Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Core 2 Mama

Caroline had a pet peeve for some time: because CJ found our oldest iBook (500MHz G3) too slow, he often borrowed her 1GHz G4 iBook to play games that were too taxing for his iBook — it was fine for Zoombinis Island Adventure or Putt Putt Goes to the Zoo, but not for Tribal Trouble, Enigmo 2, or Ottomatic. Caroline finally decided to upgrade — to a 15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo, the 2.16GHz model with 1GB RAM and 120GB hard drive. So now she has the fastest notebook in the house, and I'm soldiering on with a 3+year old 800MHz iBook G4. CJ inherited her iBook, so I have the slowest notebook computer of almost anyone I know. I'll hold out until MacOS X Leopard ships before I upgrade. But I'm so used to my iBook by now, I think I'll miss it in the sort of way that one misses a comfortable pair of old shoes, or a favourite shirt.

Update: As part of Caroline's Christmas present, I bought a 1GB DDR2 SO-DIMM and put it in her new notebook, so now she has 2GB RAM. And she complains there are no games on it... argghh. :-)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My First Time

I accompanied some colleagues to the blood donor clinic. I was supposed to photograph them for our company newsletter, but they talked me into donating since I was already there anyway. I'd never donated before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. For those of you who've never donated blood, here's how my first time went:

1. After taking down my personal information and checking my driver's licence, a nurse pricked my finger and used a pipette to draw off a small amount for hemoglobin testing. The pipette was emptied into a copper sulfate solution, and my blood descended rapidly to the bottom of the container, indicating good iron levels. I probably need a new skillet.

2. I was asked to fill out a fairly detailed questionnaire on my personal history (including questions on travel to Africa and Europe, specifically England and France). This was the first part.

3. A nurse then asked me into a privacy booth, where she took my temperature and blood pressure, and filled out the rest of the form, asking me detailed questions about my sexual and medical history, e.g. have I ever had sex with men, have I ever had sex in exchange for drugs or money, have I ever had sex with a woman who may have had sex with other partners, and so on. Significantly, "have you had sex" did not distinguish between protected and unprotected sex (what oxymorons!). Long story short: the questions brought out in stark relief that anything other than drug-free, lifelong heterosexual monogamy or abstinence is ideal when it comes to ensuring the safety of a society's emergency blood supply — but of course advocates of licentiousness and immorality would have us believe it doesn't really matter. It does, and the interview questions prove it: Canadian Blood Services is more interested in saving lives than in being politically correct. If you have a problem with that, sue them.

4. At the end of the interview, which lasted about 10 minutes, the nurse asked me to choose one of two bar-code stickers, to indicate whether I still wanted to have my blood used or not, and affix this to my donor form. She then left the booth while I pondered my decision. I chose a barcode and discarded the sticker form so she would not see my choice (the intent of leaving the donor alone for a few minutes is to let the donor wrestle with their conscience in private). Regardless of my choice, they'll test my blood for HIV, mad cow disease, West Nile, etc. Some tests involve looking at my DNA, and if anything unusual is noted, my doctor will be notified.

5. The actual process of getting hooked up to the pump is fairly straightforward – assuming the nurse who actually inserts the needle into your vein is skilled at getting it right on the first try. I won't lie and say no pain is involved – the actual stab does hurt, but only briefly (it's a fairly large needle, square in its external cross section.) I didn't look during the initial insertion, but I did after I could see dark red venous blood coursing through the tubing. The rest of the time I just alternately squeezed and relaxed my grip on a small plastic cylinder as the pump drew out about a pint of my red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. I didn't feel faint, and I didn't go into shock. I glanced around the large open area where a dozen of us were lounging in recliners, hooked up to blood extraction pumps. Two Asians, the rest Caucasian, ranging in age from twentysomethings to mid-fiftyish. It was Friday late morning, so we all seemed to be office types who'd been given a couple of hours by our employers to do volunteer work. After the pump finished draining a preset amount (it took about 20 minutes), I was bandaged and given a first-time donor lapel pin and a donor card saying I could donate again in 56 days. I was asked to refrain from strenuous activity for 6-8 hours, to avoid hot foods and liquids, and to drink lots of water.

Now that I'm no longer a blood donor virgin, a few observations:

1. My DNA could very well end up in three other people, at least initially (Canadian Blood Services claims each donation can save up to three lives.) If these people then donate blood, well, there's no telling where my DNA might end up eventually.

