December 31, 2006

This has been a relaxing winter break indeed and I am ready to hit the books/numbers/whatever again.

Met up with high school, college and past work friends. Pondered over very tender lamb souvlaki at Pan on the Danforth; got invited to a wedding. Split a joyful bottle of Beaujolais Villages at Serra; Eddie, Andrew, Durgesh, Jenny, Denise and I made a toast for Wei and Hong. Sighed over Cora's raspberry cream cheese omelette. Shopped at St Lawrence Market with June; I purchased cherries. Inhaled 11 pretty dishes at Sushi Train.

Visited Casa Loma with parents. Apparently the guy was the first president of the Toronto Stock Exchange. The marble bathroom is insane. Lunched at Pho Hung, where Kevin and I used to study for actuarial exams.

Went skiing with Greg at Horseshoe. First encounter with snow blowers, rather magical if not blinding.

December 27, 2006

This happy state, which Mr Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”, arises most often in work that stretches a person without defeating him; work that provides “clear goals”, “unambiguous feedback” and a “sense of control”.

New Year's resolution for work: envision myself as being in control of the situation, which is not always easy when you work in consulting; impart “clear goals” and “unambiguous feedback” to others as much as possible.

Random reads this week:
& Paul Well's The Parisian Candidate
& The Economist on Selling pessimism
& Only fairness will assuage the anxious middle
& Best Coffee 2006 according to Citysearch Chicago :)

Random viewings this week:
& On really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion.
& Happy endings are just stories that haven't finished yet.

December 25, 2006

I saw two Chinese films recently.

Qing sent me a copy of Crazy Stone. I love the slick style (critical actions are shown from multiple perspectives) against the roughness of daily existence (public toilets, nuf said). From the HK specialist with his high tech gear to the petty thief that steals the gear and proceeds to play out his own Mission Impossible role, it's beyond clever. Two men bestow two jade pendants upon two women. By twists of the plot, both pendants are real, which only serves to highlight how unreal many people are.

Steven Chen gave me a copy of Qian li zou dan qi when he visited Chicago. The execution is classic Zhang Yi Mou. It always throws me off a little to see amateur actors playing eponymous characters. Are they playing their real selves? Are the feelings they exhibit somehow more real than, for example, Ken Takakura's perfect quiet? I can barely play myself in real life without throwing a fit of identity crisis.

December 24, 2006

While at Rachel's place, I saw a show on Phoenix about the housing situation in China. The question at hand was whether the price at which land is purchased by developers from the government should be revealed to the public. Two guests, an economics professor and a real estate developer, argued vigorous. The real estate guy defended the practice of real estate developers, as can be expected. The economics professor, surprisingly, knows nothing about economics. He believes that input price transparency is a necessary feature of market economy.

One member of the audience was smart enough to stand up and say that the current situation is only superficially connected with input price transparency and has everything to do with government corruption i.e. input price transparency is only effective to the extent that it alleviates corruption. It's nice to see ordinary citizens condemning corruption on TV; but corruption is human nature and cannot be controlled without law and a properly independent legal system. Cough, watered-down Accountability Act, cough.

December 23, 2006

Kicked off my Christmas vacation by seeing Wicked on Saturday with Greg. The voice of Shoshanna Bean is wicked! I had a fun time comparing and contrasting the book and the script; it was mostly faithful. The happily ever after made me feel slightly ill, but that seems to be the very definition of a musical.

After braving the rain for a few blocks, we sat down at the chef's table in Jamie Kennedy and watched as plates were decorated with foie gras and chicken liver pate. The fact that foie gras is no longer legal in Chicago makes it melt in my mouth just that much faster. I spent a couple minutes sniffing my glass of Gewürztraminer (2004 Rolly Gassman). Jo Malone needs to make this scent. It was a mistake to drink the Riesling (2004 Bonny Doon) at the same time, since it literally paled in comparison. The Sauvignon Blanc (2004 Jérôme Sauvète Touraine) provided a beautifully citrusy follow up.

Despite being more than satisfied, I partook in my millionth crepe at Marche while BCE place glistened with a million fire flies.

