2011-11-29

Firefox 8: Faster, by delaying tab loading

Short version: Preferences -> General -> "Don't load tabs until selected", now you can have hundreds of tabs "open" without slowing down your computer.
I like to keep many tabs "open" in Firefox.  I use a tree-based tab manager (Tree Style Tab view) that lets me build collapsible trees of tabs, built around a common theme.  Yay.  But having a tab open takes up memory and sometimes CPU (with Javascript in the background).  Bookmarks don't work for me, because they're an extra layer of management and "out of sight-out of mind" applies.  I just bookmark and forget forever, so instead I leave the tabs open until I have time to deal with each one.  Some are open forever, for good reason.

I used to use an extension called BarTab, which would allow me to delay the loading of a tab until I actually clicked it to visit it.  So, when I'd start my browser and it would restore all my tabs from my last sessions, they wouldn't load and thus save me a lot of memory.  Once I clicked on a tab, the page would actually load.  This was wonderful, but BarTab hasn't officially supported a version of Firefox since 3.x, and today we're on 8.  (I've been editing the extension to alter the version it supports, but that's fragile and not a good long term solution.)

Good news though!  Firefox 8 now supports on-demand tab loading!  I would post screenshots, but my interface is in German, so just follow these instructions if you need detail.  Elsewise, just go to Preferences, General, and with "restore tabs from last session" selected as your default home page, check the "Don't load tabs until selected" box.  Yay!

Transient Thought

The towel with which I dried my hair this morning smelled sweetly of B.C. Ferries and greasy White Spot fries, the lone protest again an expensive menu.

Transient Thought

I hadn't sent a someecards.com ecard in a while and had forgot why they're the only cards I recommend and send.

Transient Thought

It's strange how visiting friends far from home can make you feel more at home in some ways.  I suppose from how things were, actual homes change, but friends retain strong associations.  Waking up to the Fleet Foxes booming through the walls is nostalgic.

2011-11-28

It's an art

One of the nice things about involving myself in clubs and activities are the opportunities to practise skills outside of my regular domain of computer science.

GSETA organised a button-making workshop in the campus University Centre this past week and I got to touch up the existing logo and design a couple new buttons for the event.

With the logo,  I just converted it into an SVG to ensure smoother lines (unlike the rougher one I carry on my shoulder bag).
GSETA logo
With my first design, I figured "People love flowers!" but what do flowers have to do with animals?  Bees!  They're like totally important to our very existence!  They're necessary for large scale crop pollination that feeds so many millions.  However, they're treated a lot like dispensable tools, so let's feature them (and have an excuse to draw a flower!)  I wanted it to look hand drawn so I played with the textures of the petals and kept a rough line look to it (rather than crafting perfect, repeated petals with nice solid colours).  I also hand drew the letters rather than curving text in a normal font.  However, the effect when printed on paper for the buttons was more of a "my ink cartridge is running low" colouring. :D
the beautiful bee!
The second design I did I wanted to put some emphasis on the environment, so I wanted to show the sky and the Earth.  However, the A in GSETA does stand for animals, so what better an animal to situate in a landscape than the noble, tall-standing chicken!  I also wanted to make one that appealed to a slightly different audience than the pretty flower, so following a personal interest, I made it an 8-bit chicken.  Chasing cuckoos in Zelda recently might have contributed.   Behold, a truly free ranging fowl! 
cuckoo!
I was concerned that they might not translate well onto paper, but I was quite satisfied and they were quite popular!

buttons 7 and 8 on my shoulder bag!
Using Linux, I used Inkscape to vectorise an old GIF of the GSETA logo.  (It had previously been in vector form but the original vector file has since been lost.)  For the two new designs, I worked in the Gimp using my convertible tablet PC.  I do like drawing on paper, but I've been migrating away from paper steadily for a while now and have started enjoying what I can create on a tablet.  I like that the Gimp as Free Software can still provide the rich functionality I need to do cool stuff.  Creating art digitally is also very satisfying in how organised it can be, particulate in the use of multiple layers.  The bee image has 9 layers in it, covering lines, the green background, the two layers of petals, the yellow, the writing, the bee frame, and two layers for the bee's colours.  They made changes really simple.  :)

Have a good night!

Transient Thought

What motivates someone to sit there and smile while another talks for hours about something so completely mundane?  Like phone conversations about software philosophy, and all I can think about is "How can they not be bored?  Can this conversation possibly end well?"  It's strange, trying to decide whether someone is just polite or sincere.

2011-11-26

Transient Thought

Good bye land dwellers!

Transient Transient Thought

I am interminably cheerful in aeroports, even if I cannot get aeroport sushi or garden burgers before dawn.   They're romantically grand and peaceful in the early morning.  

Regularity of the World

Another week has gone by, with greater disasters than usual, but also great smiles and fun.  I'm preparing for another aeroflight adventure, starting in 30 minutes.  Whee!

2011-11-24

Transient Thought

My temporary housemate has to return home leaving me with a spare Timber Timbre seat to fill for Friday: any takers?

Teach me how to shine (another musical interlude)

Yesterday I discovered that an Irish friend of mine actually knows the Frames and I was elated.  She apparently has performed some of their songs, but not my favourite, so I thought I'd share that with you:


It's one of the few songs whose lyrics I can actually remember and that I enjoy reciting.  It always seems to mean something new to me.