2. Some of it might end up in the blood of a murderer, a serial rapist, a child molester, etc. In fact, under certain unlikely circumstances, my DNA might even end up at the scene of a crime I had never committed. If CSI found it, I might have to come up with a pretty good alibi.

3. Should No. 2 be a reason for me not to donate, or should I also consider the possibility that my donation might save a young mother or father, a soldier, or a child full of life's promise?

4. If you want to donate blood someday, don't do drugs, and don't have sex with anyone except your spouse — and it goes without saying that your spouse isn't the same gender as you.

The Canadian Blood Services motto is "Blood – it's in you to give." Clever.

After my initiation, I think I understand Matthew 5:38-44 just a little bit more, and I ponder anew the meaning of the Real Presence.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wizard in Training

Wizard in Training
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
CJ is going out as Harry Potter for Halloween. Good thing his cloak will fit over his parka easily, because it's turned unseasonably cold and there's snow everywhere. Last week was mild, but this week? All of a sudden, winter's here. It's like someone switched programs on the holodeck, but that's Calgary for you. Sigh.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Windows Vista or MacOS X?

Chris Pirillo, a longtime Windows fanatic, publicly expressed frustration with Vista and finds he's in good company. He writes:
I’m a nanometer away from switching my family over to OS X when Apple releases Leopard in Q1 of 2007. It looks clean and elegant. It comes with all the software and services the average user could ever want. It runs on the same hardware. A system will be able to dual-boot between OS X and Windows, and pricing is no longer astronomical. But most importantly? With its UI inconsistencies, Vista feels completely schizophrenic, and that’s enough of a reason for anybody to leave Windows in the dustjust like they left MSN Search and IE.
He didn't even mention that in a multi-PC household, upgrading to Windows Vista is a far more expensive proposition than upgrading the equivalent number of Macs to the next version of MacOS X: a five-user Family pack of OS X costs US$199. Each Windows PC requires a separate Windows upgrade, and Vista Ultimate is US$399 for each user. Do the math.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Today, in Canada, is the Sunday of Thanksgiving long weekend. We have much to be thankful for, but that should not blind us to the reality that there's a lot of work to be done to help everyone understand that gratitude should begin with giving thanks for the gift of life itself. This lesson is lost on many of us who, for example, think that abortion is a "right" — a woman's "right" to snuff out the life of her unborn child. Ms. Magazine boasts that they have collected 5000 signatures from women who are proud of having had abortions, so one blogger is collecting as many signatures as possible to present in opposition to Ms. Magazine's. She writes: "Help me create a petition that will put the one in Ms. to shame. Email this post to every man and woman you know. Email your names and cities/states to me. I'll compile them and send a petition to Congress - a petition with the names of people who think women (and their unborn children) deserve better than an abortion."

If you are thankful for the gift of life — yours as well as others — and if you have a few minutes to spare, consider adding your name to that petition. It's a small gesture to show thankfulness, and to speak up for the little ones who have no voice. Thank you.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Life Chain 2006

Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
October 1, 2006 was grey and overcast. Nonetheless, almost 400 people showed up to hold signs telling the simple truth of what abortion does. I'm saddened that the number of participants is significantly down from the previous two years, but this only underscores the fact that we need to do more to get people to think about what abortion really is — mass murder, perpetrated against the most vulnerable human beings: unborn children. As Mother Teresa observed, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why No Recent Updates?

Simple. I was away on vacation. Stuff piled up. I'm trying to catch up. Then I can go back to updating this blog a little bit more regularly (yeah, right). Anyway, later.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

All aboard!

All aboard!
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
We took a guided tour of the S/V Concordia, a school-on-a-ship for 11th and 12th graders (only 48 are accepted each year, and there are seven teachers on board, so the student-to-teacher ratio is excellent). The ship sails to over 43 destinations over a 10-month school year, and the students learn about much more than just academics (it's a university prep program) and sailing on a modern tall ship (they have to work as part of the crew). The tuition is 27,500 Euros, or about $100 per day. All things considered, this is a relative bargain. More info here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Road Trip 2006

Pilot One
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
Every year around late August, we go to Vancouver to visit Dominic, Caroline's Dad. Normally, we fly (WestJet), but this year we decided to try driving instead, with frequent stops along the way to enjoy the scenery. On our first day, we got to Salmon Arm and decided to stay overnight. The Holiday Inn was very nice and comfortable -- really a hotel more than a motel. We got there around 5:30 PM local time, and the parking lot was still pretty empty. Caroline and CJ wasted no time checking out the pool and the water slide. Then it was back to our room for a quick shower. By the time we got back from supper (at Joey's Only, a few kilometres down the road), the parking lot was a lot fuller. I hooked up our Airport Express to the room's Ethernet jack, and presto -- instant secure WiFi! Sweet!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Wow. Just wow.

