I [Don't] Got Rhythm

For those of you following the chest pains I had recently, it seems like the results came back fine. Blood work and x-ray all were negative for heart damage/MI. The one notable thing was that my EKG showed a sinus arrhythmia--it's possibly worth getting checked out, but it likely means nothing: it can be caused by anything from a weekend of heavy drinking (not the case, this time) to nervousness or heavy exercise.

So basically, my heart doesn't have rhythm. Man. Another reason why it sucks being Asian.

For those of you who haven't heard my rants before, it seems that in the soul department, Asians are even more whitebread than white folks. Think about it: how many Asians in the NBA? "Um, we got Yao, and, um..." We don't have game, we don't have rhythm (ok, so we're up there with the Jews in the classical music department), and we don't got soul (yeah.... think about it... "And now, if you'll pleeeease welcome, straight outta Shikoku, Japanese buh-lues singer, Bliiind Lemon Maki!!!" No, I didn't think so either.)

In random other updates, I finished up a draft of the conference paper over this weekend, so I'm now doing the painful editing/incorporating comments/cleanup phase. I think I'll be much happier once it is in, on Friday.


Cool. One of the other locals recently posted in his LJ that there is a Craigslist for the area now. I haven't made use of it yet, but I'm hoping that there will be enough traffic on it to be useful. I am trying to get rid of the wrong HP toner cartridge that I bought by accident and can't return; also, I might want to sell off some of my stuff before I leave the area.

In case you're curious, yes, I did bother checking the personals, just out of curiosity. And no, not the 'casual encounters' section. There's actually nothing in either 'men seeking women' or 'women seeking men.'

It seems like a difficult "starting problem"--who wants to be the first (and possibly only) personal up on Craigslist? Seems like it could easily be a shoot-the-moon low spot on the pathos scale.

PS--I know that some of you (you know who you are) are probably are thinking of writing a personal ad for me. Be warned: surely, no good can come of this.

Fellini's La Strada

I know that movie reviews are typically not part of my blog, but I have to make an exception for this case. I recently rented and watched Frederico Fellini's film La Strada (1954); I went in with the hesitant conviction of, "Yes, it's supposed to be a great film, I know, it'll be good for me." As background, the Fellini films I have seen are Roma (1972), and (1963). They, in my mind, define the word Felliniesque: totally surreal and dream-like, not much of a linear plot, and you realize that there is probably a whole lot of great art flying right over your head. And the music... oh the music from 8½--it's like a character in itself. However, in those two films I mentioned, there's not really a story or a set of characters that draws you in on a personal level, or engages your empathy.

La Strada is not like that at all. It is a touching, almost fable-like story, told in a relatively simple, straightforward (but still artful) manner. I watched it straight through, and then sat through the commentary track version the same night. I now put it, along with Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, in the category of 'wonderfully sad but amazingly good old films.'

As a side note, despite my complaints about the genetic material I inherited from my father, I have to acknowledge that I received an appreciation and knowledge of older films from him. Not to say that I'm a real film buff or expert: there are some people (like Judy) who could provide a running commentary on the cinematography and composition of whatever we are watching--I can't hold a candle to that.

But anyway, back to La Strada. One of the three lead characters (Gelsomina) is played by Giulietta Masina, who was Fellini's wife. She was a delight to watch throughout the film--a natural clown, and a face that generates drama just when you look at it. I defy you to watch this film and not fall in love her character, at least a little bit. I've read opinions that somebody with her looks could probably not find work nowadays, which I find very sad but probably true. [Insert nasty remark about generic current A-list actress here.]

So, if you get a chance, watch the film. Next on my rental list is another Fellini/Masina work... I'm glad to keep the local artsy video store in business, as opposed to the Blockbuster equivalents.


Yay bagels!

