Friday, December 23, 2005

Order and Chaos

Driving in India is absolutely insane. There are occasionally lines in the road, but they're pretty pointless in actuality, as people drive similarly regardless of their existence. Its very common for motorbikes and rickshaws to cross each other within a few centimetres in every direction and there are no seat belts in any backseats. As far as I can tell, I've been in about 764 near-miss accidents today, although I bet our drivers think its closer to zero. And no I will not drive anything with wheels in this country. My grandmother is over 80 and she's better at both bargaining with market vendors and crossing the street than me. Its quite hilarious.

We took a ridiculously crowded bus today from
Calangute to Panjim, where I finally gave in and used my Marriott points (about 20,000) to get one night at an amazing hotel -- the Goa Marriott, Panjim -- with an amazing view (normally we stay with my grandparents in their amazing house in Siolim). And since I'm a platinum member, I arranged for a billion and ten upgrades, so I've got free broadband internet AND I'm drinking for free -- and this stuff is Cashew Feni!

My sister is calling me, so I have to go... actually I think I'll ignore her for a few minutes and check my email again!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sousegade: Welcome to Goa

Yes, I am truly on vacation. This means I have no computer or cel phone (actually my phone doesn't work here). It took forever to get here, but I've finally arrived. Hopefully I'll get to post a couple of entries, but getting internet access is a little tough in Goa, India. I'm staying at my grandparents' place with my sister and her husband, and it's absolutely amazing -- they have mango trees and coconut trees in their yard. The coconut guy came today with his machete, climbed the trees and cut down some coconuts (these trees must be 6 or 8 storeys tall).

My flight schedule (Toronto time):
Thurs: Fly Detroit to Toronto (3 day layover, including writing my exam, getting car insurance, and seeing a musical). I was too tired to drive, so I flew.
Sun: Fly Toronto to Amsterdam, 7.5 hours (3 hour stopover)
Mon: Fly Amsterdam to Bombay, 7.5 hours (7 hour stopover)
Tues: Fly Bombay to Goa, plus 1 hour taxi ride
Tues: Arrive at my grandparents place!!!Tues: SLEEP

After just one day here, I've also learned a new word, "Sousegade", which roughly translated means "laid back". I actually learned the meaning of this first hand, which is "VERY VERY VERY laid back"...

This morning, after getting up (believe it or not I have no Jet lag), we were awaiting a courier guy delivering a very important package. We needed this package to start our day, so we waited. And waited. Every couple of hours we would call them or they would call us and we'd learn again that he was "about" to arrive. Finally we decided to stop waiting and we sat down for lunch. The moment we started eating, the dog barked, and it was the courier guy with the package, which I signed for.

As we then ate, my sister's lost-luggage people called, and they wanted to deliver the luggage today, so before we could go to town to use the internet, we waited for them. And waited. And waited. Finally we decided to go out. While we were walking, we actually walked right past the Jet Airways van, and the driver was phoning someone to get better directions (guess who they were trying to phone), so we stopped him and he drove us back to the house to get the luggage sorted out. Finally we left to get our email.

When we arrive, the internet place has one room with three computers, all of which are in use, of course. The guy says there's about 30 minutes waiting time, so we wait. And wait. After 20 minutes, we ask him again, and he says we should come back tomorrow because the power is out. We are a little confused because people are still typing on the computers, and he explains they have a UPS with only 10 minutes left. So we decide to leave. Once we get about 30 metres away, I happen to look over my shoulder and he's waving us back because the power came back on. We come back, and wait another good 40 minutes, at which point we finally get on the internet and I have the chance to write you this story.

So at this rate, when I tell you I'll write another blog entry tomorrow, it'll probably be about 3 days... Happy Sousegade!


Monday, December 12, 2005

Land Lines: Soon Six Feet Under?

Due to the travelling nature of my life recently, I've heard that people have trouble tracking down which phone number to use to get ahold of me. Eventually, it may not matter that much. With the advent of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, eventually long-distance billing will be a thing of the past, as people will be (and already are) having conversations over the Internet instead of by traditional phone. Applications such as MSN Messenger, Skype, and Google Talk, which have audio conversation capabilities, have been instrumental in unleashing the onslaught of low-cost alternatives to big corporations with expensive phone plans. Perhaps it won't all be completely free forever, but don't you think that such a trend will be impossible for the big phone companies to ignore once the masses switch to VoIP? It will happen... Bell Canada beware. Email me your Skype I.D. if you have it, and lets talk for free. But if I'm offline, I guess you'll just have to call.

