Ah, Friday

General, Writing No Comments

Canadians seem to have it bred into them that the Friday before a long weekend is actually part of the weekend, and is thus only sort of a pretend work day, if it actually turns out to be a work day at all. This is a hard habit to break, even if you love your job (as I do) and have a whole lot of stuff to get done (as I do). I did manage to make it clear through to 2:30pm before cracking a Mike’s and calling it a day, which isn’t so bad. The best part is that I managed to finish up a particularly irksome bit of work that needed to be done, so that won’t be hanging over my head come Monday.

Monday, of course, is a holiday in Canada, but I’ll end up working part of it since the rest of the world are a bunch of no-long-weekend suckers. Note that I am thus utterly remorseless about a few hours of slackery this afternoon.

Tonight’s fit of writing clocked in at 2048 words, and was largely an exploratory piece about two odd characters who have been poking around my brain for the last few days. It turns out that they actually fit into the story of another character I sketched out recently. Interesting. They’ve even managed to wrap a setting around themselves, so I know where they live, what they do, and what the general environment around them is like.

What’s strange is that everything every writer has ever said about how characters tell you their stories once you start to get into them is absolutely true. (You’d think that after reading it the first 30-40 times I might start to believe it.) One character was born out of a single line of dialogue. I wrote that at the top of the page, then just continued the rest of the scene. That scene turned into another scene which eventually turned into four pages of exploration where she told me all sorts of crazy things about herself. She brought with her a somewhat odd history, a couple of other characters, and an entirely plausible way that she fits in with the other characters I have recently discovered. This is all somewhat unexpected in that when I wrote that line of dialogue at the top of the page, I thought I was working on something in a completely different genre than where it ended up.

Turns out, writing is a hell of a lot of fun.

Obligatory Post

General, Ramblings No Comments

It’s the perfect-weather days that are really the hardest when you’re working from home. Today was gorgeous — beaming sunshine, nigh cloudless sky, not at all humid, not too warm. If it had been Friday, I would have succumbed and ended up on a patio with a book and a pint, just enjoying the weather while it was here. Alas, it simply wasn’t meant to be.

I really don’t have a whole lot to say beyond that. It was neither an exciting nor particularly insightful day. I worked, I went to physio, I made nachos, I did my writing (2750 words, all total garbage), now I’m writing my weblog entry. I didn’t have time to do any reading, unfortunately, but I’ll make up for it on the weekend.

Speaking of which, it’s a long weekend, but only in Canada. I’m not sure whether I should take tomorrow off, actually take all of Monday off (which is complicated given that I work for a primarily-US organization), or split my holiday between Friday and Monday. Probably the latter, particularly if the weather holds.

On Writing, and Other Things

Books, Ramblings, Writing 3 Comments

I have a new regimen. This is a different regimen than my new “do a half-hour of circuit training three times per week” regimen. This is a more intellectual pursuit, and it consists of three parts.

The first part is that I have started writing again. The plan is this: one thousand words per day, minimum, outside of weblogs and personal journals. The trick here is that the subject matter has to be different. No blithering on for one thousand words about the random crap with which I filled my day. No talking about websites or games or other random crap I found on the internet. This is supposed to be more exploratory stuff — fiction, non-fiction, whatever. Exploration into realms about which I do not normally write. Delving deep into memory and self to carve out pieces and put those on paper. It’s actually a lot less cliche than it sounds.

I’ve been on this new regimen for three days now. The first day I managed to get twenty-one hundred words out before I faltered and fell silent. Day two was seventeen-hundred words. Day three (just now) was another seventeen-hundred. I’m not allowed to cheat, either. If I do two thousand words on one day, it doesn’t mean I get out of the one thousand words the next. Minimum one thousand words, every day. Maximum: unlimited. No carryovers. No touchbacks. Tag.

It has been interesting so far, in that I’ve already found myself thinking about what I could write about at various points throughout the day. I could write about my childhood heros, perhaps, or my recently acquired love of cooking. Maybe I could put out a thousand words about Zen and what it means to me, or at least how I interpret it (which, for what it’s worth, is probably quite unlike what any real Zen student would tell you). How about how I learned to love reading and language? Maybe a piece about my utter disdain for current advertising and marketing and how they’re missing the boat by trying to lie to us incessantly, bombarding us with blipverts that we simply Do Not Believe (seriously, guys, your audience is smarter than you think). I could easily churn out one thousand words about joining a (women-only) gym and starting a new workout regimen (don’t let anyone tell you for even a second that women are less competitive than men). A thousand words about the death and secret rebirth of television as a medium for storytelling. A thousand words about my first trip to the local library (which I haven’t yet done). When I think of it, I jot these ideas down for later retrieval, but haven’t needed to use them yet.

When I actually sit down to write, of course, all bets are off. As yet, there has been no pre-planning. Tonight’s Daily (I’m calling them Dailies) started off with a somewhat vociferous rant against Margaret Atwood which churned itself into a thousand words about Canadian Culture. Yesterday was about cooking, food, dinner parties, and some reflections thereupon. The day before was (quick pause while I go check) about embracing change, later turning into a bit about the strange clash between horror and beauty that we all endure every single day. None of these topics were preselected — they just happened to be what poured out of my brain and into the keyboard while I had the word processor open to a blank page.