I was informed a couple of months ago that the local bagel store was closing, which is the only place in town with authentic bagels, as opposed to goyische dinner rolls with a hole through the middle. This made me very sad:

In very unfortunate news, it appears that the authentic New York style bagel shop that I mentioned earlier is closing down. Dammit. No way I'm staying for a PhD now. [grin]

However, I passed by the place on my way to get some medical tests done (more on this later), and it was open! It turns out that the owner had given up and was trying to sell the place around Christmas but had no takers, so he decided to reopen. So he is back in business, however tenuously, and he's still a bitter nutjob. Similar to those environmentalists whose work consumes their lives but end up being unable to halt destruction of natural habitats. Or, say, democrats who have any sense of realism [smirk]. (Note that this is being said from a sympathetic point of view--similar to the Will Rogers quote: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.")

So anyway, if you're local, go buy bagels! Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 7:30 A to 2 P. I am currently enjoying an onion bagel with lox cream cheese, fresh cracked pepper, and capers. Mmm mmm mm...

[But no, still no plans to stay for a PhD, even with tasty bagels.]

Oh yeah... those medical tests. I went in to get some tests done yesterday and today. I have been having chest pains for the past few days, and was getting a bit worried; they got significantly worse two days ago. The chest pains are mostly minor, centering on sternum towards left side; they are noticeable when I breath deeply or cough, or toss on a heavy backpack.

The doctor figured it was nothing, but ordered up a round of tests. I had an X-ray, EKG, and a bunch of blood work (CPK, CPK-MB, LDH, GGT... all tests to see whether the heart has sustained damage). There didn't seem to be a close tie to exertion and the pain, nor any sign of dizziness or nausea, so it seems unlikely to be anything heart-related. Seems likely to be muscle/skeletal.

I suppose I have some reason to worry, given that there is a family history of heart disease--dad has two stents installed in his plumbing. Not only did I inherit my dad's height, weight, eyesight, temperament, and tendency towards depression, but also his cholesterol levels. Gee... thanks dad. Yet another reason for me not to reproduce.


0 Days Til IRS

Okay, this post will require a bit of explanation, but it provides a little slice of life here at a Canadian engineering university. First, many Canadian engineers, around graduation, receive an Iron Ring: it is a ceremonial ring worn on the little finger of the working hand, to remind the wearer of his or her obligations as an engineer to society. The Wikipedia entry is also pretty comprehensive: "...popular legend has it that the rings are made from the steel of a beam from the Quebec Bridge," (which collapsed twice during construction, due to poor design);however, based on discussions I've had with other engineers, it is made from stainless steel pipe that Canadian vets cut up into pieces.

Anyway, the ceremony (Iron Ring Ceremony, or IRC) is a big event that is held this time of year. Before and after this ceremony is the Iron Ring Stag (IRS), a day-long party, involving drinking starting early in the morning, ridiculous costumes, and inflicting rowdy visits on professors and classes. The balloons above were how my hallway looked when I arrived in the morning (800 balloons, supposedly). Seems like a good way for fourth-year students to blow off for a day.

So the reason for the title is that posters typically go up, announcing X days to IRS (Iron Ring Stag), ending with 0 Days to IRS.

Incidentally, I intend to get an Iron Ring when I graduate; it will have to wait until the February after I finish (the ceremony is only done once a year). You can ask to have a specific person present the ring; I am planning on having my former boss/mentor bestow it on me. I will then probably have the Geekiest Right Hand ever--a Brass Rat plus an Iron Ring. Cool, eh? I could set up a galvanic couple between my two fingers, if I put them in lemon juice!


Not completely lame...

Lately, I've had the feeling of being a little socially isolated as well as lame--i.e., "Ah, Saturday night, time to rent another DVD, or head to a movie by myself." For one, I don't have all that large of a social circle (Dan and Daniel being wonderful exceptions, when they're around). Second, Chief Grad Student (who I often hang out with) is getting increasingly busy: I leave the social ball in his court, given that he has a lot more family/work obligations than I do right now. Third, the people in my group are almost all working from home nowadays, so I head into the office and it's typically empty.

So it was pretty cool when one of my coworkers invited me to join him and a bunch of folks to catch a local flamenco band at a funky club in a part of town that I like a lot.

Coming home around 2 AM, after a bunch of beers and hearing awesome Spanish guitar/flamenco music at a club definitely makes me feel better about my life.