On a related note, I once worked for Broadcom, and was involved specifically in low-level tone detection within VoIP data streams, involving mathematical convolutions of discrete PCM data in ANSI C within the firmware of some of the company's embedded ASICs, for all of you nerds out there.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Down But Not Out?

I read recently about a new test that allows for early detection of Down Syndrome. The article, forwarded to me by Johnathan, discussed some of the ethical issues involved and provided a statistic that 90% of women who get a positive test for Down syndrome get an abortion. Apparently, however, there is a huge demand to adopt babies with Down Syndrome. There's a big can of worms opened up by this, of course.

I also discovered something intereseting that is related. Here are the statistics on the likelihood of having a child with Down Syndrome versus the mother's age:
  • under 30: less than 1 in 1000
  • 30: 1 in 900
  • 35: 1 in 400
  • 36: 1 in 300
  • 37: 1 in 230
  • 38: 1 in 180
  • 39: 1 in 135
  • 40: 1 in 105
  • 42: 1 in 60
  • 44: 1 in 35
  • 46: 1 in 20
  • 48: 1 in 16
  • 49: 1 in 12

One other interesting thing the article raised was that if one of the purposes of prenatal screening is to reduce the frequency of disabilities, what does that say about all the people who currently have disabilities?


Saturday, November 26, 2005


Last year, I got the short end of the holiday stick. In 2004, Canadian Thanksgiving was in October, and of course, I was in the U.S.A., and inevitably in Canada during American Thanksgiving (aptly named Yanksgiving by Sarah) in November. This year, on the other hand, I was in the right countries for both, and celebrated with my family in Canada, and with friends of friends in the USA. So I guess I'm on par again, averaging about 1 Thanksgiving per year.

I'll take this opportunity to give thanks to those who have been reading my weblog. If you're one of those silent readers, please leave a comment every now and then so I know you're there!


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Flag This Artist

I haven't yet decided if I want to use this blog as a political outlet too. Still, I figured I'd start slow, and post about the following site:

Originally posted by Anthony, I thought it was really thought-provoking, and very original. I don't get impressed by art or politics too often, but this, at the intersection of both, really caught my attention. Well, I didn't see the flag of my country there, so I took the original concept and applied it. It only took me a few minutes to figure out the surface area colours by percentage, since I found a grid-lined version of our official map. Interestingly, the National Flag of Canada is about two-thirds red, and without the leaf, it would be exactly half red. (What, did you think I was American?)

Here's my flag. After doing my research, I realised It's really hard to come up with statistics that are real that fit the proportions of a flag and that are relevant to a country's political landscape, so I have to give the original artist a lot of respect.

Red: Aboriginal population under the age of 25.
White: Aboriginal population not under the age of 25.

Here are a couple of other stats of note I uncovered:

  • Red: General population not under age of 25.
    White: General population under the age of 25
  • Red: Educational workers that are female.
    White: Educational workers that are male
  • Red: Forest fires (land burned) due to human activites.
    White: Forest fires (land burned) not due to human activity.

I'd be interested to hear any feedback or other stats.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Nomad No More? No Madness?

I've been a nomad for a long time, travelling on planes trains and automobiles, mostly for work, although I have met some very wonderful people through my travels. However, it has kept me so busy, I haven't had time to think. I also haven't had a car, or a place to live until very recently. And that's what this post is about. I was finally forced by work to get a place to live locally. I'm still returning home and maintaining my resident status in Toronto, but will be staying in Michigan to work at GM, thanks to my friend Ann, who is renting me a spare room in her gigantic house (with a sweet sound system). The cool thing about having a roommate is that you come home, and even if no one is around, there are signs of life, and things have moved around magically! I went grocery shopping for the first time in years and it was kind of exciting! Yes its amazing: red, orange and yellow bell peppers are 1.5 times more expensive than green ones.