December 17, 2006

Wednesday night, we celebrated Neel's last day as a coop at Fogo de Chão, which is definitely not the place to practice Hari Hachi Bu. 16 different cuts of meat danced by our table; the rump steak was interesting but I am partial to the lamb chop. I also took the opportunity to meet the acquaintance of an incandescent Grenache from Clarendon Hills. I wasn't particularly impressed the last few times that I tried Australian Shiraz but now I'm definitely open to more Rhone-style reds from down under.

Friday night. Christmas party. Too many shots of Patrón. Presto Agitato.

Saturday, met up with Neeta at Julius Mienl for brunch. We started with the soothing Frittaten soup. I then proceeded with a motif of hazelnut atop a pear and blue cheese strudel salad. The third movement involved dark roast coffee, naturellement, and hazelnut cupcake from Sensational Bites.

Hilariously, Jay Chou's Nocturne is inspiring me to listen to real Chopin.

December 10, 2006

Wednesday, attended full council meeting at Chicago Foundation for Women's office. We threw around a lot of ideas for next year so it should be interesting.

Friday, saw the raptors play against the bulls at the United Center with Steven Chen and co. Since I know next to nothing about basketball, I looked up all the players on wikipedia, which describes the Toronto Raptors as having "an excellent, but success-starved fan base". I also watched the luvabulls with a great deal of interest since I haven't seen that kind of hair gel usage in a while. Finally had the Numero Uno at Pizzeria Uno. As much as eating pizza after midnight is not my thing, it was great!

Saturday, visited Museum of Science and Industry with Sandra. I saw Wired to Win, a film based on the Tour de France, at the Omnimax. Both the sweeping view of the French countryside and the degree of motivation demonstrated by the racers were impressive. The multimedia structure of the U505 exhibit is very clever. Did you know that the only German submarine in the United States is in a museum in Chicago?

Sunday, mailed Christmas cards of the following design to Ontario, Quebec, BC, NY, MA, WA, UK, Spain.

Planning my next trip to Europe: Vienna a la Before Sunrise, inspired by postcard from Xi. Yes, I'm always planning to go somewhere, to escape the familiar in order to find it anew.

Reading: Craigslist Meets the Capitalists

December 5, 2006

If Ignatieff deserves to be prime minister because he was on the cover of GQ, Dion because his husky is named Kyoto. I'm convinced that Kyoto will, before long, kick Harper's ass.

Happily, both Harper and Dion claim to be inspired by Trudeau and his motto La raison avant la passion. But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, since Harper's big head did not save us from policies based on the rigorous principle of instant gratification ...

Reading: Goldman launches hedge fund clone

December 3, 2006

Wednesday, hung out with the Milliman Waterloo crowd at Sigara Lounge. The fact that we have a Milliman Waterloo crowd is rather scary.

Friday, checked out Joe Hall Dancers. Bad weather meant that I only had to share the attention of the instructor with two other students. Andersonville (Berwyn & Clark) was having a Christmas sale with live music and all. Stumbled into the largest Swedish delicatessen in the United States and walked out with cabbage rolls and pickled herring.

Saturday, dim sum and grocery shopping in Chinatown. Got new jar of coconut curry sauce! Partied at the Gramercy and Mark Hadley's table in Sound Bar. Saw this movie called Hostel where a Japanese girl kills herself because she is ugly. Now that's horrifying. Went to sleep past 6 am.

Sunday, got up at 8 am due to hunger. Cooked mac and cheese. Went shopping with Hua for Christmas gift for his girlfriend. He couldn't find Vichy but harvested two bags at Coach for the girlfriend. Drank hot tea on the top of John Hancock. Really couldn't handle alcohol with lack of sleep. Ate stuffed pepper at foodlife. Fell into bed. Thud.

November 28, 2006

The Economist now offers weekly podcasts but I absorb information much better when reading.

If the Parliament of Canada - Parlement du Canada were to do the same, this week's would be as follows:

"The Québécois is a nation"
«Les Québécois forment une nation»

"The Québécois is a nation within a united Canada"
«Les Québécois forment une nation au sein d'un Canada uni»

"The Québécois is a nation currently within Canada"
«Les Québécois forment une nation actuellement au sein du Canada»

All this drama has shown that Ignatieff is at least as opportunistic as Harper. I have decided that I prefer Dion's approach: "let's focus on things that actually matter to average Canadians." Also, I really want this to happen.