In case you're wondering about the graphic, one of the players had a slick frameless guitar kinda like this one (but not that brand--the tuning pins were at the neck, like a normal guitar, not the base).


Not a bad day...

Not too bad of a day today; perhaps better than average.
  • I have been stressing for the past month about a paper that I am writing for a conference in August. It's not that I don't have a handle on the material, or that I won't be able to fill it out. I had worries about "can I get it started," and "will it be good enough." Well, I have a pretty reasonable outline set up at this point, and I'm feeling a bit more comfortable in terms of it being a decent paper. I am hoping to have it done in a bit more than a week; a week before the "real" deadline, so that my advisor and former mentor can both review it.

  • Cooked a nice little dinner--always satisfying. The local food presentation that I went to impressed me enough that I'm making a bit more of an effort to eat with some regard for the seasons; I realized that I have never cooked turnips before, as far as I remember.

    The turnips are the white and purple ones; the larger ones are rutabagas.

    Just the standard Cook's Bible roasted vegetable recipe (pan roasted in the oven, with onions, salt, pepper, thyme). They turned out well; I need to try a few more preparation methods. That went with Alaskan salmon with a chili-cumin crust (another standard, now). Next up is some butternut squash, probably pan braised with soy sauce and mirin.

  • I was surprised to get a call from my former boss this afternoon. He wanted to get a better feel for what my plans were after graduating. I let him know that my current plans are to return to Boston and the old company, if they have the work for me. He replied, "K., we would be ecstatic to have you back." Now, I figured that would be the case, but it was nice to have that reassurance. He then asked me what direction I would like to see the company go in--he has always been very good about feeling out opinions of the rest of the company and being responsive.
So overall, a good day. Now back to that paper...

Nihongo yoku wakarimasen

I spent Monday being a tour guide for a bunch of Japanese engineers who work in our field and wanted to visit the University's research facilities. I was covering for my advisor, who was unavailable; also, the Japanese organizers looked at our group web page and said, "It's a Japanese student! He can guide us around!" My advisor warned them that I do not speak Japanese (more on this later), and that am basically culturally American (well, that one's questionable--many people would say Blue Stater = UnAmerican [smirk]. But my culture wouldn't be classified as Japanese. Perhaps more Canadian than anything else.)

The tour went reasonably well; I showed them a few of our labs, and we took a trip to the architecture school. But the stereotypical behavior was hilarous: they arrived on a tour bus, and were taking pictures of everything we displayed.

Also, the whole tour group went on a trip to Home Depot!

Granted, it makes sense that a bunch of people in the construction industry would love to see Home Depot, if they come from a country that doesn't have box stores. But still, it was awesome to have a dozen Japanese guys walking through the aisles taking pictures ("Ah, sugoi desu ne?" / "Impressive, isn't it?"), as my advisor expounded on insulation options.

Incidentally, I think that Japan probably lacks box stores due to the real estate layout: the country does not have huge swaths of land to allocate for warehouse stores, and--more importantly--the sea of parking that is required to sustain a store of a given size. Home Depot is starting to create multilevel stores in areas with limited real estate (Manhattan, Vancouver). However, I have read that the U.S. is an anomaly in terms of the strong do-it-yourself homeowner ethos; this would reduce the market for Big Orange Box Stores.

Anyway, communication was somewhat difficult: there were a handful of English speakers, and one that acted as a translator for the rest of the group (I talk. He translates. I talk. He translates. Question. He translates. I talk. He translates.) Also, some of them ribbed me about not having learned to speak Japanese. Yes, my parents are Japanese citizens (born and raised there); they speak it around the house normally (although it was used as the way to keep the kids unaware of what their Christmas presents were). But I managed to resist the push to learn the language. I think that if my parents sent me to "Japanese Camp," it would have resulted in painful experiences with commensurately entertaining stories, much like Paramecium Woman's stories of Ukrainian camp.

