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Posts Tagged ‘personal’

Of moustaches and cancer


Me (left) and Dad (right), proudly wearing our mo's

On this day three years ago, not long after I’d started to settle into my cozy place in Mississauga, I received an urgent call from my mother. My father, who had long been fighting against esophageal cancer, had passed away. There is nothing, nothing in the world that prepares you for a moment like that. Even if you know that your loved ones have fought long and hard but that their strength won’t hold out and it is only a matter of time. Even if you know that all treatment options have been tried and have failed, and all that’s left is to care for and love them in their final days. Nothing prepares you to finally be cut away from them for good. The scar that leaves on your heart can take weeks, months, even years to heal.

That picture up there? That’s me on the left and Dad on the right, both wearing our moustaches proudly. He started growing his when he was 17 and he never stopped wearing it until chemotherapy tore it away from him. In a way it was his trademark. In the span of a month I could not possibly grow a moustache that epic. But dammit I’ve tried. I participated in Movember, so for this entire month I’ve been growing a moustache (and only a moustache) to raise awareness of and funds for research into prostate cancer, which according to many sources affects 1 in 6 men.

When you fight for a cause, it helps to remind yourself of what you’re fighting for. Yes, prostate cancer is not esophageal cancer, but let’s not split hairs here: I lost my old man to cancer and I wouldn’t wish the sadness, anger, frustration, and despair that moment filled me with on my worst enemy. And so, on the third anniversary of his passing and close to the end of the month of November, I implore you to please donate generously to my Mo Space and to those of all of the friends and family around you who are participating. We have come so far in understanding and developing advanced treatments for many cancers but even so we still have far to go.

Until we get to that point, I will don this moustache on this month every year, both for Movember and to keep my father in my heart, whose moustache was a symbol of his vitality, manliness, and prestige.

Living in Kitchener


At this point, I’ve been living in Kitchener and working for PostRank for close to half a year.

I’ve got my own apartment just a short walk away from the office, which makes me happy because I get to experience living by myself for a while and because I don’t have 3+ hours of my weekdays being eaten up by transit. A great deal of my time has been reclaimed and I think I’ve been putting at least some of it to good use. This apartment also came with a cat. The previous tenant didn’t want her to have to move. I find his logic highly suspect now but I’ve always wanted to own a cat anyway and now I do. She’s adorable and unlike her previous owner, I fully intend to take her with me wherever I should end up next.

The job is awesome. I don’t think I can say it often enough. These last six months have been filled with new things to learn and new challenges to tackle, all in a field that I find infinitely more interesting than anything I’ve done before. I sometimes forget that I get paid to do this. I feel like I’ve truly progressed as a developer and I still see a long road ahead.

But that’s not to say it has been all sunshine and rainbows, either. I thought I’d have an easy time making friends in the new city, with University of Waterloo’s world-renowned Computer Science programme drawing geeks like flies to honey. What I failed to realize is that means nothing if I never have opportunities to interact with those people at all. Kitchener-Waterloo has a student bubble and I’m very clearly outside of it.

Being a smaller city, there also aren’t as many established meetup groups for my various geeky interests in town. Some of my hobbies that were previously social outlets have become not so because I can’t find groups that engage in them and don’t have the connections to effectively bootstrap my own. For example, as far as I can tell there is no Japanese culture or language exchange group in KW. Absolutely none. My main source of Japanese speaking practice and one of my social outlets is simply gone. I’d create my own group if I knew some native Japanese speakers in KW but I don’t — if I did I’d have no need for such a group in the first place!

I haven’t yet established a circle of friends here like I had in Toronto and I miss so many people that I used to hang out with there. My once-a-month trip back to TO for Last Friday Karaoke and to visit my family is not nearly enough but without a car or license to drive one, being in Toronto more often than that simply isn’t practical. But I need to give it time. Almost my entire life has been spent in Toronto or the GTA; I can’t reasonably expect to rebuild everything in six months.

Overall this move has been worth it. This is an important step in my career and personal development. The trials I face now will teach me valuable lessons and the rest of my life will be so much richer for it.

Another New Chapter


Today is my last day with the Society.

After this, I’m packing my things and moving to Kitchener/Waterloo because I will soon be joining my good friend and perfect pair (programmer), maplealmond at PostRank. I’ve got a place to stay temporarily but will be starting a very serious apartment hunt soon after my first day at the new job.

I’m excited at the opportunity to further expand my current Ruby/Rails skills and learn even more new ones while working on a team that is strongly dedicated to producing top-quality code. This new gig will also give me a chance to apply my skills to problems surrounding social media, a topic I’ve become deeply interested in since I’ve been networking with many social media professionals in Toronto.

That all said, I have liked working on this project with the Society and I will miss the people who I’ve been working with these past 11 (or so) months. Particularly, I will miss my manager, who has been excellent to work with. Together, we have achieved a lot in a relatively short period of time. I will miss many others in Toronto, including my family, my friends, and various social groups that I have met with from time to time. I may find myself unable to attend Rails Pub Nite; I will miss every single one of you!