Will I still move to Windsor (which was the original 30-minute commute plan)? I don't know... I do hate the 1 hour commute. For now I'm liking the non-nomadic style of having a nice place, so time will tell.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Whine Whine Whine...

When you find that life is difficult and you find yourself complaining more often than normal, I believe that this is an indication that you should reassess your attitude and whether or not you are part of the problem. Whether it be through bad prioritization, a lack of appreciation or anything else, often the cause of and solution to many of life's problems is internal. (Also it is said that alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life's problems, and I suppose it does indeed become internal once you drink it, so that proves my point).

I have a couple of things I'm currently complaining about: One is the fact that I didn't get many comments about my
new car on my weblog. Its not so much that I wanted people to see it, but simply that it is showing that nobody really reads my blog much, which is what I suspected (and I was perhaps in denial). I figured if people would comment on anything, they'd comment on a car! Or... maybe I should write better blog entries. Another related thing is that someone opened their door and dented it in a parking lot the first day I brought it to Michigan. Now I'm parking it away from other cars when possible. Whine whine whine...

Additionally I muse that I work too much too. I try to take time off and I spend it doing mostly work-related things. I'm back from it now and I'm almost as stressed as before. But again, this is an issue that I can clearly do something about. I need to prioritize my life better and learn to draw the line and actually try living my life, especially seeing as the company isn't paying my way as much anymore. Whine whine whine...

It's time to stop whining about issues and start doing things about them.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The New Daniel-mobile: Brand Spankin' Used

I really loved my dad's old '89 Camry wagon, even though the malfunctioning "auto-off lights" helped me meet many strangers with booster cables. I always appreciated how you could slip the keys right out of the ignition and still continue to drive. That car truly was fun, and I even got 9L/100km (thats like 26 MPG, you Americans)!

But, all the same, I think I'm much happier with my 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix GT2. Sure, its the first big thing I ever bought (and incidentally, the first big thing I ever bought that I still have to pay off eventually), but I'm anticipating keeping it for a long time. My dad actually found it in Oakville for me (Stan's home town).

I didn't enjoy the whole car buying experience. Pretty much its people trying to convince you to give them your money, which is annoying because you don't really know how much to trust what they say. In the end, you ignore what they say, and see what they can prove. I did buy the car, though, so it means I was either satisfied or getting tired. Thanks to GM Optimum, I could actually exchange it within 30 days. But that'll never happen, because I'm enjoying it more every day. I'll name it soon.

Suggest a name, and let me know what you think, and maybe I'll let you ride in it... but wipe your feet first, I'm getting obsessive already.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Art Of Not Writing Songs

Over near my sofa, lies my guitar (not Jen's guitar). It's still in the case, because I hardly have time to play anymore. But I've been writing songs for years! Basically I would write a song or a snippet of a song, then forget it , then try to remember a little bit later on. This was frustrating because I would often lose some great music that I had written. (I once wrote the song "Billie Jean", but clearly Michael Jackson stole it, like he clearly stole some other songs.)

But then one day I had some writing utensils (not like
these that you can eat with), and jotted some notes down. Months later, I actually remembered it from my written chords and lyrics. Normally my bouts of inspiration are random, so whether a song gets remembered is based on whether I can write it down and whether I am feeling lazy. I've got about 4.2 songs written towards my eventual album (one of my goals). Of course Jackson will just steal it anyway. So I always try to have pen and paper on hand... I eventually also figured out I should keep these inside the guitar case!

Earlier in my life, when I was a music student in
high school, I thought that writing music that people liked was 90% the music and 5% the lyrics and 5% the person listening to it. Those numbers have constantly been changing, but now I feel its more like 25% style, 40% honesty, 20% confidence and 12% subtlety. (Numbers do not add to 100% due to rounding!). I also think its more important for music to have meaning than for it to be liked by others (okay, I'm about 65% purist and 41% populist).

If you had to put a formula to good music ingredients, what would it be??