Lyrics:
Star, star, teach me how to shine, shine,
Teach me so I know what's going on in your mind.
'Cause I don't understand these people
Saying the hill's to steep.
Well they talk and talk forever
But they just never climb.

Falling down into situations
Bringing out the best in you.
You're flat on your back, again, yeah.
And star, you're every word I'm heeding,
Can you help me to see?
I'm lost in the marsh, yeah.

Star, star, teach me how to shine, shine,
Teach me so I know what's going on in your mind,
'Cause I don't understand these people
Saying the world's asleep,
They'll toss and turn forever
But no rest will they find.
                                                 The Frames

Transient Thought

I got to play with a friend's Nintendo 3DS yesterday and I have a hard time understanding why everyone does not want one.  (Hehe, at least the technology worked for me :D)

2011-11-23

The Legend of Play!

I like to play.  I like to have fun with the world.  I like staring at road kill, photographing litter, climbing posts, trespassing train tracks, taking detours, getting my shoes wet in tall grass, running in the rain, sliding on ice, working next to concert bands, instigating pillow fights, having friends over after midnight to play video games, experimenting with food, listening to weird music, making up music on the piano, running, playing in parks, it never ends.

I'm going on an adventure this next week.  There will be a lot of work over that time, what with jodo grading coming up, and having a Lot of School Work to do.  However, there will be a lot of play.  In particular, video games.

Video games are art to me.  They're educational.  They're entertaining.  They connect people in ways different to other activities.  Or they can.  I wouldn't know about when they don't, as I'm a life-long Nintendork and don't dabble in other silly excuses for maturity and reality.  :D  (I tease, Sony fans, I tease.)  Anyway, when I started my undergraduate, I took a hiatus from gaming.  It used to be my core activity, and then I quit it over night.  I told myself I'd resume once my undergraduate was complete.  It came, but I went, did a little bit of globe trotting.  While abroad, I thought about restarting with a Nintendo DSi but didn't.  Eventually I acquired a Wii and did play a couple games, but disappeared again to school, where the Wii became more a conduit to high culture in film (i.e. Netflix).

Well, now's as good a time as any.  My Wii has finally become a venue for social interaction as I once hoped it would be.  It's wonderful to watch someone's face delight at Mario in 3D again, and it's exhilarating looking forward to a new era of Link and Zelda.
Boo!  My collection of Nintendo attire expands.
 This past week saw the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and in time for Christmas comes a special Legend of Zelda anniversary edition 3DS accompanied by The Ocarina of Time 3D.  I wear Triforce gauntlets.  I still remember walking and sometimes running through a little forested hill in New Zealand at the end of their summer (around Easter) imagining it was part of Hyrule and myself an elfish hero questing to save his princess.  I still remember finding my brother's old bow and arrows and going to my elementary school to send the missiles as far afield as they would fly, almost hitting a new friend.  I still remember going over to an old friend's smelly house and playing their golden cartridge on the NES and feeling overwhelmed by the world's scope and majesty (in only 8 bits!).

I hope to die before I stop playing, and I hope to let video games be a larger part of my play, though not at the complete expense of the real world.  I'm hoping to acquire at least one Hyrulian gem for Christmas, and then I can invite y'all over for a classic adventure, though it be accompanied by tall snowbanks, flying snow balls, and seasonal nostalgia.

Transient Thought

Apparently happiness is screaming and swinging sticks for 4 hours late into the night.

2011-11-19

Something Stupid

I have trust issues when it comes to software, especially on my phone.   That said, I just installed SwiftKey, which is a replacement keyboard.   I finally satisfied myself with the idea that it is probably not logging my key strokes for criminal purposes.  That said, it is doing a worse job at distinguishing my space bar strokes from periods.   The default keyboard always thinks I am trying to hit v or b.  I really hope it can learn when I mean add a space.   It is fairly painful so far.   As is trying to use its gestures for deleting words.  Oi.

Go Veggie Go

I rediscovered Blogger's Comments manager tonight and an old comment reminded me of the following video. Veggies are green, turtles are green. Therefore,

Anon Asks: Why the facefuzz?


That's kind of a big question.  I don't usually reply to anons because I figure they will never come back to  find the response, but perhaps the motivations behind something so superficial (superfacial?) would be of deep interest to my friends. :)

There are lots of reasons.  Especially given that I'm not a great fan of facial hair.  Especially on younger people.  Sometimes it seems pretentiously hippy or hipsterishness: especially on skinny guys like me.  There's something about it that makes your head seem larger than the rest of you, almost oversized.  I've enjoyed a smooth face and the energy I associate with its reflection of youth for a while.

Halloween
The primary surface reason: I grew it for my Halloween costume.  I'd been trying to decide whether to go Trick or Eating as my favourite video game character (wants long, blue-dyed hair) or movie/comic character, Scott Pilgrim.  Both costumes have strong associations I'd like to not be reminded of right now, and I'd been playing with swords a lot lately, so, the obvious solution was suggested by a friend: Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi!  :D  Due to a mix-up in bags when visiting my father, though, I ended up leaving my robes there, and had to improvise a wandering samurai costume using my kendo attire at the last moment, which was also awesome and proved quite popular.  Someone even made the connection between me and Blackthorne from Shōgun (about a European stranded in feudal Japan).

