My friends do cool things

October 14th, 2010

I have friends doing interesting things. I thought I’d share a few of them.

First there’s Nat who is working on a TOEFL iBT site. If I needed to learn English, I’m sure this would be super useful.

Then there’s Lisa who has her startup Coupled Together with her husband Marc. They started their relationship as a long distance couple and want to make things easier for others like them (and me!)!

And finally, there’s Jill who has been working on her web-series, Ruby Skye P.I., for a long time now. The second teaser has been released. And the count down to episode 1 is on – October 25 is a short 11 days away! I can’t wait.

Chicago City Running Tour

September 24th, 2010

Last month I visited Chicago with N. We had a great visit, tourist-ing it up. We took the requisite Boat Tour (confession: i napped), a Food tour (underwhelming) and even took in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

A true highlight for me was my City Running Tour. Last year I was lucky enough to win a free tour from a contest on Racevine. I figured I would use it during one of my NY trips, but when we booked the trip to Chicago I realized this would be a perfect opportunity to take advantage of it. And N was super excited about having a sleep-in.

Marlin picked me up at my hotel at 7AM my first morning in Chicago (8AM Toronto time – so later than I normally sleep!). It was hot, so the rainy weather was pretty soothing. We ran along the river, the lake and then back through Grant Park, Millenium Park and finally to the hotel. A solid 10km.

The first half of the tour was story time – Marlin told me all about Chicago and the grossness that was the river and the world fair and all sorts of other interesting things (N claims we learned some of this on the Boat tour while I slept). Then when we came back through the parks it was photo time! I saw Grant Park, Millenium Park and a number of other landmarks which Marlin documented with photos of me running through them all. It was a fantastic way to see a new city. And [if I had a sense of direction] it [would have] given me a good sense of the layout of the city and where things were 🙂

Marlin was a great guide. He knows a ton about Chicago and is a very interesting person as well. His tour was a highlight of my trip!

The one problem – I was back and hyper at 8:15 and that’s when N’s sleep in ended. Too bad for him!

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I’m a Matzoh Ball Princess

September 17th, 2010

I imagine most folks that read this blog already have heard the news via twitter or facebook or my loud mouth, but I feel like it’s worth a post anyway.

Last week as the festivities for the Jewish New Year came to an end, and Mom was celebrating pulling off yet another delish lunch for 40 family and friends, Zane Caplansky was looking for competitors for a Matzoh Ball Smackdown. He had posted about the contest on his blog (which I do follow) even clarifying you didn’t need to be a bubbie to enter.

Sure, I think my mom’s matzoh balls are the greatest. But I know better than suggest she spend more time in the kitchen after all the work she put in for our Rosh Hashana lunch!

My sister, on the other hand, saw a tweet from now toronto about the contest and decided to start talking/tweeting smack about how good mom’s balls are. Zane asked her to enter and the two of us ganged up on our mom. Game on.

Erin recruited a cheering squad made up of family and her friends – most of whom had never tasted a Matzoh ball. I made a t-shirt that said “My Mommy is Yummy and Her Balls Are Too”.

Lucky for me, there was a reporter there covering the action and her article from the toronto star does a great job capturing the fun and intensity! Here’s my favourite part:

In the fluffy category, Schachter triumphed over the scandals her husband had earlier pointed out.
“Justice won out,” Joel Schachter said over the cheers of his family. “It was the correct decision.”

My mom is the Fluffy Ball Queen of Toronto 2010. Which makes me the Princess. At least until next year.

Here are my pictures from the event:

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September 16th, 2010

as i’ve mentioned, updating my site yesterday was more painful than it could have been. i’m going to document some of my mistakes so that if folks google something about updating from wordpress 2.0.X to 3.0.1 they might find this helpful.

I’m using a click through for the body of the post because it’s long, nerdy, and most importantly because I’ve figured out how to easily do this. so it’s your choice whether you want the dirty details!