Last Friday Karaoke shall continue, but there will be a special session this month. I’ll be at Anime North on the last weekend of May so I’ve decided that Last Friday Karaoke will be on the second-last weekend of May instead. It turns out that will be the weekend just after my birthday, so Last Friday Karaoke will become Second-Last Friday (or Saturday?) Karaoke, Birthday Edition.  ;)

The Japanese Learner continues to pod-fade, even after PodCamp TO 2010 got me so fired up to do it again. Hopefully I can find some people interested in recording the show with me in Kitchener/Waterloo. With commuting to/from work eating up way less of the hours in my week, I can squeeze in some more Japanese study and podcast work.

I have also been working on a new secret pet project. Hints: it involves Rails 3, GitHub, and has prompted some contributions to Wynn Netherland‘s octopussy, a Ruby wrapper around version 2 of the GitHub API.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: where one adventure ends, another begins.

Looking Forward to 2010


2009 has been a year of turbulent change for me.

Near the beginning of the year, I decided that I needed to switch gears in my career. I made a very dedicated push towards becoming a full-time Ruby developer, leaving my comfortable position as a J2EE web content management and identity management specialist. My leisure time was consumed with sharpening my Ruby skills and learning new technologies. I made Rails Pub Nite a monthly ritual and networked like crazy on just about every networking site I could. I followed a number of job site feeds and sent out many cover letters and resumes.

Finally, my break came from a very unlikely source: Facebook. I posted to a Ruby on Rails group on Facebook to advertise my skills and experience and offer my services. This was seen by the Systems Manager at the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, who asked me to send her my resume. I did so gladly and not too long after that I was asked in for an interview.

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Rediscovering my music


Years ago, I was torn between two passions. I had loved tinkering with computers and other electronic gadgets since I was as young as 10 (possibly younger!). But I also played the piano, taking lessons with my sisters and playing around with melodies and chords on the keys when I wasn’t practicing my lesson pieces.

That love of music carried into high school. I had stopped playing piano but in music class I picked up the clarinet quite quickly. I transferred to another school after grade 9 because the school I was in was planning to cut their music program entirely and I could not imagine being without it. At my new school, I was blown away when I heard the excellent performances of the senior jazz band and ensembles. I was fiercely determined to play with them but not many modern jazz arrangements called for a clarinet. So I learned to play saxophones.

At the same time, I continued tinkering with computers, teaching myself how to program because I wanted to program video games one day. An exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre featuring the “new” graphical web browsers, Netscape and Mosaic, inspired me to try my own hand at web publishing as soon as we were able to get connected to the Internet. In high school programming classes, I was well ahead of the curve, frequently finishing assignments meant to take hours in a matter of minutes.

And so, when I graduated from high school and decided I wanted to go to university, I had a difficult choice to make: which of these two things would I choose to focus on?
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Creepy Rails Error Message


Below is a screenshot of an error I received from my day job Rails app while I was testing it yesterday. I think it might be trying to tell me something…

Could not find workitem with ID=666

Could not find workitem with ID=666

I got this when I was following a link to open a work item that no longer existed in the database. I caught it in time to make a screenshot and circulate to everyone in the office before moving on with my work.

Happy Halloween, everyone! =D

In other news, I’m being asked to look over the Japanese translation of Radiant again, which I will find some time to do in the next week or so. I think I’ve found a new place to record my podcast so I’m looking forward to producing episodes of The Japanese Learner again early in November.

Things I Want for My Android


Here’s a short list of things I’d really like to see for Android that I haven’t found yet.  Maybe some of these exist, but I’m experimenting with the SDK to see if I can’t fill some of these holes myself.

  • Facebook Contact Sync:  There’s an application for downloading Facebook profile pictures and associating them with Google/phone contacts but I wouldn’t mind being able to synchronize contact data too.  There are so many people whose phone numbers and e-mail addresses I can only retrieve via Facebook that this kind of application would save me a lot of time.
  • Facebook Application: As I wrote in my previous post, there’s no decent Facebook application for the Android.  I’d be happy with a fairly lightweight interface that just allows me to follow my friends updates, access my inbox, and browse profiles and photos.
  • Freshbooks Time Tracker:  Freshbooks created one for the iPhone, but there doesn’t seem to be one for Android.  Just the basic functionality of being able to select a project and task, start/pause/stop a timer, and submit the hours to Freshbooks would be plenty for me.
  • Package Tracker that works with Canada Post:  I’ve seen package trackers for other carriers but none for Canada Post.  Android has only just been released in Canada, so maybe it’s just a matter of time.
  • Things (Cultured Code) Sync:  Cultured Code has a Things for iPhone, but there is no Things for Android.  I’ve sent in a feature request but have received no answer as of yet.  I imagine that they probably don’t care, seeing as it’s a Mac-only app.  =(
  • A Real Japanese IME:  There are a number of applications that serve as an IME for Japanese but none are integrated into the Android Input Method Framework. Instead, I must open the application via an ongoing notification, enter my text, and then copy and paste it into the text box that I was intending to type into.  I’ve also recently noticed that this interferes with the software keyboard that I recently downloaded.  I can’t use “Touch Input” and one of these programs at the same time because Touch Input helpfully corrects my romaji into English words.  >_<

Is it May already?!


Wow.  I registered at the beginning of this year and started working on a new theme for it.  I didn’t imagine it would take me 5 months to finish.  Along the way, some crazy personal stuff happened, but I finally got my new blog theme all done and uploaded.

Now that I’ve themed this blog to my liking, it’s time to start writing in it!  But I’ve got “First Post” syndrome all over again. What do I say first?  It’s probably best I sleep for now and let the ideas flow.