"Maturity"
There are many supporting reasons, such as to look my age.  I'm 27 now on a campus of littered with 19 and 20 year olds, and I was being regularly confused for an undergraduate.  People don't look surprised when I tell them I'm a Masters student with my beard. :)  It's flattering to have a girl flirt with you, but not when it's because they mistake you for someone 7 years younger. :D  I guess I also feel more adult than I previously did, which is a little regrettable, but alright.  I don't want to remain artificially young or grasp after youth, and I still refrain from coffee. :D

Schwarting Suitability
It suits Schwartings, male and female alike.  I visited Germany this summer (which was amazing!) and didn't have regular access to shaving materials.  I used a razor for the first few days while I was there, but then decided to just let it be.  By the end, I was surprised to like the appearance.  People responded well.  And there's also family history involved.  My father has the most amazing beard.  My father is amazing.  Having this beard makes me feel a bit closer to him.  My uncle even has a nifty beard.  I have a strange habit of plucking chin hairs, so it came out a little weird then, but I think that habit was associated with stress and overcoming that has allowed my chin to be a rich forest. :)
Father Beard
Sentimentality
There's a bizarre sentimental component which I won't go deeply into, but I once had a friend who always liked the idea of me having a beard.  I used to tease the idea of it, and took for granted that they'd always be around to actually do it in the future.  It's too late now, but now is when I have it, so it's a bit sad and a little ironic.   It's a rare sentiment I probably shouldn't indulge, but ah well.

Popularity
Last and certainly least, there's been an overwhelmingly positive response.  Guys respect it.  Ladies love it!  I've done a couple surveys, and some of the responses have made me blush.  One friend threatened to cry if I shaved it off.  My face is a democracy and the consensus is clear: let there be beard!
Me at Fair November after making a couple dozen
captain's hats for my lab and friends.  One Fair November
staffer got reprimanded for wearing hers all day. :D

2011-11-17

Transient Thought

All Students:  Please be aware that anything left in the hallways, including hockey bags, any bags, fridges, bicycles, boxes or any other unauthorized item will be put in the dumpster outside.
I am very amused by the idea of full-sized refrigerators loitering in the halls.

Bearded Thoughts

Two things I have not expected:
  • looking around the GSA board meeting and realising I am the fellow with the fullest beard
  • having a friend tell me they don't remember what I looked like without a beard
angled for exaggeration

2011-11-16

Transient Thought

I just realised that all my friends who no longer IM now text.

"Space is like paradise spread out with a butter knife"

I enjoy the conversational nature of the lyrics of this song.

Warning: contains profanity.



I like how he initially refrains from sharing a secret but then does after prodding.  It's an interesting lack of resolve.

I like how casually he articulates some popular fears.  I like how he says "Yeah,"
Them: Tell me your fears.
Him: Okay, it's everyone here.
Them: You mean just all of the people?
Him: Yeah, and all of their peers, and all of their pets, and their chandeliers.
I really like their exchange on space, which plays at profundity.
Them: Talk about space.
Him: Well it's a beautiful place.
Them: But it's so damn cold.
Him: Just for the human race, but for the planets and the stars and everything else and Mars.
Them: It's like paradise, spread out with a butter knife
I also like the xylophone.

Transient Thought

November Faïre!  There are Christmas Carols playing through the University Centre as booths set up for Fair November, a craft-heavy vendor market.

2011-11-15

Guerilla gardening

I'm pretty doomed to continue living in apartments for the next little while, I fear, but as I've developed more control over my schedule, I'm looking forward to attempting something like this.  I just want for an accomplice. :)


2011-11-12

Transient Thought

The file is out of control!


Transient Thought

I've now joined the the Nerdfighters team on the Kiva microfinancing site so my future loans will be recognised as going to fight world suck.  Hooray!

2011-11-11

Transient Thoughts

And then there was but one

11/11/11 11:11:11

It's just like New Years. :)

Transient Thought

Three full buses induce me to walk home in the light snow under a full moon in my kendo attire.  Winter is magic.

2011-11-10

Fedora 16: Nice new features

Deliciously in Deutsch

Tablet support
One of my favourite new features in Fedora 16 and GNOME 3.2 is improved tablet support, complete with some programmability, under the System Settings menu.  There are more features to support, but at least the basic ones don't require text file editing anymore. :)

On-screen keyboard
There is even a nice on-screen keyboard under the accessibility menu, which is great if you have touch on your tablet PC.  :)  It even hides neatly in the notification tray.

Online accounts and privacy concerns
Something I'm wary of is the new Online Accounts manager, found in the user menu (top right).  Basically, you can log in once with GNOME to a web service provider like Google and it will share access to applications that request it.  A bit simpler than giving your login credentials to a dozen different programmes.  A bit safer in that respect.

But then there doesn't seem to be a facility to control which applications have access to that. I'd like to log in through GNOME, and then give permission to Evolution to just access my E-mail and Calendar, and give permission to Empathy to just access my contacts.  Perhaps this is restricted, and I have to find out before I use it, because I don't want just any application to go accessing my private data.

The Old Nightmare and such

It's relatively recent but there's a recurring nightmare: at least I got to defend a friend from bullies this time.  And then it was followed by the most amazing dream: my father was Dumbledore and my father is already awesome but now I know how awesome a wizard he is too.

3-2-1 Cookies!

