Archive for October, 2012

This past month, both Microsoft and Apple launched two new devices – the Surface, a tablet computer from Microsoft designed to be used with Windows 8, and the iPad Mini from Apple, a smaller version of its popular iPad device.

Both companies have released commercials featuring music to get their point across, and I like both of the commercials a lot. Apple’s uses a popularly known tune to show the novelty of its mini-tablet.

iPad Mini commercial


Microsoft uses a hipper, snappier tune that uses the “click” sound, referring to the magnetic click that the keyboard makes when it snaps to the device.

Microsoft Surface commercial

This may be the first Microsoft commercial that I have liked in years (not since Windows 7 and Stewie Griffin). Between the two of them, I actually prefer the Microsoft one. Shocking!

Actually, I like the first half of the Surface commercial better; I think it gets bogged down a bit in the second half. Still good, still clicky, but bogged down.

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Two years ago, I had a health checkup at work where they checked my blood pressure and my blood at work and I was not in great condition. Last year they did the same thing and my numbers improved dramatically.

Today, I had my updated health screening. How did I do?

Body Fat

I said that I was 5’7” in height, which is actually a bit shorter than I am. Last year I said I was 5’8”. My body mass index is still fine and I actually weigh a bit less than I did last year at this time (I started measuring my weight in mid-November and today is the end of October; it’s a difference of two weeks but it’s close enough):


This morning was actually a “fat morning” for me because I went out to eat last night. That means I weight a bit more this morning. But it almost always reverts back to the average green line you see there and it is clearly below where it was last year.

In terms of body fat percentage, I am the same this year as I was last year: 18%. No change (sorry about the blurry images):



Blood Pressure

Two years ago my blood pressure was a little high for some reason. Last year it was good. This year it is also fine but not as good as last year. I’m not sure why this is the case, I just can’t seem to get my blood pressure down. I guess I’m slightly stressed.

BTW, if you don’t know what these numbers mean, Systolic means your heart rate when it is beating – how much pressure does your heart have to exert in order to push blood through your arteries?  Diastolic measures your blood pressure at rest – how hard your heart works when it is not beating.  The higher they are, the more plugged your arteries are and the more your heart must work.




Last year, my cholesterol levels all looked decent. I was quite proud of them. The total readings are the same except that my HDL (good) cholesterol is better. I don’t pay too much attention to my LDL (bad) (?) cholesterol. However, my triglycerides reading – which you do want to keep very low – is very good.


You can see it’s 70 whereas the target range is 150 or less.

They say that the best indicator of how healthy you are – in terms of predicting whether or not you’ll get a heart attack is your triglycerides to HDL ratio. How much good cholesterol do you have compared to the garbage in your arteries?

Last year mine was 123/48 = 2.56. Not bad, but room for improvement (target is less than 2). This year, it is 70/50 = 1.4. That’s a very good ratio.

What did I do differently this year? My diet is mostly the same. Here’s what I can think of:

  • Sugar – I haven’t consumed sugary beverages much this year, but it’s no different than last year… although it’s now been a full year of going without orange juice.

  • Exercise – I don’t exercise any more this year.

  • Vegetables and fruit – Do I eat more vegetables and fruit? Hmm, maybe a bit more since the wife’s parents give us fruit to eat all the time.

  • Meat – I don’t eat any less meat now than I did a year ago. However, I do eat more fish.

  • Pasta – This is the biggest change. I eat less pasta (good!) but more rice (not good).

So, I’m not sure what’s going on to produce this big improvement in my triglycerides other than perhaps I eat less sugar and pasta.


My blood sugar levels have always been good, but this year they are even better. They dropped from 90 to 84:


Whatever I’ve been doing, I should keep on doing. My next goal is to get my percent body fat down to 16%.

Maybe I can live to be 100 after all.

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A few months ago, I wrote about how I tried some coffee made from the poop of the kopi luwak. They poop out beans which are boiled and then used to make coffee.

As it turns out, that is not the only excrement that is used to make coffee:

For coffee connoisseurs out there, you might want to add a cup of this java to your bucket list:Black Ivory coffee.