Naturally, the vast majority of what I’ve written is utter trash. Breathless at times, totally disorganized, wholly unrevised. Just raw. But that’s ok. For now, that’s all I want — I just want to get into the habit of producing a certain amount of raw content on a daily basis. Writing, you see, has two phases. Generating raw content is, by necessity, the first. The second, which can only happen once the raw content is available, is revising. Unlike sculptors, writers don’t start with a block of material and just spend their time taking away the parts that don’t belong. We need to create the block first, and only then can we start chipping away at the edges. Right now, I just need to produce giant chunks of rough marble.

The second part of my new writerly regimen is this, my weblog. In addition to the one thousand word not-for-other-people minimum, I intend to spend ten to fifteen minutes churning out an entry for my weblog (not including revision and additions). This has two purposes. First, it will mean my weblog gets updated daily, which I’m hoping will draw in more readers. Behind this interminably timid exterior, I really do crave an audience. Second, it will get me used to the idea of actually writing for an audience every day. The one thousand word minimum is all well and good, but if I don’t get used to the idea of having other people actually read my writing, I’ll eventually end up cheating by typing the word “house” a thousand or more times, until the word itself becomes utterly nonsensical and loses all meaning. So, yeah. The weblog entries are intended to keep me at least partially anchored in reality. Writers write to be read. Anything else is just intellectual wanking.

The third and final part of my new regimen involves reading. I used to read a lot. Books upon books every week. I had no TV, I wasn’t caught up in the whole gaming craze, I wasn’t yet jacked into the Matrix (read: Internet). I had a lot of hours to fill, and I gleefully filled them with books. In bulk. When I lived in Montreal I would spend $300-$500 every paycheque on books, often going downtown daily just to browse the bookshops.

Then I stopped reading. Not entirely of course, but from a diet of three or four books per week, I ended up down to about one per month, usually read in ten page increments right before bed. That’s no damned good. I love reading, and so I’m going to make time for it again. I don’t have a minimum daily allotment, but I’d like to be able to spend a couple of hours every day, on average, just sitting on my butt with a book.

And with that, I think I shall.

(43 mins, including revision. 1056 words. So much for 10-15 mins.)

Quick Weeknight Yummy

Food No Comments

Last night, in a fit of inspiration, I made the following:


1 package Olivieri Three Cheese Tortellini
1 package Olivieri Alfredo Sauce
8 pods (they come in ice-cube-sized pods) Frozen Chopped Spinach
2 trimmed boneless, skinless chicken breasts


Cook chicken, however you like. I quick fried it with a little olive oil and pepper, but I suspect the ideal method here would be grilling. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.

Boil water, and cook tortellini according to package directions (package says 8 mins, but I usually do 7).

Microwave spinach pods in a cereal bowl with a little water on High for 2 mins or so. Mix alfredo sauce with spinach, and microwave again for 2-3 mins on High.

Assemble. Top with fresh grated parmasean and ground pepper.

All told, it takes about 20 mins to make, and is exceedingly yummy. Not the healthiest meal in the world (cheese dunked in cheese with cheese on top), but it’s enough to feed two hungry people with enough leftovers for lunch. Yum!

Quick Notes

Books, General, Mozilla No Comments

I’m rereading Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D. T. Suzuki, because, as Suzuki puts it, “[i]t is the object of Zen…to save us from going crazy or being crippled.” Zen is interesting.

I’ve also started going to a fitness centre. So far, so good. Of course, I’m two whole days into this, so “so far” isn’t really that far at all. The nice parts are: a) the place is really, really close to where I live, and b) it never takes more than half an hour to do a full workout. I bit the bullet and signed up for three months. Wish me luck.

Devmo is going well, with lots of stuff going on lately. We’ve made some significant progress towards moving to beta, and it’s all very fun and exciting. Watch this space for beta announcements in the near future. Woo!

In other news, it turns out that Firefoxes are really damned cute.

That’s about it. My friends zab and blizzard and shona are in town for the Ottawa Linux Symposium this week, which is always much fun. Busy busy.

Analogging it

General 8 Comments

I’m going analog. No more PDAs for me, thanks. I’m back to using notebooks. Here’s a picture of my current personal productivity system:

What you see here are two notebooks, one 8 1/2″ x 6″, the other 4″ x 6″. Beside those are two small stacks of 3″ x 5″ index cards bound with bulldog clips. (The green index card in the back is my shopping list.) Topping it off is my brand new Space Pen.

So far it’s working very well. The trick is carrying around a stack of blank index cards and the Space Pen all the time so when I think of something I actually write it down instead of pretending that I’ll remember it 10 mins later. It’s like having a TODO list that I actually remember to add to and look at. How handy!