Read the rest of this entry »

all better

September 16th, 2010

i decided i wanted to be able to keep a reading log as a “sub-blog” since i have a hard time keeping track of what i’ve read and it’s only getting worse with age.

that was pretty easy to configure using wordpress, but when looking at the API i realized how out of date my version was and i decided i should upgrade it immediately. it took a little while and i might have disappeared for a few hours for dinner since i started about 20 minutes before i was due to meet my friend!

alas, if you are moving from version 2.0.X to 3.1 there’s a little more to it than uploading the new WordPress director. like migrating your database to a newer version of mysql.

good thing there’s google to help me along when i run into these kinds of problems!

then, i wasn’t able to update my plugins automatically, but that’s okay. unzipping and uploading isn’t so bad.

but I’ll get that working that later since google says it’s an issue with 1and1 and there are things online to help me along too!

i’m totally working from home tomorrow.

In Transit

August 17th, 2010

I still take out some books from the Library in paper form when I can’t get them digitally and don’t want to buy them. It keeps my wrists strong since I have to hold up the heavy book instead of the light kobo. Haha.

One thing that always strikes me as odd is how long books spend in “In Transit” state. Really, I’ve had books spend 2+ weeks in transit. Come on folks, I know Toronto is big, but it’s not like the book is getting walked between branches… or is it? Does the book take vacation before it’s free to be taken out again? Are deliveries to a given library on a weekly (monthly?) basis?

Any other theories?

Kobo Story and Review

July 16th, 2010

This post is longer than it should be because I haven’t written in awhile, my code is taking a long time to compile these days, and it’s my blog so I’ll do what I want. I put headings so you can skip to the actual review part if you so choose

Part 1: Where I talk about when I was an eReader hater, and how I have an impulse shopping problem

I thought about getting an eReader for awhile. First I thought I’d hate it. Then I went to Mexico with my friends for Natalie and August’s wedding in March, and Matt lent me his to read a book on the beach (The Girl Who Played with Fire) while he devoured his newly imported copy of the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. It was a great reading experience, made only better by the fact that I was sitting on a hammock in paradise. This device enabled me to hold my mojito and flip the page AT THE SAME TIME! Heaven.

I was still skeptical, if only because during take off/landing my Kindle friends were unable to read. I felt like a hot shot with my paper book – ‘look at me flipping pages’ I taunted ‘who’s reading now?’

Besides the whole airplane thing and the standard “I am a reading snob and only like reading paper books” argument, my other big concern with eReaders was the library factor. I don’t like to buy all the books I read. It’s just too many books. With a Kindle, I’d be stuck paying ~$14 per book. So besides the initial investment in the hardware, there was that to think about.

I ended up in a Chapters to buy my book club book for June [the wait at the library was too long!], and they had Kobos in stock. In black! I played with one, and decided that instead of paying $20 for the hard copy of the book, I would buy a Kobo save $10 when I bought the digital version! Yes, I do understand the flaw in my logic. But you’re not paying my Visa bill so don’t worry.

Here’s why I was okay buying the Kobo, when I wasn’t able to stomach buying the Kindle

  • it was a lot (~$100) cheaper than the Kindle at the time of purchase. Spending $150 is easier for me to take a chance with than $250.
  • i spent time playing on the online Kobo Canadian store, and virtually every book i could think of was there. I did play on the Kindle store and had a very difficult time figuring out whether books I looked at would be able to be purchased in Canada. And when I asked a Canadian Kindle owning friend about a few titles several were not available (including the Girl Who Played With Fire, which I had read on an American Kindle). That said, I did google how to fake out your Kindle into thinking you were American so you could access the US content, but I don’t want to have to transact with Amazon Gift Cards all the time.
  • I found out that the Toronto Public Library has a pretty decent sized collection of eBooks in ePub form which I could read on the Kindle Kobo.
  • Baron had played with his gf Dana’s and confirmed that it was cool – and Dana who is an avid reader confirmed 🙂
  • It was there and I’m all for immediate gratification

Part 2: Where I talk about what I like and don’t like about my Kobo

I’m not an eReader expert, so take this as what I like and don’t like about my Kobo. I make mention of the Kindle, since that’s the other thing I’ve used, but only for a short time. Basically, if you’re looking for a thorough compare and contrast of different readers this ain’t it.