Update 2014-03-20: Canonical page for my recipes is now here:
http://kosmokaryote.org/wiki/recipes

Update 2013-12-29: Christmas Variant

Hello, cookie
I think I blogged about my cookie recipe before, but that was before, and now is now!  People have asked for it, so I am posting it here.  They are called 3-2-1 cookies, because that is how I remember the half-cup quantities of the core ingredients.

It's most recent evolution of ingredients are:
  • 3 half-cups of whole wheat flour (or split with rolled oats),
    • to make it double-chocolate, use 2 half-cups of flour and 1 half-cup cocoa.
  • 2 half-cups of brown sugar,
  • 1 half-cup of vegan margarine (Becel Vegan brand, or Earth Balance),
  • Egg substitute
    • 2 tablespoons of flax meal mixed well with 5 tablespoons of water,
    • or ½ cup of apple sauce, or a banana, or ½ cup of pumpkin purée
  • 2 half-cups of chocolate chips (Selection brand has no dairy component. Having a copious amount is Important),
  • 1 cap-full of vanilla extract (like one teaspoon).
Steps:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
  2. (For flax meal: Mix with water and let it sit separately until step 5.)
  3. Cream the sugar and the margarine (mix them until creamish).
  4. Mix in half the flour.
  5. Mix in the egg substitute to add moisture (allegedly binds)
  6. Mix in the remaining flour.
  7. Add vanilla (bonus moisture) and then the chocolate chips.
  8. Mix, mix, mix, and hopefully it will become a big shiny clump in your mixing bowl with a thousand chocolatey eyes.  Don't leave a chip unattached!
  9. Apply to baking pan (potentially greased; I use a pizza pan and bake one Giant Cookie)
  10. Bake for 8 minutes (this is for my oven, my father's oven with a similar recipe takes like 15 minutes!) for soft, delicious cookie.  
  11. Let cool to allow them to solidify a little.
In New Zealand, I had preparation time down to 7 minutes from opening the pantry door to sliding the tray into the oven.  I was aiming for 0 minutes so I could call them instacookies.

Bonus: Cookie Cups

So, the other day I tried to make cookie cups:  you bake cookies with a muffin pan so you can scoop ice cream into them!  Patrick Beja of the Internet even suggests setting the dough around the outside of the muffin pits (on the bottom of the muffin sheet) so that they cup around the metal to get cookie bowls.

I had a couple with my dark chocolate coconut bliss ice cream and I'm thinking of designing my next dietary change around it. :D 

Update: 2012-02-21
Added notes about egg substitutes other than flax meal, and added point on how to make the recipe "double chocolate".

2011-11-09

Fedora 16: "Oh no!" failure at log in (solution within)

I've just upgraded to Fedora 16, and it was an almost perfect upgrade except for one ugly problem.

Unlike my upgrade to Fedora 16 Beta, this upgrade of packages went well.  I used the preupgrade tool to download all the packages and let them update after a reboot: almost no input required.  However, when I went to log in to my system, I saw a useless error message:

"Oh no!  Something has gone wrong."
It then asks me to log out.  I quickly realised that nothing really seemed wrong.  I clicked on the full-screen error message and pressed alt-F4 to close it and continue working.  I didn't want to deal with this every time, so I figured out the source (method documented below):

The culprit is installed colour profiles from Fedora 15 causing a key component to crash invisibly in the background due to security policy issues.  Ugh.

Solution
On a terminal,
restorecon -r ~/.local/share/icc 
An idea situation would be to have random ICC colour profiles not cause this.

Problem Solving Method
  • test a fresh account: does it have the problem?  No, so it must be my user's configuration.
  • back up my configuration and then try resetting various parts to default until I can find the source of the problem.   
  • With .config and .gnome2 reset, the problem persisted, so it must be something else
  • Try resetting all configuration directories (/home/user/.somecfgdirname)
    • alright, that worked, so it is in one of the . directories.
  • I have 189 of them, so bisect my original configuration to narrow down its location
    • Alright, a-m reset resolves the problem, so it's in there
  • A quick scan and I see .local which seems relevant, as lots of applications store information in there.
    • Testing my original configuration without my .local resolves the problem. 
    • I don't want to get rid of everything in my .local
  • Try removing .local/lib: problem still there
  • Try removing .local/share: problem fixed
  • Alright, which application is storing problematic files in .local/share?
    • bisect again, it's in a-m
    • bisect again, it's in h-m
    • take a look, and icc, the colour profile configuration seems like a possible candidate
  • Reset icc and bingo!  
Then feel stupid because I actually read about this very problem in Fedora 16's common bugs page (it's a wiki that has things added with work arounds until they are resolved).   However, I didn't think it was my problem because there it says that GNOME Shell fails, and I unfortunately knew that my GNOME Shell was still running, but just giving me an error message inexplicably. 

From the Fedora Project's common bugs page:

Starting GNOME Shell fails after upgrade from Fedora 15 with color profile installed

link to this item - Bugzilla: #741549
If you used the Package-x-generic-16.pnggnome-color-manager tool to install a color profile for any of your hardware in Fedora 15, then after upgrading to Fedora 16, you may not be able to log in to GNOME Shell with SELinux enabled. Login will fail with the "Oh no! Something has gone wrong" error screen that GNOME pops up if a component is crashing repeatedly.

The issue is caused by gnome-settings-daemon crashing when it encounters a color profile with an incorrect SELinux context: the correct context for color profiles changed between Fedora 15 and Fedora 16, but the upgrade process does not re-label existing profiles.


