September 26, 2006

I never seem to have time to transcribe thoughts that transpire when I travel. Arriving home from Grand Canyon, I am too busy doing laundry to write. Boston visit still needs to be noted. Seattle trip still work in progress. Europe flickers. Memories congeal as the fervor of the moment disperses. And I used to dream about being a travel writer.

I picked up the National Geographic book for the five hour ride from Phoenix to the rim. The author uses the word ecumenical to describe the canyon. It puzzled me for a moment. What can he mean? That regardless of faith we can all find god in this hole in the earth?

P.S. Finally passed course 7. Since Rome is built on 7 hills and effective people possess 7 habits, 7 must be the magic number.

September 16, 2006

Walking along the highway. Desert Botanial Garden. Fei Fei. Camelback Mountain. Heard Museum. Taliesin West. David. Hike into paradise. WIP.

September 13, 2006

New York Times ran a funny article about Condoleezza Rice and Peter MacKay. MacKay said, "Something else Iíve learned about Secretary Rice is she loves the cool Atlantic breezes here in Nova Scotia, and she left the window open last night." Let's see ... MacKay does not support multi-lateral diplomacy because he would rather have Condoleezza all to himself.

I have recently spent a great deal of time reading about Liberal leadership candidates. A couple weeks ago, Michael Valpy wrote a memorable piece called Being Michael Ignatieff.

I like how Ignatieff does not fall neatly into the spectrum. That is to say, he does not believe certain things simply because they are supposed to represent Liberal Canadian values. But this will surely change as he becomes more of a politican. Someone once said to me, if you love acting but aren't good looking enough for Hollywood, politics is the way to go. But as a politican, you have to act 24/7. Who are you if you are not the role you play 24/7?

For most of the population, it is easy to not change; for the rest, change is a more natural state of being. Friction between the two is unavoidable. A fair number of paragraphs focused on the pain he caused others as he re-invented himself. But change is also painful for the one that seeks it. As much as I believe that a great deal of human achievement is attained by those that can dedicate their entire lives to one career and one cause, I worry that sort of dedication is itself narrowing. Reading about Ignatieff makes me realize how few people in this world are truly dynamic.

Due to the situation in Iraq, his belief that violence is necessary to stop violence turns off a segment of the Liberal party. Paul Wells calls Ignatieff "the Keith's India Pale Ale of Liberal leadership candidates". Since his masters thesis is about prisons during the industrial revolution, I can understand where he is coming from; most Canadians would agree that prisons as a means of law enforcement is necessary. (But I think welfare to guarantee minimal standards of living is a more important contributor to our safety.)

In conclusion, it's about time that we get a prime minister that has appeared on the cover of GQ.

September 5, 2006

Yesterday I saw a good movie called Wait 'Til You're Older, which must be the worst movie title translation ever, but I have a hard time not falling for movies with touches of magic realism. It's about a boy, a little boy, growing up, growing up really fast, and seeking closure for matters of the past.

In the process, he heals every bleeding idiot in his path, one of whom happens to be his science teacher, who is in love with the vice principal, who is engaged to another teacher. As it goes, every time the vice principal wants to meet with the science teacher secretly, he would leave a happy face on the black board outside her classroom.

The day the science teacher discovered that the vice principal is going to marry the other teacher after all, she draws tears on the happy face and refuses to reconcile with the happy couple. The little boy adds a speech bubble to the crying-happy face. "Sorry", it says. The science teacher sees this and comes back to life.

What is closure but a word, a simple moment that one party simply cannot grant? But for all practical purposes, where can one find the intructions for the DIY version of the service offered in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Does it work if you prick yourself with a safety pin, drink enough ice water until you feel numb and then proceed to hold your breath till you've killed enough brain cells to forget?

September 4, 2006

On route to the restaurant, I walked through Korean Town and Little Italy. Heading home, I took the College Streetcar which noisily negotiates Chinatown, Little India and Riverdale. I like playing tourist.

Friday: Patio dinner with Wei, Hong, Eddie & Andrew at Kalendar. I found both the smoked chicken nannette & the fennel sausage scroll interesting. Followed by macchiato at Cucina and conversations on how to land a job that makes you feel alive rather than dead.

Sunday: Cooked lemon grass pork with yellow pepper and snow peas for Denise and Stephen. Complimented Denise on her super cute new haircut. Sang Stephanie Sun songs with piano accompaniment from Stephen.

Monday: Brunched with Greg on the patio at Sassafraz. We were joined by a number of bees. The Pacific Crab Quiche was delicious and the 2005 Cave Spring Riesling Off Dry was super fresh. Under the shifting clouds and two drops of sunshine, we walked by Queen's Park and the UT Law Library. He used to study for CFA exams there and I SOA courses. The key point being "used to".