The bad

  1. Speed: The Kobo is slow to boot up and to load the book. I find it’s worse with books from the library (as opposed to a Kobo generated ePub that I bought from the store). While I wait for things to load I often find myself thinking how nice it used to be to pick up a book and start reading. Once it’s loaded moving between pages is always fine. But I have found things like changing font size or moving chapters take awhile in non-Kobo ePubs.
  2. Navigation: The Kobo makes me click more than I need to. When I start it up, instead of taking me to the last page I was on it takes me to the list of books I’m reading. After waiting for it to start, the extra click (and wait) annoys me. I also dislike how when I click up and down it changes the font size because I sometimes end up triggering that by accident (there’s another way to change font size that requires more clicks – would be happy with just that) and then you have to wait for the new font to render and change it back and wait again (the waiting gets exponentially worse with non-Kobo ePubs).
  3. No Notating Books The ability to put notes in books as your read in the Kindle is really cool. But I never put notes in books I read on paper. I couldn’t justify getting a “neat” feature that I realistically would rarely if ever use. I haven’t once missed it.
  4. No Dictionary When I read the book on the Kindle I loved the dictionary feature. When I don’t know a word as I’m reading, I will normally skip over it since it’ll make sense in context. Having the built in dictionary made me less lazy and I found myself looking up unfamiliar words because I could without disturbing the reading experience. This feature doesn’t exist in the Kobo – but I haven’t once missed having it.
  5. No Search The feature I knew I would miss on the Kobo was search. I always forget who is who in books, so being about to search for their name is awesome and I made full use of that on the Kindle when I read on it (and then had a really hard time with the paper version of GWKTHN – Sweedish names are hard). Again, something I can live without.
  6. No reading while charging Even if I plug mine into the wall (not the computer) the screen likes to tell me it’s charging and won’t let me read. minor annoyance.
  7. Treatment of non-Kobo ePubsThe formatting is often wonky on non-Kobo ePub books. Page numbers appear partway down the screen. And the page count is for the entire book rather than per chapter like the Kobo books. I don’t really mind, but wish all books were treated the same. Also, you can’t use the Kobo software to load them onto the device – instead you need to use Adobe Digital Editions. Would be slicker if I could do it all in one place.

The good

  1. Size My Kobo is teeny tiny – fits into my everyday purse that’s not even hobo style!
  2. Price It’s not so $$ that I have to be paranoid that something is going to happen to it. If I had an iPad I’d think twice before I read next to the pool with it. But this I throw in my purse without a case and don’t worry about. It still looks great!
  3. Screen Great on my eyes. The refresh flicker doesn’t bother me. I normally use the smallest font. I like it at least a million times better than reading on computer. Same as paper
  4. Convenience I always have my Kobo with me. Have been reading a ton more than I used to because I always have my book on hand! Not to mention one handed reading has now let me read when I do things like blow dry my hair. Yes, I read when I blow dry my hair. I also use it in the bath – yay for Ziploc bags!
  5. Standard USB Cables! Kobos use standard USB cables to hook into your computer. This might not be a big deal to some, but for me it is GREAT because I lose everything and have a bunch of these. When I lost the one that came with the Kobo a few days after I bought it (don’t judge) it wasn’t a big deal. AND it can use the wall chargers I have for things like my GPS which has the same connector. Yay for not having to buy $20 cords!
  6. Free Books with short waits! Books that took AGES (months) to get from the library have tiny waiting lists as ePub books. I’ve read things off of best seller lists, my “i should read this” list, and from my “i don’t eat sugar so i can read teenage books if i want to” list. My only problem is that when I put something on the wait list it comes so quickly that I have to be careful not to hold too much at once. Which isn’t really something to complain about. And I have heard that you can find ePubs on some torrent sites as well
  7. Great website The Kobo website is great. I love that I can get lists of books to read containing best sellers from different papers, chic lit etc. I often use the lists to farm ideas of what I’d like to take out of the library. I’ve only bought 2 books so far (I’ve read at least 8). And the Canadian selection is fantastic. I’ve only found one book that I couldn’t find on the website – it was on the Kindle site, but whose to say I could get it in Canada.
  8. Battery life I’ve found the battery life on my Kobo totally fine. It only died once, after about a week and a half (which contained a reading heavy long weekend). I’ve been downloading books so frequently that I will normally plug it in while I’m working to put the book on and just leave it.