To resolve the issue, boot to a different desktop or to a console and run the command restorecon -r ~/.local/share/icc. After doing this, GNOME login should work correctly.
Problem solving

I like hunting and solving problems.   I like narrowing down causes, and combining bisection with intuition and existing knowledge to understand the source of such things.

Sadly, many users don't have the same knowledge.  They might not know where to start.  My Fedora 16 Beta installation problem, where it trashed my system partition, was potentially catastrophic but ultimately not a big deal because I could handle myself.  This ICC colour profile permissions problem is relatively simple, but thanks to an oblique error message, what could a "normal" user do?  It's stuff like this that prevents me from recommending an otherwise wonderful system to my friends.  I fear the problem is systemic.

2011-11-08

The Veggie Challenge, Veganism, and Me

disclaimer: this is a tad long but the bulk has been sitting as a draft for long enough.  At least enjoy the cute pictures!


Veggie Challenge
So, the first day of the Veggie Challenge has passed!  We had a few short of 300 participants register for the Veggie Challenge on campus.   That's more than double last year.  The sign-up table was pretty constantly busy both afternoons it was out, and we repeatedly had to run off to go print more sign up sheets and tracking ballots.
my infamous poster :)

I was pleased by the number of vegetarians that also signed up to do their own Vegan Challenge, and the vegans that signed up to do their own raw/organic/local food challenge.  Two of my typically omnivorous friends surprised me by opting to go straight for veganism for a whole week!  I'm giving them some tips. :)

Vegan challenge, and having help, and challenges
Having help is handy.  I'm not sure I'd have been able to adapt to veganism since September if not for friends like Sylvia.  I was originally just going to learn how to make some vegan dishes and desserts for entertaining friends.  It quickly evolved into running a vegan household to keep things simple.  Then I finally realised I could actually reconcile the inconsistency in my vegetarian ethics and just practise veganism all the time.  Sylvia, who had authored Vegan Advantage (now gone), helped point out many ways in which I could have a healthy and straightforward vegan diet.  Straightforward and simple is key to success!

One hard thing was the transition: my eating habits had been pretty strongly tied to dairy and egg consumption.  The other hard thing was my wants: ice cream has been my favourite food and greasy eggs my favourite breakfast.  Another hard thing is social: how far to accommodate others when eating out or being hosted.  I'll discuss these three challenges more in sections below :)

It was pretty necessary for me, though.  One of the several reason I became a vegetarian was because I'm not comfortable with obliging animals to spend their lives for my pleasure.  At this point, it's certainly not for survival anymore.  However, dairy and even free range eggs in Canada still drive undesirable treatment and unnecessary death of living animals.  You impregnate a cow to get it to lactate, and then you take away the resulting calf and turn it into veal, into a beef steer, or into another lactating cow.  After five years when a cow's output is suboptimal, you cull it.  Free range chickens still live in densely packed situations with dirty environments and can suffer lovely practises like debeaking.  When they're output is no longer profitable, you cull them.  I'm not an abolitionist: I'm not opposed to humans and animals interacting, and I don't think it's always exploitative.  If I owned my own cow and chickens, or could be confident that they were treated well and their lives respected, I would probably be fine consuming their dairy and eggs.  But that's not the case right now, and it's an awkward position to be in, to have ethical reasons for vegetarianism but still consume dairy when you know what must happen to the cows and their calves.
my uncle's chickens, next door to my cousin's abattoir

But it's still hard.  The inconsistency has been on my mind for a year until I finally felt able to do something about it.  Pursuing veganism right now has been a little isolating: it definitely removes me from the world of Food at large: dairy components exist in so many things, even when it's not necessary.  Egg too.  But it's not hard to actually do.  I'm eating more healthily now and feeling better: I make more of my own food so I save money.  I don't eat as much junk food, as most sold in stores isn't vegan.  I'm paying more attention to my B12, protein, calcium, and iron intake.

Challenge 1: Initial transition: conceptual change and shopping
One of the hard parts was the initial conceptual change: accepting that I have to operate out of normal social eating habits.   Most restaurants have vegetarian options other than salads, but not so for vegans.   However, in a modest town the size of Guelph and on its campus, there are a number of places that do cater (that is, have many delicious items, even if not all) to vegans: The Cornerstone, Zen Garden, the University's "Nature's Best" and the Bullring.   In Toronto it's even easier: there are dozens and dozens within walking distance of the downtown.  Grocery shopping can seem difficult at first, as I'm used to just shopping for a lot of prepared things at No Frills.  (I already get most of my produce from the Farmer's Market for social reasons.)  However, once you know what places sell vegan-friendly supplies, it's not bad.  I still get to eat ice cream with the fantastic coconut-based varieties sold at the Stone Store in Guelph, and the Metro and Zehrs carry a nice selection of fake meats (need to get my B12 from somewhere! (just ask where they get the B12 from, though!)) and non-dairy cheeses.  In fact, as far as home cooking goes, life carries on, minus egg breakfasts.
niece's dairy-laced birthday-cake, declined :(
Challenge 2: Giving up what I don't deserve: favourite foods that obliged others' livesIce cream, cheese, chocolate milk, egg breakfasts.  These have been some of my most favourite things.  Salami and ham were too once.  But as I could no longer let myself enjoy eating the flesh of animals killed for my pleasure, I can't really continue with dairy and eggs and like myself.  (I may seriously acquire pet chickens at some point, though!  What respectable lives they will lead!  All in monocles and top hats.)  Substitutes have helped.  They're not the same.  Sometimes, they're not as good to me (soy cheese's flavour (the texture is great)).  Sometimes, they're better (coconut milk ice cream!).  But like veggie dogs, they let me continue to enjoy much of what I liked about the food it replaces.  I can also continue to eat cookies, cake, pie, brownies, cupcakes, and muffins using vegan-friendly ingredients, and honestly in these cases, I can't tell a meaningful difference: dairy and egg are not necessary for legitimately great desserts (though I'm sure some variants aren't quite possible without them).  
respectable chicken, suitable clip-art
found via St. Peters United Church
So, on one hand, I've given up eating conventional variants.   I've turned down birthday cake (sorry K), lemon loaf (sorry S), and losher cookies (sorry L) made by friends.  But on the other, I'm not missing out on so much, as I've baked like a devil, the oven has been kept so hot, and it's been great, save for one disastrous batch of brownies (greasy and crispy, just like bacon) which were a hit at a bake sale anyway (what?).  And I finally don't have to wonder about the living cost of my cookies. :)