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Blank index cards: this is a stack of 20 index cards, 5 each yellow, blue, green, and white. Yellow = Work, Green = Home, Blue = Personal, White = Writing Ideas. This is the stack I carry around.
  • Not-blank index cards: this stack actually contains 2 weekly planner cards, 1 2005/2006 calendar card, 1 shopping list, 1 TODO list (for the day), and a stack of cards detailing the stuff I want to get done. This is the stack that sits on my desk and reminds me what I need to get done.
  • Small Notebook: work-related stuff — meeting notes, etc.
  • Large Notebook: personal stuff, mostly exploring writing ideas, and other such things.
  • Space Pen: When closed it’s about 4″ long and has no pointy bits. When open with the cap on the back, it’s a proper pen-sized pen. Small with no pointy bits means you can actually carry it around in your pocket without getting poked. Pen-sized when open means less writer’s cramp. The “space” part of the space pen is semi-solid ink and nitrogen-gas pressurized ink flow, so no leaking and no relying on gravity. For $25, it’s quite an awesome pen.

There you have it. I’ve joined the Hipster PDA revolution. Or, actually, just reverted to the system I used throughout all of highschool and university. Whichever. Space Pen!

Hey, Vlad updated his blog!

Mozilla, People 2 Comments

It looks like Vlad has resurrected his weblog. Happy day!

Movies, Food, Games, Books, and Work

Books, Food, Internet, Movies, Mozilla 4 Comments


Boolean and I just finished watching The Elephant Man, starring John Hurt and directed by David Lynch. This is an utterly phenomenal movie, telling (part of) the story of Joseph Merrick. It’s tragic and heartbreaking, while also somewhat uplifting. I won’t bother with any more trite cliches, I’ll just strongly recommend you rent it sometime soon.


Last night, somewhat on a whim, I did a garlic-rosemary sirloin tip roast with potatoes, onions, and asparagus, accompanied by a nice bottle of wine from Portugal (Quinta D Encontro ‘Bairrada Superior’ 2001, $19.95 @ LCBO). Sirloin Tip roasts are roughly half the price of Prime Rib, which is a bonus, and I think Sirloin Tip actually makes for better sandwiches. Tonight’s dinner was leftovers, transformed into total yumminess as Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches with Cordon Bleu Beef Gravy, extremely fresh thick-sliced white bread from the local bakery, and fresh, very lightly steamed, peas. So, a $22 hunk of meat from the local grocery fed 4 people for a nice proper meal, and had enough leftovers for 3 more sandwiches (I’m having the last for lunch tomorrow).


A bunch of us have been playing a strange little web-based space game called Ogame lately. It’s interesting, fun, not very time consuming (unless you’re phik), and a strangely interesting diversion every so often. It’s not for the weak of heart, however, as there’s basically no documentation. Still, if you like space games (or even just resource management/building games with an exploration/piracy twist), you might get a kick out of it.


Tried reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake. Didn’t make it very far. It…I dunno. Maybe I didn’t give it enough time, but after an hour’s reading, it still felt very much like he was just rambling aimlessly. Felt much more like a drunken weblog than a novel, I’m sad to say. Abandoned it.

Started reading Oblivion, a recent book of short stories by David Foster Wallace. I’m only about halfway through the first, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s a bit of a jarring leap from Roald Dahl to this, I find, if only because Dahl’s stories are actually short, while Wallace’s first in this volume is 64 pages long or so.


For those of you who don’t know, I work for the Mozilla Foundation, managing the Devmo project. It’s coming along nicely, but we’re always interested in having more people come on board to help out. If you’re interested in Web or XUL development, drop by the Devmo Wiki and take a look around. The place is still a bit rough around the edges as we’re still officially in “alpha” stage (which, here, really means we’re still building stuff), but we’re hoping to shape things up for a beta in the near future. Comments, suggestions, editorial help, and content are always welcome.

Common Errors in English

Writing No Comments

Common Errors in English Usage. Ever want to know whether it’s “jerry-rigged” or “jury-rigged”? How about when to use “who” instead of “that”? Or, my new favourite, Colons and Semicolons.

While you’re here, you might as well go read George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language“.

Pork-Asparagus Stir Fry

Food, General, Recipes No Comments

Writing this one down before I forget it. The flavours of the pork and asparagus come through the garlic/chili very nicely. The ginger didn’t make much impact, so I’ll probably do this with fresh minced ginger next time.


1 leftover garlic-ginger pork tenderloin
1 bundle asparagus
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 med cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp pureed ginger
1 tbsp hot chili flakes in oil
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 c chicken stock
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp sugar (brown or white)


Mix minced garlic, ginger puree, chili flakes, and peanut oil in a small bowl; set aside. Mix chicken broth, soy sauce, lime juice, and sugar in a small bowl; set aside. Heat pan to medium. Wash asparagus, removing tough ends, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Heat sesame oil in pan and add asparagus, covering with a lid to steam/fry asparagus for 4-5 mins, stirring frequently. Cut leftover pork into bite sized pieces. Remove asparagus to bowl. Add ginger/garlic/chili mixture to pan and fry for 30-45 seconds, stirring constantly. Put asparagus and pork in pan, then add chicken stock mixture. Heat to almost boiling, stirring frequently. Serve over steamed rice. Easily makes enough to serve four, or two with leftovers for lunch :)

Note: watch your fingers when taking the damned lid off the rice steamer. I burned my thumb.

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