My mom, in a masterful stroke of guilt, pointed out that we would be unable to communicate when she is in nursing home and loses her command of English in favor of Japanese (Yes, Bats is a Bad Son).

My relationship with the Japanese language is a bit odd. As the visitor was translating, I could definitely pick up a few words and part of the gist of his explanation. I know a few words and phrases, but I definitely could not put together a sentence myself. I believe that like most people who have heard a language through their childhood (without developing proficiency) my pronunciation is probably pretty accurate ("Duh. That's how you say that word.") Which must make it very odd for Japanese speakers when I say, mostly without an accent, "Nihongo yoku wakarimasen" ("I don't understand Japanese well.")

There is a discussion to be had here about how Asians in particular seem to move (or be pushed) towards assimilation. Eric Liu's book The Accidental Asian addressed this issue--I have a copy if somebody wants to borrow it. But that's a discussion for another time.

So yeah, maybe I should learn Japanese. But there are lots of things that are higher on my priority list. For instance, learning Spanish--it would be great to walk onto jobsites in California or Arizona, and talk to all the people who are actually swinging the hammers. Or getting some self defense skills, such as judo or knife fighting (useful if I crack wise to an Ecuadoran electrician about his sister, and he takes offense). Or mastering evasive/competitive driving techniques (bootlegger turns, four wheel drifts, etc). So Japanese is probably down there above learning ballroom dancing on my list.


Enough already with the friggin tooth stuff, Bats!!

I know I should stop, but I had to inflict yet another tooth photo on you guys.

About a week ago, it felt like my molar wasn't quite right. When I got to a mirror, I realized... "Oh crap. I lost the entire corner."

Yeah, this is the implant tooth that had a failed filling, a root canal, a gum boil, treatment with antibiotics, failure of the root canal, extraction of the tooth, installation of a dental implant, the dental implant crown falling off, and replacement of that crown.

I'm probably going to leave it as-is: it's keeping the opposite tooth in alignment, and I don't want to risk having a whole new set of things go wrong.

Several people have asked me, "Why the hell have you stayed with this same dentist through all of this?!" Well, probably more out of loyalty and comfort with the status quo, as well as a belief that "maybe this time it's all right."

Hmm. That don't bode well for my dating life.


Grind grind grind

Just finished grading about 60 exams this evening. (In case you're wondering, that graphic above is from the solution set I'm writing up for the exam; it shows temperature distributions through the thickness of a wall assembly). Man... I feel like I'm a really inefficient worker, like I should have been done a lot faster. Unfortunately, one of the questions was set up so that the answers ended up all over the map, and I had to recalculate the first portion of the answer using their incorrect assumptions to grade the second part fairly.

I find it depressing to grade exams--I know what it feels like to totally choke under pressure, to miss an important instruction, or to start using the wrong equation, and end up flailing in completely the wrong direction. Or to see the students make dumb math mistakes--"Nooooo! (T1 – T2)^4 ≠ T1^4 – T2^4!!!!," and therefore getting answers incorrect by orders of magnitude (analogous in wrongness to "Noooo! Using the Alien as a bioweapon is not a terribly clever idea!! Look at the last three movies that you tried it in!"

I know that I'm supposed to be throwing my sympathies behind the teaching side of things, but I feel a fair amount of sadness when a bunch of people whiff on a question, while a change in wording or formatting could have pushed them on the right track. One problem that I've always mulled is that academics are typically people who were at the top of their classes. Being a person who has worked like hell to get a C in one class, failed multiple classes, and taken an academic leave of absence, I end up having a lot of sympathy for students who are screwing up, instead of the Darwinian, "Well, they didn't learn the material, so that's what they ought to be getting." Please note that I don't think all academics have this attitude, or that I don't think it is sometimes justified. It's just often the polar opposite of my viewpoint, and I have seen it on occasion.

Anyway, the repetitiveness of the task, and the association with the unpleasant stress of taking exams makes me very sure that I don't want to go into teaching for a living.