Challenge 3: Society
This is the reason why I'm writing this post.   Whereas friends had been very understanding about my vegetarianism, many have been less so about my recent veganism.  There's friendly chiding, which I don't mind at all.  But then some have been actually offended and sought to argue with me about it in unconstructive ways.  I really don't want to offend people.  I don't want to debate your diet (though I'd gladly discuss it friendlily :D).  I'm sorry each time I disappoint a friend by declining to sample their hard kitchen work.  I'm sorry for the hassle as I delay orders by asking a waitress a dozen questions about a menu.  (If it was neatly marked everywhere, I could be imperceptible!)

The hardest person to tell was my father.  He took my vegetarianism seven years ago so hard.  I didn't even tell him that this Thanksgiving was intentionally vegan.  It was awkward sitting in our regular breakfast seats or at Eggcetera and not ordering my meatless egg breakfast and coming up with excuses over the past few weeks.  However, he took it surprisingly well and thoughtfully when I finally told him last weekend.  He enquired about the health consequences, and I let him know that I was taking that seriously (more seriously than I did with vegetarianism!), and I was very delicate about explaining the ethical motivations (I never want him to feel like I disapprove of him, even if I don't agree with his lifestyle (heavy on the meat and he hunts!, but I love him, traditional habits die out gradually)).  He quickly understood my ordering decisions going back a few weeks and then he was happy and surprisingly supportive.  My father is amazing.

I hope friends of mine reading this can respect this.  Please continue to invite me over for meals or invite me out.  I'm really happy to enjoy a beverage and a light salad in a restaurant if it means I can socialise with you!  If you're hosting, I'll bring delicious dishes and cookies!  It's in your best interest to support me :D  I will try to not be difficult!  I will not be offended.
Yes, it is a vegan ice-cream sandwich! 
Freshly baked vegan cookie + coconut ice cream = love
This is actually one of the reasons I started practising veganism, as noted above.  I've made a lot of vegan friends this past summer (K, L, D, S, C, A, and A!) all over the place, and I felt bad that I wasn't able to accommodate them easily.  I didn't know how.  I could see how often they could not partake in something because it the standard was not vegan-friendly.  I don't mind that for myself, but hopefully I can make their days a little brighter.  (So many cookies... :|)

My Benefits: health, money, environment, conscience
I mentioned earlier the effect on my own health: for some people, it can be tricky, especially if they're naturally deficient of something harder to obtain from a vegan diet.  But I'm fortunate to have a pretty sound body with no known natural deficiencies (or allergies :D), and some minimal attention has left me feeling confident that I'm not becoming malnourished.  This has left me cooking more at home and eating less junk food, and in general feeling quite good.  I even have maintained the energy and strength to pursue a variety of sports. :D  My sister-in-law has teased my brother that he'll put him on a vegan diet if it would make him more like me. :D  At this rate, I'll never be obese. :(  Also, after acquainting myself with where I could get ingredients and what dishes I still wanted to make in the first couple of weeks, cooking has been easy. :)

Some things cost a bit more, like buying soy milk cartons and coconut-milk ice cream (4x the price of dairy ice cream per millilitre!), but eating out costs a lot more than making your own food.  And habits of buying snacks make it still worse. 

Something I didn't elaborate on above was the impact on the environment.  Raising animals for meat is a very inefficient way to produce food and meet nutritional requirements.  Keeping cattle around to produce dairy also doesn't help.  The consequences of current activities on the environment is somewhat controversial, but at least the appeal of efficient food production should be obvious given accepted food insecurity problems across the world, and if you accept that there is some limit to what activity the world can sustain, any trends that help keep us keep away from such limits is probably good.  (Global population is now estimated at seven billion!)

And yah, my personal conscience.  Some people are happy taking the lives of animals, they even like to do it themselves, hiding in a bush and waiting with a gun to kill a deer as it wanders by.  It's traditional, it's historical, it's natural.  For me, it's unnecessary, superfluously for pleasure, and regardless of how awesome it tastes (I do recall the sensations of eating my favourite salamis), I can't justify requiring their lives, no matter how comparatively "stupid" or instinctual an animal's existence is.  (Note how I still happily eat plants for survival despite plant-psychology, so sufficiently different than my own that I'll accept their sacrifice for my survival ahead of creatures whose sense of suffering I glimpse directly.  This leads into a tangent, though!)