Daniel [Music_]

Sunday, September 25, 2005

How Long, How Soon, How Blog

Reflecting on my brand new blog, I've wondered about the best length and frequency of blog entries. I realised that it must depend on the goals of the blog and on the subject. So I wrote down the goals of this blog so that I at least eventually figure out why I'm doing it.
  • Historical record of thoughts and events (who will care in 3 years anyway?)
  • Keep friends and family informed (they complain i'm hard to track)
  • Hear people's comments and reactions (if anyone responds!)
  • Feel popular (even if I'm not)
  • Make my life more organised (as though my life isn't organised enough, umm...)
  • Help me accomplish life goals (my list of goals is already too long)
  • Tell people cool things, and generate discussion (that's why I link to stuff)
  • Link to cool things and inspire or inform others (that's why you click the links... click already!)

Why do/would YOU maintain a blog? What is the ideal length of a blog entry? What is a good frequency a blog should be updated at? Some of you out there are really experienced... tell me about what you've learned!


Thursday, September 22, 2005

How To Hate Being Sick

I suppose I don't have much to complain about because I don't get sick very often. I mean, I have steadily worsening allergies to cats, and I have often been categorised as a klutz. True, I haven't broken any bones yet (its been close) but I have chipped my front tooth about 7 or 8 times in the same place (much to Dr. Chiu, my dentist's dismay) -- guess which tooth it is, the #8 on my left or the #9 on my right, according the the Universal Numbering System for teeth -- and I have had a series of funny but painful soccer injuries.

But, normally when I get sick, I just feel a little under the weather and usually can still handle life. Its pretty rare for me to cancel plans or miss work. Well, I woke up yesterday with a sore throat pretending to myself that I'm not about to be sick. By the end of the day, I was experiencing high fever and severe headaches and general aching all over my body. While at work during the day, I found out that you have to walk about a kilometer just to find the Medical Bay, because our plant is so huge. I mean, I just wanted cough drops! So anyway, I think it is the flu and hopefully not the killer flu. It was bad enough that I actually took the day off work putting off a very important project. Pretty much the only thing I have enough energy to do right now is make a blog entry, although, surprisingly, this is taking more effort than it should. Mercifully, its nearly done. I'm hoping to feel better by tomorrow, which incidentally is Saudi Arabia's 75th National Day, as I'm supposed to have a couple of friends over. Wish me luck, I'm going to bed. Well, after I do my laundry.

Daniel [Life_][Health_]

Sunday, September 18, 2005

All In Two Days' Work

I woke up at 4pm for once. That's a little abnormal for me, especially when you take into account the fact that I had been sleeping for 14 hours straight. It goes back a couple of days.

Friday - The subtle art of negotiations.

  • 13:00 Negotiations - Don't accept a pay cut.
    My job has asked big changes of me soon. I had to get a car and a place of my own and move. This change was not going to be fun, so I had decided to leave my job. It just wouldn't be worth it. This brought on negotiation talks. As initial talks on Tuesday went a good 270 minutes in Windsor at the Chatham St. Grill, I expected no less for the second round at the company headquarters. So it turns out it took 4 hours again. I got what I call a fair settlement, in which both parties compromised. So I will keep my job in Michigan and move to Windsor. For now.
  • 20:00 Happy Birthday
    When I finally got back, my friend Shanna who I met at swing dancing invited me to her friend's birthday at the Ann Arbor Brewing Company. I had to eat anyway, so I drove to the place and had food and fun. Then I came back to my "home" and crashed into my pillow at about 3am, knowing that I would have to get up in only 4 hours. Read on to find out why.
Saturday - No rest for the busy:

