Archive for September, 2013

The Internet makes things too easy.

Earlier this year, I watched the first eight episodes of the TV show Breaking Bad on Netflix. I enjoyed it, it’s a good show.

However, the show split up their final season into two 8-episode splits. The first split I watched, and the last split has been airing on TV for the past 8 weeks.

Rather than wait until it goes to Netflix, or buy a cable subscription, I’ve been reading all the episode summaries online. I couldn’t resist! I wanted to find out what happens to Walter White!

Did I do a bad thing?

Should I have waited to see it “live” online so I could be surprised? Well, I was just as surprised reading about it as watching it.

But maybe I should have waited.

Stupid Internet; makes things to easy to read spoilers.

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Learning a new language

For a few months now I have been thinking about learning Mandarin Chinese. My wife is Taiwanese and as has been confirmed to me over and over again, Taiwanese and Mandarin Chinese are not the same language. I finally confirmed this on Wikipedia yesterday.

Learning a language like Mandarin is difficult.

  1. The writing script

    Not only do I have to learn the words, I also have to learn the writing script.

    You see, Mandarin does not use the Arabic alphabet, the very text you are reading right now. Instead, it uses its own script of characters. Different words have different symbols, unlike in English where you can build words by adding letters.

  2. The pronunciation

    Mandarin has this thing called “tones.” In English, your tone-of-voice can change the meaning of a sentence (“You’re coming!” vs “You’re coming?”), but in Mandarin, the way you say it can change the meaning of the word completely. It’s hard for me to hear the difference and get it right.

To learn this, I am downloading a bunch of apps on my iPad. I am also taking a tutorial on the web. Finally, I may get a book or two. The idea behind this is to find the most common concepts because the stuff that repeats is likely to be important.

Is this going to work?

We’ll find out in a month.


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At the start of the month, the wife and I moved to a new house. I am now within walking distance of work.

And, I do walk to work. Some days I have to drive but otherwise I walk.

It takes me almost, but not quite, 30 minutes to walk. Let’s round it up to 30 minutes and therefore a round trip takes 60 minutes. How does this compare to my previous commute?

Well, at our old condo, it was only a 7 mile drive and most days it would take me 20 minutes to drive in. On the way home, it could sometimes take 30 minutes because of traffic. But a typical day might take 45 minutes round trip. Therefore, walking has increased my commute by 15 minutes.

But, I have not actually lost 15 minutes.

For you see, I have been working hard to get 10,000 steps per day. If I didn’t get my steps during the day, I would walk at home. I’d walk to the store, or just walk back and forth in the condo until I hit 10,000.

It takes me between 90 and 100 minutes to get 10,000 steps, or about an hour-and-a-half. Because I now walk to work, that shaves 7000 steps from my daily requirement of 10,000 that I won’t have to make up later.

Thus, I am actually saving time overall by walking to work since the steps I take on the way in count against the total!

Not too shabby, I’d say.

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Since I have come back from Europe, I have been on a quest for a beer that I like. The wife and I drank a few samples of Pilsner Urquell over in the Czech Republic and we both really liked it. Since then, I have been trying to recreate that experience.

During this quest, I have learned a number of things about what I do and don’t like:

  1. I have to be picky

    I only drink one or two beers per week and even then the wife and I split it (sometimes we go over that limit, but that’s the budget). Because I have limited myself so much, if I don’t like a beer within the first five sips, I pour it out. I have done this a few times.

  2. I prefer beer over soft drinks like Coke or Pepsi

    I now find it difficult to drink Coke and Pepsi, although this was true before I started drinking beer. There’s too much sugar in it. And, if I want a carbonated beverage, beer is pretty much my only option (sparkling water will never voluntarily touch my lips).

  3. I don’t fully understand what I like but I have a rough idea

    I used to think that I liked beers with low IBU counts (IBU = International Bitterness Units). While that’s true, it’s insufficient to explain my taste preferences. Low bitterness is a start; there are also things like how sweet it is (turns out I enjoy it) and it can’t have an obnoxious flavor. If so, I pour it out.

  4. I don’t know my limits for consumption so I am conservative

    I can’t understand how people can not be picky. Some drink it just to get drunk. I would never do that. I don’t like the feeling.

    I don’t know what my limits are for alcohol consumption before it starts to affect me. Because of this, I stop drinking at the first hint of starting to feel it in my head. This is both a curse and a blessing.

    The drawback is that the alcoholic content makes me uncomfortable, and so I stop.

    But the plus side is that because I am so unsure of my tolerance, I limit my intake. This is good because I would rather eat my calories instead of drinking them.

So, that’s what I have been up to. There are a few brands that I like such as Stella Artois, Trader Joe’s brand and Sam Adams. It’s not quite the experience I had in Europe, but it’s not bad, either.

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A new goal in life

The other day, I took the wife and a few friends out for dinner at a Korean restaurant. While there, one friend – I’ll just refer to him as “Ted” – commented that he never eats fish.

Me: What, never?

Ted: No, never!

Me: Not ever?

Ted: Never, ever!

I was surprised to hear this. But should I have been? Both Ted and I have similar backgrounds. He is a midwesterner while I come from central Canada; the two are similar culturally.

Because of this, I can sympathize with his position. I never really used to like fish. It tastes so… fishy. I never ordered it at restaurants and I never bought it in the store.

But three years ago I met the wife and every week or two we would go to her parents’ place for dinner. Her mom (now my mother-in-law) would frequently cook fish – black cod, salmon, and halibut (I think). Not only did they not taste fishy, they tasted good!

You see, the key to eating fish is to cook it in all sorts of additional sauces like with green onions, garlic, spices and soy sauce. It changed everything about my experience with fish.

Indeed, I’m now at the point where if I could only eat one meat for the rest of my life, I’d pick fish. This is kind of cheating because there are multiple kinds of fish and I’d still get variety whereas I wouldn’t with only eating chicken, beef or pork. Still, the point remains that I like fish way more than I used to, and cooking it right is the key.

I explained this to Ted, but he would hear nothing of it. He doesn’t like fish.

My theory is that he hasn’t eaten fish properly. It’s got to have the right cooking environment. That changed it for me!

So here’s my new life goal: Getting Ted to eat a whole serving of fish. Will I do it? We shall see.

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