Tangent on animal welfare versus human welfare and doing what you can
On a tangent, someone recently tried to suggest that caring about animals so was flawed in part because I still owned used shoes and a coat that had been manufactured by comparatively poorly paid workers in China.  Besides the notable flaw that such an argument suggests "if you can't do everything right you'd like to, you shouldn't bother with anything," I don't think the Chinese workers had their hides skinned for my (synthetic) shoes, Chinese economics are complicated and having western money flow into China helps improve the situation, many Chinese labourers want the poor jobs we wouldn't tolerate so they can have some income to support their family, and the situation is reportedly improving.  Having fair trade economics in all purchasing would be great, and it would be nice for people to pay the full price for their luxuries (smart phones and electronics especially included, even if this would slow civilisation's progress), but it's not like supporting animal welfare directly with my diet makes human welfare worse.  I mean, I'm already buying most things second hand (reducing consumerism and slowing the new-goods economy (which isn't that bad, as money is still moving, which is important)) and supporting local business where possible.  Fascinatingly, my relative poverty as a student does prevent me from doing of the things I'd like to do: many local alternatives I simply cannot afford.

Good night!
Ha, I'm surprised if you made it this far!  Why did you read this?!  Anyway, I'm not going to write much about veganism or use this blog to try to convert people.  I'll probably mention the odd GSETA (Guelph Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) activity that I'm involved in.  But there you are.  I've been vegan for a while now and it's working well for me.  Here's a partial list of first names that have been influential and supportive of me:
  • Kelsey, Danny, Laura, Anna, Kathryn, Amanda, Ariel, Ashley, Chad, Chani, Sylvia, my dad (ha!), Terri, and GSETA.
my oft-shared sentiment,
as borrowed from a CD cases

2011-11-07

Quiet Thrill

I hope it rains.  I would really like to run through the warm rain one more time this year.


Transient Thought

Can't sleep, dreams will eat me :D

Transient Thought

桜の樹の下には屍体が埋まっている !

2011-11-06

Quiet Thrill

Being woken up after a good sleep by a cat nuzzling your face.

The Importance of Being Paper

It would have been difficult once, to write to you all, on a single sheet of paper, with a pen.  It would have to be copied several times and then posted.  Instead, at more characters per second, I type it and electrons speed across the world so you can read it as soon as we like. 

Paper, pens, ink, lead, graphite, wood, pencils, trees.  Time, light, a desk.  Perhaps an eraser or an ink blotter, maybe some white out for our mistakes.  A dictionary on hand to check our errors.  Envelopes, stamps, glue, once wax.  A walk, a bin, a letter-sized drop.

I used to receive articles in the mail and I think we can all agree that such arrivals are pleasant.  Some of us even talk of renewing the old habit.  I tell you, give me your address, and expect me to share generously my ink with you.  Maybe I actually will.

Notebooks, journals, drafts.  So many things to write in.  And so pretty.  When you buy a notebook now, it's $500 and you have to let it charge every now and then.  Once, you could spend $30 to be lavish.  Such a variety of paper notebooks: I like my purple one.  I'm a very purple man as everything from my shoes to my shirt to my shoulder bag to my gloves to my hair (it still hasn't fallen out after two months) attests: I am fit to be your royal king.  Oh, and not to forget my purple inked pen, which was last used 5 minutes ago.

But I don't use it so much now.  I don't take many notes.  As I told a friend, I don't have a printer.  I've done away with paper.  I use my convertible tablet PC for everything possible, and these days, it works.  I use pens mostly to fill out names and dates or lend to a friend.

And that's why I'm thinking about pens and writing by hand: I've just done data entry on nearly 300 names and e-mail addresses, and I wonder whether two decades ago the writing would have been any more legible.  Perhaps it's a secret pleasure of those who signed their names, to giggle at the thought of me parsing their arcane strokes.  Or perhaps they're out of practise or never really knew how to separate and distinguish their letters.

Penmanship.  Is that still taught in elementary and high school?  I don't mean anything elaborate: our spelling and form was evaluated all the time, with some of the worst feedback I could get at the time being "I can't read this."  It's almost like being told today that my source code does not compile.  Do people still learn to print the letters of the alphabet?  Do they get shown how to add clarity to their digits?  Is cursive handwriting still classy and exciting?  Does anyone have to hand in papers not fresh from a printer?  Maybe add calligraphy to the curriculum and call it art.

My father's writing remains some of the most elegant and neatest I've ever seen.  It's thoughtful and cared for.  I am disappointed that I do not have an instance here to show you.  I will have him write something next weekend and upload it for your viewing pleasure then.  He also taught me how to draw.  He's a great man. 

(Actually, here is a rough example found as the address on an envelope.  It's not smooth, written on a bulky envelope, but you get the idea:)
From my dad to me

I suppose it won't matter soon.  Instead of signing your names inexactly, people will tap a phone to a tablet to register their name, their contact information.  Digital transmission will get your identity perfect.  No more errors.  No more data entry clerks.  Reduce the human responsibility in the system to improve the system.

Well, good night pen.  I will see you in your morning, in the form of the stylus, as I anticipate OCR + tablet devices to make hand writing fashionable again some day, even if not dominant. 