August 31, 2006

Jenny provided me with breakfast in bed this week =P

Last Thursday, attended a energy risk management talk organized by prmia. It was interesting hearing about how the energy market has changed in the United States over the last couple decades. Makes me wonder what else we can put a price tag on, in a good way.

Friday: sushi wabi with Matt, his sister, Derek, Kevin and Jenny. I'm getting tired of chichi fusion rolls so I went for the alaska (smoked salmon, fresh crabmeat, avocado, sesame seeds). Afterwards, we went for a bit of mochaccino. Both Jenny and I got heart-shaped tufts of whipped cream.

Saturday: lunched with Inessa at Veggie Diner. At first I was hesitant because, as much as I love tofu, I can't stand tofu that's supposed to taste like meat/cheese/etc. But both the veggie burger and the Red Pepper Ravioli had very natural textures.

This Thursday, celebrated Jenny's last day with Daren, Sam, Chris O, Arvind and Neel at Japonais. Super fresh o-toro + 2 bottles of super smooth "wandering poet" sake so named for Li Bai. Everyone offered thoughts on Sam's favorite colour (watery grave) and Sam promised to write 100 poems afterwards.

August 22, 2006

Last Sunday, Jenny's friend Clair came to Chicago for a visit and we listen to Anoushka Shankar from the steps of the Pritzker Pavilion. Not knowing much about Indian music, I was at times confused what was instrumental versus electronic. Still, I liked the touch. Speaking of music, FIR has a new disc. I want. I want. I want.

Friday, dropped by Jeff G's party before hanging out with Lisa aka Alpha-Girl at Japonais. Of all the people I know in Chicago, I think I have done the least to decorate my apartment. As much as I want to, I cannot commit myself to living in Chicago.

This Sunday, we celebrated Matt's bday at Lucky Strike. Although extremely inconsistent, I am no longer consistently bad at bowling.

Tuesday, finally took part in the film in a park phenomenon and watched "On the Waterfront". It's hard to not find a city twinkling in the dark romantic but I missed the exuberant crowd at Bryant Park.

August 20, 2006

I stole this book from my coworker and have just started reading it. It's very zen in a "be one with volatility" sorta way. My favorite quote so far: "Optionality transcends the details". Does that imply optionality transcends God?

Second paragraph from the preface: "I clambered up to my attic where, during 6 entire months, I spent 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, immersed in probability theory, numerical analysis, and mathematical statistics. Then I began to write this book." Comments such as this make me think that I would never make it as a researcher.

Given the recent buzz surrounding Indra Nooyi, I read a number of articles about her. She talks about "Reading a book every day from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. To keep me being a real person." Comments such as this make me think that I would never make it as a real person.

August 11, 2006

Tanya P just moved out of Presidential Tower and into an apartment building near Dearborn and Delaware. I thought that entire area was covered with neon signs and bars but it's surprisingly full of trees and streetlight. She hosted a party and half the office showed up. Afterwards, we hit Bella, which was not exceptional in any way, except perhaps for the female waitstaff.

A couple weeks ago, Leanne invented the concept of a "Women of FRM" party and cooked delicious Coq Au Vin; Jenny D made an amazing cake. Afterwards, we went to Elephant & Castle to celebrate Juan Carlos' second last day at the Chicago office. Sam told a tale of an one-day cross-canyon traversal, where canyon refers to the Grand Canyon, that 'destroyed' his relationship with a couple grad school buddies. If I had the talent, I would write a short story based on this. Situations that push physical impossibility are great for exploring personal truths.

For Juan Carlos's last day at the Chicago office, we went to this place called Durkin's. Apparently, every Thursday, every patron receives a number as they enter and you can contact strangers via messages. Um ... how high school is this? But it amused me to see girls sending guys notes like, "Why didn't you show up last week? I bet you want me now." Women are unstoppable.

August 10, 2006

In some ways, I am such an immature person that it surprises even myself. Obviously, it's important to get along with everybody well enough to get things done and get where you want to go. At the end of the day, my inability to do so will make me the loser. So that's one thing I'm working on right now.

Another thing: folding Tare Panda origami =)

August 2, 2006

The temperature is insane this week and I have been having Jamba Juice for lunch; fav flavour is Green Tea Mist. But Wednesday, Sam, Chris C, Jenny J and I celebrated Arvind's first day at VTK. I think I'm loving VTK again; the citrus curry is uncanny, as is the dressing for the grilled beef salad (remind self to try chopped mint leaf in salad), as is the ginger creme brulee.

Cooking-wise, I purchased some pretty amazing lemon grass sauce and coconut curry paste recently. Both lemon grass pork chop and coconut curry chicken were success stories.

Also started doing the Millennium Park Workout on Saturday mornings. There is Pilates at 9 and Ethnic Dance at 10. Doing sit-ups while gazing through the overhead trellis of the (Frank Gehry-designed ;) Pritzker Pavilion is an experience that cannot be described in words or captured in photos. Afterwards, I stroll home along the Lake. Can life possibly get better than this?