Incomparable Ambiance
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
Once a year, Caroline and I make a pilgrimage to River Café for our wedding anniversary dinner. Starting last year, we decided the best way to dine here is to try the current tasting menu, with wine pairings chosen by the cellar manager or sommelier. We did the same thing this year, and we were not disappointed! For details, click on the photo to go to the Flickr photoset.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I guess it was only a matter of time before someone used the free Internet access at the Apple Stores to run their own, um, business. Imagine writing a 250-page book for several hours each day, over several months, while standing in high heels in front of an iMac computer on display, until closing time. A petite New York-based model, Isobella Jadeco, has done just that.

Voice Wreck-ognition

Is this an indication of the "updated" user experience we can expect from Windows Vista? I'm totally underwhelmed. Sheesh.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Someday, I'd like to go

Check out TEDTalks and watch some of the videos. There's something for almost every interest. As of this blog entry, I've watched the presentations of Majora Carter (moving and inspiring), David Pogue (entertaining and informative), and Larry Brilliant (totally riveting). In his video introduction, Chris Anderson boldly claims that TED is a foretaste of Heaven. That may be more than a bit presumptuous, but still, I can't help but wonder how marvelous it would be to meet some of the world's smartest, most interesting people, and listen to their ideas for making the world a better place. I can think of few other things I would enjoy more. So, stop reading this blog entry and check it out already. Feed your brain. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
CJ finally got his wish — his very first business, a lemonade stand. No cutting corners, either — freshly-squeezed lemons, not commercially prepared lemon concentrate or powder. About two dozen people bought the product, and everyone liked it. He almost sold out — only two cups' worth was left in the cooler. Not bad for a first day, and he learned about the best spot from a transit worker who bought some and suggested he move his stand closer to the pedestrian bridge at Dalhousie LRT station. Location, location, location...

Monday, July 10, 2006


Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
Strawberry picking season is upon us – our favourite u-pick place, ServiceBerry Farms, opened for the 2006 season on July 6. We set out on Monday July 10 and were there at 9:30 AM. By 11:30, Caroline had picked seven 4-litre pails with help from CJ. As you can see, the berries are sweet and ripe, and they're a deep, rich red all the way to the centre.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
Summer means, among other things, cooling off at the beach or the pool. For CJ and a friend, it also means trying out some lollipops while chugging down fruit-flavoured water. My late Dad photographed me around this age, sitting in his office chair with my childhood friend Colleen, enjoying each other's company. I thought of doing the same for CJ. Ah, it brings back so many happy memories... of ice cream cones, lemonade, and carefree play during the summer holidays. Oh, to be six years old again...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Kuya's Birthday 2006

Just as we did last year, we gathered in the Pickering Room at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary to celebrate Kuya's 51st birthday. As usual, there was way more food than we could eat, including Filipino delicacies such as kare-kare and ensaymada.

I Want to Ride it Again

Caroline, CJ, and I visited Calaway Park at 5PM on Friday June 9th, 2006 — just before the weekend crowd. Because it was threatening to rain, many people stayed away and it almost felt as though we had the park to ourselves. Here's a short (~1.5 minute) video.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

That Didn't Take Long at All

What do you do when, on your second day at a new job, just barely out of new hire training, three different well-meaning (?) colleagues, on three different occasions, warn you that you have to constantly watch your back and cover your ass by documenting everything in e-mail? That you have to become paranoid in order to survive the office minefield, because folks from outside your team are out to get you and trip you up? I would've dismissed it as just so much scaremongering, but I saw signs that set off alarm bells in my head.

The company had growing pains because of rapid expansion. Office space was an issue. Some teams (such as ours) were understaffed. I was told of turf wars — oldtimers vs. newcomers. This fostered a highly adversarial climate, yet senior management seemed unwilling to deal with it. Imagine working among people who act like your friends but will stab you in the back, given the opportunity. Some folks had to dig up e-mail from 10 years ago, to prove they weren't to blame for longstanding problems. All this never came up during my interviews. Note to self: next time, get the unvarnished truth about internal politics.

Boy, was I ever stressed. I haven't had stress knots in my neck in years. I had them on Day 2. I already have high blood pressure, I didn't need extra help getting there. My Dad had a stroke when I was 7, and died when I was 12. He was 52. Both maternal grandparents died of strokes. The odds are not looking good for me.