I promise

Things that make me cry

Tying knots.

2011-11-04

Feed me!

I ate one meal today.  And that meal was sushi.  Two hours worth of sushi.

Delicious mango-topped yam rolls
Banana tempura with chocolate coating
I find food insecurity very alarming.  I've never really had to deal with it.  Even growing up relatively poor, we always managed an adequate food supply.  Even now as a poor student, I eat very well.  I even eat out sometimes.  I can even afford to spend more for some items to cater to ideology and philosophy: some vegan alternatives aren't cheap.

I got to live in Vancouver for a year, though, and there I got to see homeless people everywhere.  Some may collect enough money to secure themselves, but others obviously could not.  There were those who you'd find sleeping on church steps and were too out of it to try to collect from you.  Some are too consumed by drug addiction to properly care for themselves.  The problem is very visible in Vancouver, more so than in Toronto or any other city I've lived.  I was slightly relieved that I didn't have the constant visual reminder when I moved to Dunedin, New Zealand, but I've never forgotten. 

It's not that much, but one activity I enjoy that helps in theory is Meal Exchange's Trick or Eat programme.  I shared a photo from Halloween night where I was Trick or Eating with friends.  It's a lovely programme where typically University students maraud around town in groups, terrorising poor residents until they cough up all the non-perishable foods they can reasonably surrender before we proceed to our next victims.  (We have a time frame for our looting, you know.)  Guelph consistently raises the most donations in the country, which always makes me a little proud of my University community, and we even had by far the most participants.

The collected food goes to the local food bank.  I'm really grateful for community services like food banks.   I fear that they may not run optimally, with the people who need them not having the greatest access to them.  I often hear about services relevant to me very late.  I wonder how people in more pitiable situations fare?

I'd also like to think that lowering dependence on meat in diets might help food security, as given a kilogram of meat, you could alternatively produce several more kilograms of plant matter, but I can't really say.  Meatless diets have their own complexity for maintaining health, but I've been faring well (hooray for my personal physiology).  Anyway, I know I'm quite fortunate to be able to enjoy sushi with friends, and I hope serious suffering from hunger can be eliminated within the next few generations.  Cheerio!

I'm on an edamame boat!

2011-11-02

Transient Thought

The motion simple harmonic, and the arts martial.

I like following nouns with adjectives.

Gah! D'oh!

I sometimes wish yoga was yodo instead, so it could fit better when written alongside kendo, iaido, and jodo.  However, the three -dos fit better together, as they're also the three sports administered by the Canadian Kendo Federation in Canada.  I like to describe them as:
  • kendo: learn how to actually hit people with a few well-defined principles at your discretion (sounds like ken-doh)
  • iaido: learn how to move a real sword with a broad range of well-defined traditional motions (sounds like yi-doh)
  • jodo: learn how to defend against a sword with a staff with beautiful, sensible sweeping motions (sounds like joe-doh)
I used to just do kendo, but by luck I happened upon a friend starting jodo so I joined her in that class and have stuck to it and the accompanying iaido since.   Each feels very complementary to the others.  It doesn't feel like I'm simply learning multiple arts that are similar, instead it feels like the combination helps account of the deficiencies of each so you better understand each.

However, my body's shape is also a deficient tool for these, in the quality of flexibility.  In jodo, many wide movements of mine are constricted by my tight posture.  In kendo, my reach is limited and so is the latency of my actions.

That is where yoga enters.  I started practising it again the other week to help my -dos.  Even though last year I saw kendo and yoga more as "either or", where if I had time to practise something, I should invest it in the one that was most important to me, they each offer something quite different, and I've been looking forward to resuming it for a while for improved flexibility and enjoying slow morning.  I like slow.

However, I've forgotten a lot of the details from when I last practised it occasionally, so I'm going to join a friend at her yoga class [edit: next semester].  The Internet is nice, but it's nicer still to have someone next to you who will actually give you feedback, and there are not that many AI yoga instructors with computer vision yet. :)

2011-11-01

Halloween: many nights of fright

My Halloween really started over a week ago with a Zombie hunt with friends and paintball guns, followed by scary movie nights, building my fear, with Scream 4, Sorority Row, Silent Hill, Zombieland, and the Blair Witch Project.  I suppose most of the time was spent laughing, but ah well.  I missed a Halloween costume party to attend my niece's birthday, but children are plenty frightening as is, and I enjoyed late night shenanigans, walking, baking, and watching Harry Potter with hometown friends in Flesherton.

My attempt to go as the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi sort of failed due to a wardrobe malfunction: at least I grew the hair for it.

So I ended up getting my bokuto, hakama and kendogi, and just went as a wandering samurai, which was quite well received, even among strangers on buses.  It turns out I look awesome.  Who knew?

I went Trick or Eating with friends, and we got quite the haul.  Despite not looking forward to the event, I am glad I went, even if I can't eat most of the candy spoils.
Afterwards I went with friends to late night swimming at the Athletics Centre, which introduced me to my first sauna, and the joy of swimming in the deep end and boiling in the hot tub.  I kept expecting it to devolve into a slasher flick, but no blood was spilled.

I did get a real fright when I saw a ghost at the end of the day, and ran away like a little child.  I obviously need to work on my Angry Samurai face, as my iaido instructor keeps mentioning.

Happy Halloween.

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.