Forget kopi luwak, the costly coffee excreted by the civet cat. The newest and priciest coffee to make headlines comes from coffee beans in the dung of Thai elephants.

The elephants ingest the beans, and after they are excreted they are cleaned and used to make the coffee.

The $50-a-serving coffee is said to smell floral and chocolatey, with the taste containing notes of "milk chocolate, nutty, earthy with hints of spice and red berries," ABC News reports.

It also has a less bitter taste because enzymes from the elephants’ stomach break down protein in the coffee beans, which is said to be responsible for bitterness.

The kopi luwak coffee was pretty expensive, and it wasn’t all that good. This elephant stuff is even expensive, and I’m not convinced that the  “chocolatey” flavor is actually chocolate that you’re tasting.

Having said that, if given the chance to sample it, would I?

I cannot force myself to type “yes.”

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The wife and I are coming to an understanding regarding one dish we can both make: stir fry.

A few weeks ago, I started using more spices in it, in addition to more vegetables – onions and garlic. By contrast, the wife just puts in meat and maybe one vegetable, generally mushrooms. But since I started cooking it, I go all out.

We were coming home from glass blowing class today and the wife started… dare I say… whining… that she wanted fooooooooood! The plan was to make stir fry.

Her plan was to make it with ground beef and mushroom and that’s it. I was mortified. That’s it? That’s all you’re putting in it?

I insisted on making it. She agreed even though she claimed to be huuuuuuuuungryyyyyyyyy. I tossed in ground beef, onions, some garlic for flavor, and green beans cut up. Then we also put in some mushrooms. On top of that, I added spices: Lok Lok and Amok spices from Cambodia, Paprika and Sweet Basil Leaves. That’s a lot of spices. And so much better than plain old stir fry!

The result was that it tasted great, although it was too spicy (hot) for the wife. But it was great for me.

The net/net of all this is that I think I have to make stir fry most of the time. The quality of my work is just that good.

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It’s 2012 and it’s election season! Romney vs. Obama? Who would I pick?

My views on politics have changed over time. When I was growing up, I lived in  a conservative part of the country (central Canada), and the constituency I lived in voted Conservative at the provincial level, and usually Conservative at the federal level (they once or twice went to the Liberal party, but the Liberal party in Canada is more centrist and the representative was fairly conservative). My family also typically voted Conservative, and those are the views I grew up with.

In 1999, I took a sociology class and for a year (or more?) I switched my affiliation to left-leaning and liberal in terms of my political beliefs. This is because I was awakened to a world of new information – all of the social structures I had taken for granted neglected all of the inequality in the world, and the left was going to fix it all. Eventually, I stopped agreeing with the left because there were way too many conspiracy theories (seriously, I think that class was all about how white men are responsible for all problems in the world). I went back to right leaning. This is reflected in some of my blog posts from several years ago.

As time passed, I switched again my affiliation from right-leaning to neutral. One of the best compliments I’ve been paid is that people don’t know who I affiliate with. Liberal? Conservative? Who?

A few years ago, I read the book “The Only Three Questions that Count” by financial writer Ken Fisher. In it, he makes the points that:

  1. The term politics comes from the Latin; poli meaning “man” and tics meaning “small, blood sucking creatures.” Politicians cannot be trusted to look out for your best interest because they spend time living off the system that the rest of us taxpayers support rather than they doing anything positive.

  2. Political gridlock is best for the financial markets. The reason is that if one party controls the legislature and the other controls the presidency (or a combination therein with the two houses), there is never any agreement and nothing gets done. This prevents politicians from passing stupid laws and screwing up the economy.

I don’t agree entirely with this line of thinking, but there’s merit to it (especially the second point). The U.S. Constitution is designed so that no one person or party can ever have too much power, and that it’s hard to get anything done (domestically).

I also read articles from Stratfor, a global intelligence service. Their main points about politics is that politicians can say many things but they are constrained by reality. As much as they might want to do something, circumstances usually force them to do another.

Because of these, my views have evolved. It’s best not to get too attached to any particular political party. It simply doesn’t matter as much as we think. And getting too attached to issues prevents us from seeing things rationally, and prevents us from changing our minds when we are wrong.