I love my Kobo! Sure, it’s not perfect, but the problems I have are mostly minor annoyances that might even be fixed in later upgrades (yes, I do have the latest upgrade). It didn’t cost a fortune. I’m not spending more on books than I used to. And most importantly, I’m reading more and loving it!

Okay, that was a mouthful. Hopefully someone will find that helpful!

We are family!

July 1st, 2010

I got all my sisters

Originally uploaded by Pen for Hire

My cousin Marlee’s Bat Mitzvah was a few weeks ago. We celebrated in style. And even had a flash mob. Yes, my little sis choreographed a little ditty to we are family which Marlee and all her friends performed. And me. And my sis. Can you find us amongst the 13 year olds?

Most of the adults (my grandma and great aunt for example) didn’t really get it. All the kids dancing in unison? Must be too much internet or video games or something, right?

And for the record, no, those shoes aren’t comfortable.


June 22nd, 2010

So, I have grown out of using the word “like” as my filler word when I speak. Its replacement: So.

And it turns out I’m not alone – according to an article in the NY Times, my use of the word is one of the [few] ways I’m a stereotypical Software Developer

So it is widely believed that the recent ascendancy of “so” began in Silicon Valley. The journalist Michael Lewis picked it up when researching his 1999 book “The New New Thing”: “When a computer programmer answers a question,” he wrote, “he often begins with the word ‘so.’ ” Microsoft employees have long argued that the “so” boom began with them.

In the software world, it was a tic that made sense. In immigrant-filled technology firms, it democratized talk by replacing a world of possible transitions with a catchall. And “so” suggested a kind of thinking that appealed to problem-solving software types: conversation as a logical, unidirectional process — if this, then that.

So much for being unique.

My fourth time was my first time

May 4th, 2010

Sunday I ran the Sporting Life 10km for my 4th time. I hadn’t really planned on running. I didn’t sign up or anything. But my friend Lisa wasn’t using her bib, and I had a 16km run scheduled for the weekend so decided that I would run the 6km from home to the start line (up hill!) and then enjoy folks cheering for the last 10km of my run. No pressure.

At the start I ran into some folks I knew (there were 14k runners!) including Jeff. Jeff was running his first 10km and said that he was hoping to break an hour. I had no goals of my own, and wasn’t planning to set a personal record, so offered to pace him.

I had fun trying to do this – I am not normally so pace conscious so it was different for me. More often than not I caught us going too fast. The only big mistake I made was our 7th km was almost a minute too fast (5:05 min/km) because we liked following this girl in shorts who seemed to be keeping a similar pace. We had lost her earlier in the race at a water stop. I guess she had picked up her pace – which we weren’t ready for.

I tried to keep Jeff with me for the last km as I gradually picked up the pace again, but he lagged behind slightly. I turned around and yelled “Suck it up, princess”. And he did, crossing the finish in 59:37. Yay!

Here’s a picture of some folks from Jeff’s office (which also happens to be my dad’s office) and me before the race. I look small.
Sporting Life 10km