In the end, it was not any one thing, but a combination of many little things. My last name was misspelled three different ways by HR, office services, and IT. At my workstation, I didn't have my own phone number — it was someone else's. I had spotty access to databases I needed to do my job. Sometimes a web login would work, other times I'd get an error. The fellow who was responsible for correcting this did so only sullenly — I felt like an intruder, not a colleague. My cubicle had a sign saying "Working with idiots can kill you." Hmm. In an oil refinery, sure. But in an IT department?

After work that day, playing with my son at the park, I thought: what would I do to my health if I stayed in that toxic pressure cooker? Life's too short to put up with that kind of stress.

I did the only sane thing I could do under the circumstances: I quit.

I feel sorry for the (really nice) headhunter who worked so hard to land me this job. After all, it's not her fault that the organization didn't tell her about current internal issues. I also feel sorry for my former team lead, because she's a nice lady who puts up with the sort of daily aggravation I simply have no time for. I don't know why she does it.

I wish more senior executives would heed the lessons of Escape from Cubicle Nation. Life in the corporate world could be so much better.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Iron Chef in the Making?

Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
After attending a Praise and Worship evening at St. Bernard's Church in Parkdale, we were all hungry, so Caroline, CJ, and I drove over to Earl's in Dalhousie, because their kitchen stays open late. It was 10:30 P.M. by the time we got there. CJ was his usual charming self, and he managed to win over at least three of the female servers, who gushed over how adorable he was. Our own server was so charmed that she invited him to the kitchen to help make our dessert for the evening, a warm raspberry and apple cobbler with ice cream. CJ did very well, although scooping out the ice cream from the big tub required more strength than he could muster. Regardless, he still made quite a stellar impression on the kitchen staff. I have to get used to him being popular with the ladies. A chip off the old block? Nah.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Knife and Fork

Knife and Fork
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
There's been a recent controversial news story about Luc, a 7-year old Filipino boy in Quebec, who was chastised for eating his meals in the school lunchroom with a (gasp!) spoon and fork. The school principal, Norman Bergeron, professed ignorance of any culture where it's the custom to eat this way. There's been an avalanche of email and online commentary heaping scorn and contempt on him, and I daresay he deserves every bit of it. In fact, this whole incident illustrates why schools can be toxic to children. On the other hand, Luc's parents should probably have taught their son how to also eat with a knife and fork, as my 6-year old son CJ does (he can also eat with a spoon and fork, or with his bare hands, but we're working on chopsticks). As the saying goes, when in Rome...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The 'Second Life' Generation

Checking the result...
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
Today we made a huge decision. We registered officially as a home schooling family. Not yet sure exactly what it all means, but we're taking primary responsibility for CJ's education. Our decision was far from easy, and it involved a whole lot of reading and pondering. I'm inclined to believe that we're doing this primarily with CJ's best interests in mind, but we realize we're doing this for ourselves as a family, too. After all, we're part of a "community of learners."
I think we live in a society in which a rapid and accelerating change in social life and the economy and the kind of work that people do is transforming the need for knowledge... knowledge in the 21st century is going to be very different... a very substantial proportion of people are engaged in work, in jobs that did not exist when they were born and that number is increasing. So the model that says learn while you’re at school, while you’re young, the skills that you will apply during your lifetime is no longer tenable. The skills that you can learn when you’re at school will not be applicable. They will be obsolete by the time you get into the workplace and need them, except for one skill. The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn. — Seymour Papert, MIT
CJ taught himself to read, the same way he learned to eat solid food, walk, speak, and use the toilet. Notice a pattern? I suspect that, with proper guidance, encouragement, and resources, he can probably teach himself just about anything. What's the alternative?
Many children struggle in schools... because the way they are being taught is the way is incompatible with the way they learn. — Peter Senge, MIT
One friend told me her son's teacher forbade students from using the Internet to research a topic, so they'd be forced to look it up in the library. Now, I have nothing against books (we have hundreds of them), but what's wrong with Wikipedia as a starting point? Why are schools trying to assert control over people who've discovered tools that empower them to direct their own learning? This strikes me as silly, wrongheaded, and counterproductive. It's like forcing someone to dig a hole with kitchen utensils when a shovel would be more efficient.
We don't have to make human beings smart. They are born smart. All we have to do is stop doing things that make them stupid. — John Holt
Google the combined terms "MIT learning children 21st century" and read the first five articles. If you can read only one, read this.
Now, given that picture of a rapid change of society, one would expect to see a rapid evolution of the institutions charged with preparing the young for it. We do not see this. We see a much slower rate of evolution of the school and that means we’re seeing a bigger and bigger gap between school and society. This gap is what I believe is responsible for the deterioration of performance in our schools and our educational systems. Because the children can see this; they can see that school is irrelevant. They feel that the pace of school and the mood of the school culture is out of sync with the society in which they live. And so it becomes harder and harder to get them to buy into the idea that school is satisfying their needs, that school is a bridge to the 21st century. — Seymour Papert, MIT
Another friend – who taught in schools for over 30 years – pointedly told us not to put CJ into a regular school. Why? Because, according to her, he'd only be bored to tears. It seems a lot of schools turn children off to learning by having them do pointless busywork. No child should have to endure such nonsense.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Jojo's Bistro Parisienne