I’m well aware of how much my brain is working against me. I am full of cognitive biases and how politics plays into it, and I am shocked by how irrational I really am the more I learn about how my brain works.

And thus, I try to remain neutral. Sometimes I say that I would vote for one party depending upon who’s in power. The presidency, Congress and the Senate are all Democratic? Then maybe I vote Republican (unless the candidate says really crazy things). If all are Republican, then maybe I vote Democrat (if I could vote). The point is that I think gridlock is better than unabated power because when one party controls everything, it doesn’t turn out well.

Unfortunately, I still find I have a bias towards conservatism. Even though I say I’m okay with many socially liberal issues, am I really? I mean really? I don’t know.

But that brings us back to the question: if I could vote in this election, who would I vote for?

It’s complicated, but this year I’m picking Barack Obama.

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We’ve now had the cat in our place for five days now, and she’s starting to learn and show personality traits:

  • Food – Unlike every other cat I’ve ever had, she prefers dry food over wet (canned) food. That’s weird for a cat.

  • Memory – Whenever I would get home from work the first couple of days, or the wife and I left her alone overnight in the living room (she’s not allowed in our bedroom), when we first encountered the cat she would shy away, as if forgetting we were her care gives.

    Now, she looks forward to seeing us and eagerly approaches us.

  • Toys – We’ve bought the cat a few toys. She actually doesn’t care about most of them except for one – the laser point. She loves it. Drives her crazy (like most cats). However, she’s gotten smart. She knows that when I pick up the laser point, even before I shine it on the ground, she knows it’s coming. She has learned that me picking up the laser point equals the laser dot appearing on the ground shortly. She has made that association; when I pick it up, she gets antsy.

That’s my cat update for today.


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After my previous post, you may be wondering what our cat’s name is. Her name is Ruby. I’ve planned on this name for years.

Why Ruby?

My previous cat, not counting Rental-Cat, is named Java.

The Silly Cat 007

Java is not named after the coffee, but instead is named after the computer programming language. My brother came up with the name while he was in university taking computer science.


I thought it was a pretty good name. For my next cat, I had always planned to name it after another programming language. But what language?

There really aren’t a lot of good ones:

  • Fortran
  • C
  • C++
  • VHDL
  • Delphi
  • Assembly

All of those suck. The best I could think of is Pascal for a male cat, and Pearl for a female cat after the programming language Perl.

But then in 2007 (?) I came across the programming language Ruby. “What a great name!” I thought. It was perfect for a cat! Right then, I decided that the next female cat I got would be named Ruby.

That’s where her name comes from. She’s not directly named after a precious gem, but instead is named after a tool that computer programmers use to accomplish things.

Which itself is named after the gem.

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*Finally* got a cat!

Well, five years after moving to the U.S., I finally got a cat. Actually, the wife and I (we) got a cat. We had been discussing this for about a year and finally committed to getting one.

There were two obstacles to this:

  1. Allergies – The wife is mildly allergic to cats. She gets the sniffles and stuff like that. It’s not too bad, though. We can partially mitigate this by ensuring that the cat cannot go into every room in the house.
  2. The smell – I’ve been in people’s homes who have cats and sometimes when I walk in, the smell is overwhelmingly bad. I did not want that smell in my place. Where would I put the litter box such that it was out of the way and the odor couldn’t permeate the place? The condo is too small!

    But it turns out there are plenty of things you can do to decrease the smell – scoop frequently, use deodorizers on the litter, air fresheners and get an enclosed litter box. That seems to work just fine. We also end up sweeping the floor a lot more which means our place is probably cleaner now than it was before we got the cat.

So finally, after dilly-dallying for a year, we headed down to the cat shelter this past Sunday to pick out a new little furball.

I was pretty sure I wanted the following:

  • A short haired cat – both types of cats shed, but long haired cats shed more. I figured a short haired cat would be less work.

  • A female cat – Even though you can get male cats fixed and they are friendly, and indeed I have had friendly male cats, I have always found that female cats are more people-oriented and have less attitude.