  • 07:45 Habitat Landscaping
    After less than 4 hours sleep each night this week, I woke up at 7am as I'm in a group of people from my church in Ann Arbor and who volunteered for Habitat For Humanity Michigan, a great charity, in Jackson, Michigan, about 40 minutes away. We took a yard with a pile of mud and rubble, and created a really nice garden complete with stepping stones and borders and proper drainage. I'm good with a pick-axe! It was really satisfying, and I was amazed at what we did with the Jackson city chapter. I'll get a picture out later.
  • 15:00 Choir Rehearsal
    After getting back, I sped away to play piano for a choir rehearsal from 3-5, which I was late for. This was embarrassing, since some of the people who were working with me earlier were on time. Anyway, they have a wonderful Yamaha piano that I just love playing. Its pretty close, but I think the newer Grebel chapel piano is better.
  • 17:00 Church
    We then provided music for Saturday mass at 5pm (Donny once called Saturday mass the Catholic Church's greatest innovation). The sermon was based on the servant who was forgiven his debt and refused to forgive the debt of someone else.
  • 18:00 Confession
    I regularly talk with a familiar priest about my spiritual life. This particular talk was excellent, and although it felt like 45 minutes, actually lasted 90 minutes. When I was younger, I thought "confession" was about listing your "sins" and receiving "absolution". But more and more I am finding its simply about being honest within yourself and with God, and becoming free to trust that God is with you, and that if you live out of love, and not selfishness then you're going in the right direction. I'm amazed how it helps in feeling the freedom that you have to be responsible for your actions.
  • 20:00 The Symphony and the Schmooze
    I then received a call from a friend of mine Becky Walsh, Director of Programming for the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. She had a ticket to the premiere performance this year that she told me about earlier, and her husband could not be there. I jumped at the chance, sped home, put on my suit and tie, and rushed out to meet her at 8pm. We had a great time listening to live music! I then went to the after-party and schmoozed with important people in the city and even with the conductor, Arie Lipsky! And they even gave us food!
  • 26:00 Sleep
    By the time I got back in to bed, it was 2am. You can see why I needed 14 hours (about par for a 6- to 12-month old baby). My average for the week is now 5 hours per night.

I am feeling a little rested now, but really really hungry seeing how long it took to post this. Time to get some 9pm breakfast!

Daniel [Life_]

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What Country Did I Just Wake Up In?

So after many months and years of resisting the Blog bandwagon, I've finally been convinced by my good friend Elizabeth in B.C., who incidentally, I've never met. Yet. Nonetheless, I could go on to give you a really controversial blog entry, but just the standard "What side of the Earth did I fall off?" catch-up blog entry will have to do. Your name might be in it!

  • Got a degree at the University of Waterloo
  • Met some people, played some music, got really really scary good at original NES Tetris with Donny
  • Got a job at GM, did lots of travelling on the company tab (Japan, Europe and U.S.A mostly), and now have over 20 stamps on my passport (yes I'm still a citizen in my home country for those who have questioned my allegiance to Canada)
  • Told some jokes, got paid some more, two ski trips to Vermont
  • Started being in Ann Arbor, Michigan a lot somewhere along the line (its a lot like Toronto!), John and Marika visited me here, too.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I'd have to say I've definitely furthered my goals. If you don't have goals, get some - they're highly underrated! Here's a smattering of things I have done, in the field of accomplishing goals and doing significant things in life, which I'm a big fan of:

  • Increased my nationage ratio to 15/26 or roughly 58 percent thanks to Italy this year! This is calculated by dividing the number of countries you've visited in the world by your age. My goal is to reach 100 percent at some point in my life, so it gets harder every year you wait. I need to tour Africa I think.
  • Learned to speak German. Actually I can do pretty well conversationally, if you don't believe in grammar. Probierst mich! Jen, you will not believe it until you hear it (and welcome back)!
  • Learned to swing dance. I've been doing that at the University of Michigan for several months, on and off, when I'm not overseas. I'm getting pretty good. And its a great place for women to meet me. If they're lucky I call them back.
  • Was the best man at John's wedding. Being a best man is a tough responsibility, but also its very rewarding, and it was a significant experience in my life, and truly an honour. I get to be best man again soon at Alan's wedding, and if there's one thing I learned, its to just do it from the heart and everything will go well (no, not my brother Alan, who wrote this hilarious article)
  • Got my masters degree! Actually, I didn't but I feel like I did. I assisted Pearl with programming expertise for her mounds of statistical data in respiratory rehabilition trials at the University of Toronto. I am now officially a VBA tutor, sort of.
  • Joined a jazz quartet in Michigan that didn't have a pianist. This was the most rewarding musical development in Jazz I've ever had. Too bad our quartet just broke up last month when we lost our drummer... so much for the CD (I do have mp3s though). Well, we might have a reunion recording session I hope. It was awesome playing anyway. If you play jazz, get the Real Book -- its quality!

So, I've been pretty busy... and from the whole travelling-for-2-years-straight-with-no-vacation thing, I'm pretty tired, so I'm going to sleep! Why not give the comment function a whirl, and make my blogging experience that much more enjoyable!

Daniel [Life_]