Food Transportation Geekery (Buying Locally)

This evening, I went to a presentation at the University on the environmental impact of imported foods (i.e., buying locally and all that stuff). Daniel mentioned it in his LJ, so I thought it might be interesting. It was an ok presentation--the person who presented is from the regional board of public health. He did a study on the impact of the import of food into the region; some of his analysis was a little suspect, in my view, but a few bottom line things to recognize. He presented embodied transportation energy (in terms of "food miles") for food grown in the local region, in a 250 km radius, and the current level of imports. Each of those steps was about an order of magnitude more energy than the previous.

He did not have terribly much in his presentation on "this is how to buy locally," (more of a 'this is how we think policy is trying to push in this direction'), but the organizing group presented some information on local community shared agriculture groups. Also, he confirmed something that I figured was true, but I just didn't want to ruin my illusions: local farmer's markets often have food imported from long distances--i.e., some of the produce is just via guys with trucks who go to the local food terminal. However, I have to guess that there's a higher share of local produce than the supermarket (especially the carrots with the dirt still on them).

I said some of his analysis was a bit suspect: one point was that he had imported beef as being head-and-shoulders worse than other imports. He pointed out that 25% of the imported beef in the region comes from Australia and New Zealand (!?!? in Southern Ontario? Um, don't we grow cows here too?!?); in his transportation cost weighting, he estimated that it was air transported, which has a huge energy impact (order of magnitude more than other options; see table below). I can't imagine that they send sides of beef by air--I'd tend to believe that they freeze it into rocks, and ship it by a slower means. Fresh pineapples from Hawaii to mainland US--I could believe that all right; they are a high enough margin item to justify the cost of air shipping. Just for reference, the figures he was using for transportation energy (in greenhouse gasses, in grams/ton-km) were:

Air 1100
Marine 130
Rail 20
Truck 270

Another useful link for eating locally was FoodLink--I just opened up the page; I have yet to start exploring.

Unfortunately, I don't have any plans to join a farmshare or anything like that--I'm afraid that given my uneven schedule and bachelor lifestyle, I'd end up using it 10% the time, and end up feeding the compost bin for the remainder. Also, I don't think I'll ever be hard-core enough that I'd voluntarily subsist on root vegetables, squash, and canned vegetables for the winter months ("Mmmm! Rutabagas again!!").

Return to Sender

I just got one of my holiday cards back in the mail today: "Return to Sender, Undeliverable as Addressed." Which is somewhat annoying--I thought that with the mailing labels and bar codes, I'd get them there no problem.

Then I realized: hey, they returned it from the US (with US domestic postage) to the return address in Canada. Thought that was kinda cool. Even if it took fifty days to make the round trip.

PS--Probe & Becca: if you're wondering why you didn't get a holiday card, well, here's the answer.


Winter Returns

So winter actually came back. We had a fair amount of snow for the past few days, and some serious knock-you-down wind whipping the powdery stuff in your face; the line of dialogue continuously running through my head was:

You'll freeze to death before you reach the first marker!

Then I'll see you in Hell!

Okay, so it's not quite ice-planet-Hoth cold. It's only 22 F outside right now at 9 PM. Overall, I think having February actually feel like winter is a good and reassuring thing in my books.


Oh, Not More Bloody Museumage…

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am taking a course at the University of Toronto this term from my mentor's former advisor, who is currently an emeritus professor. This week, the student I carpool with was out of town, so I decided to take the bus in and hang out in town for the afternoon—something I typically don't get to do.

After lunch with a classmate who lives in town, I headed to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM): it is a natural history (dinosaurs, ecosystems, taxidermy stuffed animals) and cultural history (First Nations/Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, ancient Roman and Greek).

The museum currently has a slightly abbreviated collection due to the renovation work. It was a good way to pass the afternoon: the parts of the collection I saw were pretty good, although endless rows of Chinese ceramics or Roman amphorae are not really my thing. Also, I've probably been spoiled by growing up with the Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But the reptile exhibit was good, and their collection of birds was neat. They showed some of their "back collection" (i.e., typically not exhibited)—it is a bit disturbing to see how well dead stuffed birds fit into clear storage tubes—it's like avian Tupperware!

