lot harder if i hope to obtain a better result in the next tournament!
today after work i drove to waterloo, after promising philip that i would drop by for one of the university of waterloo go club weekly meetings. i was late leaving the office - i had planned to leave at 5:40pm but as usual i got tied up with last-minute software issues.
of course, before i went to the club, i had to stop for dinner, and in waterloo, there's only one place - mr. sushi. this is, without a doubt, the best fast-food sushi restaurant in southern ontario. the food is fresh, tasty, and priced very reasonably. charlie, the store owner, must be making a fortune - his store is very popular with the student crowd. every time i visit waterloo, the restaurant expands in some way. last time, they put in new tables and added a self-serve area for the miso soup. this time, they had snazzy new menus! it's good to see that charlie's business has done so well over the past 5 years, and also great to see that the prices haven't increased since my days as a student at uw.
after picking up some sushi to go, i went to the club and met some people who i haven't seen in ages - philip of course, but also reinhold from the symbolic computation group. also, they had almost 20 people present! back in my day, we were lucky if we managed to get 10 people to show up. while playing a game against one of the students, i realized just how much i missed playing in a club.
to end the night, i met good old stu, of korean bbq fame, for some bubble tea at sweet dreams teashop. his cast has finally come off, which is good, but he's still wearing an ankle brace, which he'll have to keep on for awhile. i wonder if he's going to keep his promise of reverting to vegetarianism once his ankle heals fully. see, stu being a vegetarian just doesn't seem right. it's like tie domi renouncing fighting in hockey ...
after hearing about the toronto public space committee at the "welcome to our living room" benefit concert two weeks ago, i decided to attend their monthly general information meetings, to see what their committee was all about. so, i left work early and got to city hall at 6:30pm, where the meeting was held.
the meeting lasted two hours, but it didn't feel that long at all. i'm really glad i went - the people were very friendly and the meeting was very informative. i've been a "closet activist" most of my life and this was the first time i had ever participated in grass-roots politics. i strongly support what the tpsc is working towards, and i hope that their activities will make a difference in this city we call home.