  • A young cat – Younger cats are easier to train and are not set in their ways. If they are not people-friendly, it’s almost impossible to reverse this with an older cat. Kittens can be played with and their personalities shaped.

  • Not skittish – In my time, I have only owned one skittish cat. My brother and I rate her as our worst cat ever. She would frequently run away from us. I’ve been to other places where the cat was skittish like a deer. I can’t stand those types of cats. What’s the point of having them if they never come up to you?

Those were my criteria although other than the last one, they were negotiable. We originally found a short-haired cat who had recently weaned her kittens. We brought her into the “get-to-know-you” room where you can pet the cat. The cat seemed nice enough and we indicated to the attendant we wanted that cat.

While they were filling out the paperwork, we went into the room marked “Escape Artists” just to look around. I figured these cats were younger and maybe more active.

We walked in and saw an orange cat, medium-long haired cat sitting on the cat tower. We walked up to it and started petting her. She was instantly friendly and started rubbing her head in my hand. She didn’t shy away. We continued to pet her and then faced a dilemma – which cat do we take? Both were nice.

I had to make a decision. We only have room in the condo for one cat. Do we go with the older, calmer cat? Or do we go with the younger, more hyper but also friendlier cat who would be easier to train?

I picked the orange cat.

We notified the attendant that we’d like to change our selection. They asked if we wanted to see any more cats and I said no. I know what I wanted and it was this cat. I didn’t expect to come home with a long haired kitten, but it is what it is. It wasn’t the most important criteria anyway.

Of course, when she gets older she’ll be shedding like crazy and I’ll say “What was I thinking?”

We brought her home and she’s adjusting to the place. She’s a little unsure of herself and forgets who we are after we’ve been away from home for a few hours. But she sure gets comfortable in a hurry.

She seems to have that condition most cats have – lying on laptops.


Sometimes she likes to hang out on top of the couch.



Sometimes she just gets really comfortable on my lap.



And that’s how we ended up with a cat.

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The other day, I wrote a review on Amazon for a product that I purchased. I have never written a review on Amazon before, this was my first.

For our first anniversary, I bought the wife a stuffed Totoro doll. Totoro is a character in the Hayao Miyazaki anime film “My Neighbor Totoro”, a story about two girls living in rural Japan who run stumble upon a mystical animal in the forest known as Totoro.

For some reason, I can’t get this film out of my head. I’ve seen something like six of Miyazaki’s films but this one is the one that I can recall the best, by far. The plot is not overly complicated, but Totoro is probably the most memorable character out of all of them.

Anyhow, for our anniversary, I bought the wife a 16” stuffed Totoro off of Amazon. It took a couple of weeks to get here since they shipped it from Japan. And let me tell you, this stuffed Totoro was not cheap. But it came, and it seems to be a good creature.

But, I only rated it 4 stars:


Why did I rate it only 4 stars? Because the Totoro is not 16”. It’s only a bit over 14”. I took a picture:


From the angle I took the picture (I had to hold up the tape measure with one hand and snap the photo with the other), the Totoro almost hits 15”. But it’s a bit under 15”.

15” is not 16”. The stuffed toy is good quality, but the advertisement is not what we actually got in the mail.

And thus I deducted 1 star.

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Do you remember back in your school days leading up to a test you’d put it off until the last minute, and then the day before you’d cram everything in in desperate hopes of learning enough for the next 24 hours? And then after that you’d forget about half of what you learned (and then the next year you’d forget another half)?

Well, the other day I had a dental appointment. Normally I have pretty good dental hygiene. I brush twice per day and floss every day. I frequently use mouthwash for good measure.

But the day of the dental exam, I brushed my teeth, flossed and used mouthwash in the morning. I typically do not do all three in the morning (more typical to do it at night).

Why do I do this?

It’s like studying for a test. I’m cramming good dental hygiene in at the last minute so as to avoid any scolding from my health care professional. And just like cramming for a test, it doesn’t help much; what matters more is your dental habits for the weeks and months leading up to your appointment.

But yet I do it anyway. And I’ll keep on doing it, too.

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