Their Ancient Greece and Rome collection felt, well, a little bit ancient—it seems like it had not been updated since the 1970's, and although the material really doesn't require an extreme makeover or anything, it ended up looking a little bit ratty and neglected. However, one piece of new and interesting information: the etymology of ostracize: "Greek ostrakizein: to banish by voting with potsherds." Basically, the Greek legislature would periodically gather and cast votes (written on potsherds) on the man deemed most dangerous to the state, resulting in a 10-year banishment. It was meant as a control on unbridled power. Man… sounds like a good system to bring back.

The ROM is a gorgeous old building (1930's mostly, with a 1980's addition); look at this picture of the rotunda entrance. Like the Art Gallery of Ontario, which I visited two weeks ago, this museum is in the process of a major addition by a Big Name Architect (Frank Gehry for the AGO, and Daniel Libeskind for the ROM). The new addition is a glass and aluminum clad structure: it is supposed to give the appearance of a geological crystal, growing out of one side of the museum.

They have a live webcam that lets you track the progress of the project.

I started to write about modern architecture here, but it quickly ballooned into a major essay. I have put it below the cut line; you are all welcome to either read or ignore it.

Anyway, I wrapped up the evening with dinner at a passable Thai restaurant: my original intent was to find a jazz club called Rhodes Restaurant. However, after hoofing it up to that part of town, I found that it had closed down and been replaced: a good reminder that old links often live forever. However, I did get to wander through parts of Toronto that I haven't been to yet (Yorkville and Summerhill)

While taking the subway back downtown to the bus terminal, I realized that mass transit is a mode of transportation that I really feel at home and comfortable with, whether it's in Boston, New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago or Montreal. I'd much rather take the bus in from Kitchener to Toronto, rather than drive and worry about parking, even if it takes more time and costs more—I can relax with an iPod and a book, and not think about traffic. I hope that I can always keep my life set up to avoid driving as much as possible.


These two museum additions make me want to share some thoughts about modern architecture, both as an observer and end user of buildings, as well as a professional in the construction industry. In preparing this piece, I worried it would end up being a rant against modern architecture, but that is not my intent. I don't have any intrinsic opposition to 'new' architecture and innovation; I think I tried to narrow my objections down to some of the worst excesses.

This stems from a discussion with my classmate, who is an architect by training and a building scientist by association. He pointed out that the Gehry addition is priced at $800 per square foot. In comparison, a durable university building is on the order of $300/sf, and normal residential construction around $100-150/sf. When serious money is spent on the Big Name Architect buildings, less remains for, say, running the building (or museum collection), or in the case of university buildings, having the resources to effectively fit out laboratory and research spaces.

Granted, having an world-class architectural landmark is definitely worth a hell of a lot, both in terms of prestige and drawing visitors. Also, I am not in favor of soulless generic buildings—I work on a campus that is filled with them, and my undergrad career was spent on another campus filled with them.

One problem is the commodification of the Big Name Architect: it's an institution's answer to "Keeping up with the Joneses": to have a signature piece as a status symbol. "Oh, you have a Liebeskind? That's nice, but we have a Gehry." (Heh… all in favor of renaming it the "Status Center…").

A second problem I have with Gehry, in particular, is that his graceful curved building forms, more than anything, seem to demonstrate to me, "we have the power and technology to make buildings like this." I'm reminded of the twelve-year-old architect wannabe that most of us have inside us: "And I'll make it all big and swoopy and curvy and cool," which is then shot down with, "Yeah, how are you going to build it?" Since we now have the technology (CAD software used for designing aircraft) and resources (people willing to spend for a Big Name Architect), we can make these buildings. But to some degree, they feel almost a bit self-indulgent. It gives me greater admiration for the restraint shown by great buildings that use conventional architectural forms, and the fact that artistry shines through despite (or partly, due to) working within those boundaries.