July 30, 2006

Boating with Jenny & Jack. Blue dragonfly. Taro curry. WIP.

July 22, 2006

Friday, Greg and I met up for the prelude to the Beach Jazz Festival at the Distillery District. Never knew there was such a neighbourhood in Toronto. It's over-the-head trendy but I enjoyed browsing through items such as anthropomorphous knife holders. We checked out an amazing a cappella group called Cadence. I was thoroughly impressed by their instrumental imitation and geekiness.

We went to Young Thailand for dinner. The "Tiger Shrimps Steamed in Butter and White Wine with Glass Noodles, Sweet Peppers, Sweet Basil Leaves, Coriander, Lime Juice and Garlic" was to die for and priced at 11.95. Toronto is definitely the place for cheap and chic Asian food.

Saturday, finally met up with Stephen and Denise again at Marche at BCE place. Stephen is reading ... gasp ... "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". I always felt that Stephen would better fulfill his potential if he had a stronger sense of direction. But, at the same time, I admire people who are so talented yet so easy-going.

Afterwards, Stephen and I played a dance game called Groove in his dorm room set in a beautifully ancient-looking building on the UT campus. We finished off with sushi pizza & beef sashimi at Sushi Inn. Achievement of the day: I consumed the mayo on the sushi pizza without feeling sick.

A couple days ago, I ordered a sandwich at Pot Belly. I always ask for no mayo but the person laid it on thick regardless, so I stared at him in horror until he wiped it off. I felt kind of mean but why is it automatically assumed that we want mayo and whipped cream with everything?

July 20, 2006

A while ago, when I told someone what I would like to do with my life, he said I should consider joining Peace Corps. It's obviously not feasible given that I am not an American citizen, but I thought I would check out the website, where I discovered that I do not possess any of the qualifications necessary.

In a desperate attempt to identify which skills I do possess, I rewrote my resume, which turned out to be a very depressing process. To take a more positive approach, I decided to write a resume for my future self instead i.e. listing skills that I would like to acquire and dreaming up experiences which would allow me to acquire them.

Now I am in a much better mood but, alas, I have a long way to go.

July 19, 2006

Jenny Z. is staying with me this week.

Monday night, we had Green Turtle and Crazy Chicago at Oysy. Around midnight, there was a horrendous thunderstorm and we watched the sky turn pale blue.

Tuesday, we walked up along the lake. The water was especially beautiful the moment after sunset. The sailboats knocked against the anchors like windchimes. As we traversed the plaza in front of Aon center, fireworks echoed in the valley of skyscapers. The view from Michigan bridge was postcard-like but what followed was even more impressive: the explosions were perfectly reflected on the buildings north of the river. Now that's contextualism!

In a near-empty theatre, we watched an inconvenient truth. It was pointed out that, if ice over Greenland melted, the world trade center memorial would be under water. So much for "never again". I am not one to pretend that terrorism is not a problem but, in solving larger problems together, we will appreciate the smallness of our differences. I bet we won't be deporting illegal immigrants that work as volunteer firefighters (it was on the news this morning) if the USA is under a sheet of ice, a la the Day after Tomorrow.

This film was so much more action-packed than most action movies and, from pseudo-Simpsons to breaking ice, the images were startling. I am somewhat familiar with the facts surrounding climate change. What really surprised me was the statistic reflecting that many articles published in popular media in the United States suggested that global warming may not be a real problem. Real evil is so subtle.

Al Gore's perspective was interesting. All political careers end in failure but some have a point.

Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?

July 15, 2006

Seattle, the other city built on seven hills. Pike Market. Mick's Cabernet Jelly for Eric & Denise. Underground Tour. Manga & Bitter Lemon. View from Queen Anne Hill. Really really really good coffee. Harbour cruise. BBQ and poker. Rushing through beautiful Alkai Beach & Fremont. WIP.

July 4, 2006

Shirley came to Chicago for the Future Actuary meeting. We had dinner at VTK and somehow it wasn't as good as I remembered. I think I must have it confused with the Vong on East 54th.

Seeing people juggling classes and extra-curricular activities make me miss school dearly. Organizing the conference, preparing the sponsorship package, revamping the website ... the Waterloo ASNA team must so busy! I'm super jealous >.<

So much for the long weekend. I worked everyday except July 3, when Megan, Keith, Jenny and I went to Grant Park for the concert + fireworks. Christopher Bell makes an amusing conductor. When helicoptors flew by, he gave them long evil stares.

Ironically, I feel that I am not dedicating as much to work as I should because I am working too many hours. Thinking back to the goals that I set myself at the beginning of the year, I realize that I haven't accomplished any. Being busy is an easy excuse for not doing the extra things that make work truly interesting, like searching for alternative solutions and wider applications.