Bon apetit
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
The other night Caroline and I went out for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants — Jojo's, which used to be on 17th Ave. S.W. right beside The Sultan's Tent, but is now along 33rd Ave. S.W. in Marda Loop. What a wonderful treat to enjoy a relaxing midweek supper with your spouse, a good bottle of wine, and superb French cuisine with a Moroccan touch! Our attentive and knowledgeable server, Nabila, is the owner's daughter. I had the Shrimp Spinach Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette, Spicy Scallop with Halibut Tagine, and Coffee Chocolate Mousse; Caroline had Mussel Saffron Soup, Rack of Lamb, and Amaretto Creme Brulee, accompanied by a very pleasant and affordable Louis Sipp Pinot Gris 2003. We had not visited Jojo's in some time, and it was well worth the trip. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Driving in India – whoa!

Burning the Midnight Oil

A friend dropped off his iBook G4. It boots but won't get to the login screen. Disk Utility on my Tiger DVD won't repair it; neither can TechTool Deluxe, which reported surface errors and a damaged Volume Directory. Tried booting from the DiskWarrior 3.0 CD – kernel panic. Can't even mount it in Firewire target disk mode. The drive in my iBook G4 died in July 2005, when it was 19 months old. Fortunately, I had a recent backup on an external Firewire drive. My friend has only partial data backups on a network attached Maxtor OneTouch II. This could get ugly real fast. I hope I can backup at least his Home directory.

Update: the drive is toast. Drive Genius could not even see it in Firewire target disk mode. Oh well. Laptop drives are fragile critters. Backup, backup, backup! (My iBook is backed up nightly).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Blinking Green Light of Death

Well, it happened. I have a Nikon D70, purchased sometime Spring 2004, and it's exhibiting the symptoms well documented on the web — with a memory card in the camera and a fully-charged battery, the D70 remains inoperable. Pressing the rear Menu button briefly displays the menu in the rear LCD, then it goes blank. This is apparently a known defect in D70's manufactured before September 2004. I hope Nikon Canada will fix this free of charge, considering the problem seems so commonplace — Googling "dead D70" returns 377,000 hits. Sheesh.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

For Prospective Employers and Colleagues

Lately I've been going through the interview process with headhunters and prospective hiring managers, and certain questions come up again and again. Here are the short answers, so next time I can just point my interviewers to this blog — kidding!

1. Q: What's your greatest weakness?
A: I can be too much of a perfectionist.

2. Q: What's your greatest strength?
A: My personal integrity. I say what I mean, and mean what I say.

3. Q: Describe a recent situation in which you committed an error.
A: While configuring a new IBM server, I forgot to enable RAID.

4. Q: What did you learn from this incident?
A: Next time, ask for help if you're not sure what to do.

5. Q: How do you handle difficult situations? Give an example.
A: Left my mug on a colleague's desk. She tore a strip off me in public.

6. Q: How did you respond?
A: I ignored her for days, until she broke down and apologized.

7. Q: Describe a work accomplishment you're especially proud of.
A: In over 2 years, a company I looked after didn't get a single virus.

8. Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Doing consulting work in some area of information technology.

9. Q: Why are you the best candidate for this role?
A: Am I? I listen well, and I get along fine with most people.

10. Q: Do you have any questions?
A: Why do interview questions tend to be the same?

First Post... sort of

After much procrastination, I've decided to start blogging again – mostly because a friend has been prodding me to. I had a blog, but I stopped writing in it, so I decided to ditch the old one, which I created in 1998 (before the term 'blog' existed), and started this one. I write better in responding to email, but then my thoughts go only to the recipient. Rather than spam friends and family, a blog is probably a better way to share what's on my mind.