Another problem I have is that, over and over again, these name-recognized buildings sacrifice usability and positive occupant experience in favor of appearance. It goes against my philosophy of substance over flash and appearance. This problem is typical for what is called "magazine architecture"—other critics will laugh when you talk about adding a usability survey when evaluating the architectural value of a building. Services don't work, spaces overheat or are too cold, rain leaks in, etc. This has often been the case with cutting-edge architecture: just read accounts of how badly broken Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings were (Fallingwater, his Usonian houses). As an owner resignedly sighed, while looking at her leaking Wright house, "Well, that's what happens when you leave a work of art out in the rain." Also, often in these buildings, energy efficiency is abysmal and environmental impact is barely considered: things that could be done with incredible success with budgets of these levels.

As an engineer, I could be accused of being overly practical, at the cost of aesthetics, art, and innovation. I'm not trying to denigrate artists/architects because they do misguided things, make my professional life more difficult, or because they're "strange"—exploration is a good thing. I just have specific problems with what is typically sacrificed in the process of these signature buildings. Architecturally significant buildings that are made to address usability, energy efficiency, durability, and environmental impacts are a wonderful thing that the world should have more of.


NetMeme: Four Things

I'm stealing this NetMeme from Jofish, in an effort to avoid grading assignments.

Four Jobs I've Had
Elementary school custodian/janitor (for a summer)
Piano technician (rebuilding and restringing a Chickering baby grand; summer job)
Self-unemployed carpenter (kitchen and bathroom renovations, custom cabinetry)
High-flying construction industry/building science consultant

In case my tone is not obvious, the last job description is meant with some ironic self-deprecation, especially considering that this career path has moved onwards to "starveling graduate student."

Four Places I've Lived
Brooklyn, New York (as a young child)
Suburban Long Island, New York (through high school)
Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts (through college and years afterwards)
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada (since Fall 2004).

That's actually everywhere I've lived, depressingly enough. I guess that I settle in a given location too easily.

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch
Alton Brown Good Eats
Depressing Frontline Documentaries
The Simpsons
Six Feet Under

Note: I'm not trying to show off intellectual snobbery here, but I've pretty much stopped watching television, so these are kinda half-assed answers. I have a TV antenna, and have not hooked it up since I've moved up to Canada. I just constantly have the feeling of "Agh, crap, I need to finish some work/Atlantic Monthly issues/books for fun/books for work/books that I've been meaning to get to" instead of "killing" time watching TV. For instance, understanding more of Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is a higher priority than sitcoms. Don't get me wrong—I used to watch TV all the time; otherwise, I would be as lacking in pop culture references as—well—my sister.

So I watch downloaded Good Eats episodes and streaming Frontline episodes on my computer while eating dinner. I have Seasons 1-3 of Six Feet Under on DVD; I occasionally binge.

Four of my Favorite Dishes
Unagi (broiled eel) in a bento box
Corned beef hash with a runny poached egg on top
Pulled Pork (BBQ) with a side order of hush puppies
Saag paneer

I'd love to put some of the fancy dishes I've had at some amazing restaurants (e.g., squid ink cous cous, or Sierra morel mushrooms and asparagus feuillete), but I felt a need to put up familiar but soul-satisfying foods—stuff that I could eat again and again, and be happy with them.

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now
Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts
San Francisco Bay Area, California
New York, New York
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona/Utah

The first three because I have friends there and they're awesome places to hang out. The last one is somewhere I hope to go camping this spring. As much as I'd love to put a variety of exotic European or Asian locations on this list, but I honestly don't know any of them well enough to do so.

Four People Who Need to Do This

Hrm. I don't want to inflict this on anyone who doesn't want to bother with this Net Meme. But I found this somewhat entertaining to do—couldn't really explain why, besides perhaps providing new directions for talking about myself. But if anyone would fine this amusing (A?), please, feel free.

Another problem is that I know my closest circle of friends well enough that it would probably be boring. E.g.: Perlick has lived in Wheaton, IL, Boston, MA, whichever side of the border he lived at while at CERN, and Bay Area, CA (at Stanford then Oakland). TV shows: Buffy, Angel, The Shield, and Gilmore Girls.

Man… I'm really trying to avoid doing grading assignments, ain't I?