Reading: The Dean Martin Show

November 25, 2006

Extra large shrimp dumplings at Cameron's. Toured KS's condo and admired his new room with smartboard on the 6th floor. Research is incremental.

Waffle at Symposium with Jenny who should definitely come back to Chicago =P

Mouth Watering Chicken & bubble tea with Brish who flirts with potentially transatlantic romance. Do people actually eat Gong Bao Ji Ding in China? TBE

November 21, 2006

Greg visits. Beaujolais Nouveau at Brasserie Jo.

The perfect table at the Signature Lounge. Bourgeois Pig + Lavazza = No Such Thing as Too Much Coffee. Tortellone anatra ubriaco at Rose Angelis. I need to learn to make a cognac reduction. TBE

November 15, 2006

I decided that I need to stop making four-months plans a la coop and start making two-year plans. To enhance lighting during bleak winter months, I purchased a floor mirror from Crate & Barrel. I have scheduled time to frame the prints that I purchased with Denise and to paint the canvas from Jenny. Also promising self to attend dance classes regularly.

Life Consultant Forum TBE

November 10, 2006

I'm on the circulation list for a magazine that costs $1,341 a year to subscribe. What does it provide? Sexy photos of bankers with captions such as "As the market develops, hedge funds will be far bigger users of liquidity".

November 5, 2006

Denise visits again. Tru. Borat. Shopping in Lincoln Park. DOC Wine Bar. Posters. TBE

October 29, 2006

Wednesday, Chris & Co performed at Apollo Theatre. Sunday, Niagara on the Lake trip with Greg. TBE

October 16, 2006

Bob Rae on budge deficit: "it's better to make errors because you have heart, because you have a conscience." Are you aware of the fact that you are not running for the leader of the NDP?

October 8, 2006

Whenever this time of the year rolls around, I find myself wondering about the elliptical nature of time. Sadly, I had spent four of the past five falls studying for actuarial exams. Annual subscription to McSweeney's Quarterly Concern: $55. Tall Starbucks latte: $2.51. An afternoon with poetic prose and coffee: Pricele$$.

Thursday, got invited to dine at Moto by random luck. Definitely the most innovative comestibles that I have ever tasted. But, with liquid nitrogen sprayed right in front of your face, it felt rather like a science experiment. The wine, on the other hand, sigh ...

prager, WEITENBERG SMARAGD, gruner veltliner, wachau 2004 // domdechant werner, HOCHEIMER HOLLE KABINETT, riesling, rheingau 2002 // waugh cellars, INDINDOLI VINEYARD, chardonnay, russian river valley 2004 // la rioja alta, VINA ALBERDI RESERVA, rioja 2000 // holloran, LE PAVILLON, pinot noir, dundee hills 2004 // chateau loupiac-gaudiet, loupiac 2001 // elio perrone, SOURGAL, moscato d’asti, piedmont 2005

Saturday, hiking at Starved Rock State Park. This part of the USA is definitely lacking in dramatic reds but the weather was beautiful and it provided a nice change of scenery and pace.

October 1, 2006

I always say that I love films. But, really, how often do I see one? What I do spend a great deal of time doing is reading film reviews.

The Illusionist received raving reviews. This Sun Times article intrigued me by quoting Godard: "cinema is the truth 24 times per second". But it's not the sort of film (love story with astounding cinematography) I see these days; I think I OD'ed on the English Patient and Cold Mountain years ago.

New York Times reviews Be With Me and describes "cyber styles of instant communication, with abbreviated words and phrases, in which a relationship can be erased by pressing delete." This is why I don't chat online anymore. I have felt the urge to delete just about every single person that I care to speak with, usually because I am convinced that they have rejected some idea that is important to me, therefore they have rejected me. Totally rational, right? But I am not into stories that are really a million sub-stories unless it's as clever as Magnolia (every character singing about loneliness in harmony with each other), so I don't think I will see this one either.

What I can't seem to get enough of is magic realism; The science of Sleep made tiny explosions on my dilated pupils. I know it's too much of too much (just click on the website) but the word overdose does not exist in that world. It's about this guy who designs calendars where each month features a great disaster. He falls in love with this girl that makes boats full of trees and gives her a time machine. In conclusion, perfect date movie.