Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Word About Will Power

I'm on day 14 of my sugar-free, wheat-free, dairy-free diet. This week I endured
  • a friend's baby shower at work, where home baked cake, breaded chicken wings, and a traditional kosovar bread-roll of some sort were being served - on Wednesday
  • the left-overs of said baby shower on Thursday, and
  • a benefit event to raise money for Palestine - where the food being sold came in the form of sandwiches, tarts and butter rolls, and brownies, on Friday

Today, I subjected myself to cake-baking. No one told me to make the cake, I just really wanted to make it. For the first time in probably my life, I didn't lick the left over batter off the pan. Instead, I made a second batch of cake for myself where I replaced the wheat flour with Kamut flour, the milk with almond milk, and the sugar with stevia (big mistake about the stevia, horrible aftertaste, but now I know to use honey for next time)...
I haven't cheated yet. I think what stops me is that I've made it all so public. If I broke down now, I'd have to tell you all. I'd have to post it to Facebook. I'd have to start counting at 1 again. If I only had myself to tell, I would have broken down at least 5 or 6 times by now. I'm sure of this because I've made the "no more allergens" promise to myself countless times before. I've typically made it to mid-morning of the same day the promise is made; on the days my will power has been phenomenal, I've made it to just before bed time. But in the end, I've always caved.
I like to think this isn't just my lack of will power, but how humans work in general. We need to own up to someone or we cave. I've figured out what makes me tick, what motivates me. I know I'll break sooner or later, but my plan right now is to go on for as long as I can. And when I break, my plan is to announce it, lick my wounds, and start over. It's worth it. I feel so much healthier. And it's easier every day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

7 Days Done

So I told you about the 7 day challenge I gave myself last week to avoid wheat, sugar, and dairy products. Well, I'm happy to report that I'm now on Day 8!
In total honesty, I didn't really think I'd get this far. Sure, I might have been able to make it on the weekend, or on my first Monday, when I was working from home, but on Tuesday, I was back in the Ottawa office, with the pharma plus, in all its Toblerone-selling glory, and the Marcello's, with its rice pudding and nanaimo bars and apple fritters and chocolate chip muffins. Well, at 2 p.m., as the afternoon yawning came in, I went down and got a coffee and some celery sticks. Yup, celery sticks...
Wednesday and Thursday were similar. On Friday, I spent most of the day in the Montreal office, and had to walk by the best bakery ever 5 times, without buying anything I couldn't eat. I discovered that the Pharma Prix sells almond and date bars in the back of the store. I checked the ingredients. I bought two. They were yummy, if overpriced, but they helped me get through the day...
7 days may sound like not a big deal, but before I started this, I was eating "allergy food" nearly every day, often more than once a day, so I'm really, really relieved to have gotten this far...
Oatmeal is one of my best friends when I'm craving dessert. Put some dates or berries in it, sprinkle a little cinnamon or cocoa on top, and it's gooey like something baked would be, and just sweet enough.
My next goal is to hit next Sunday. If I get there, that's 14 days. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 20, 2009

If you're confused about the Credit Crisis, watch this...

I'm pretty responsible with managing my own personal money, but when it comes to economics or the global financial crisis, I'm essentially a first-grader, no matter how much I try to read up on it. If you want to actually understand what the heck happened and why we're all going to be poor (sorry to be such a debbie-downer, but someone has to face the cold harsh truth), watch this video. I think I FINALLY understand what's going on.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tales of Geekdom from the Unapologetic

This is the post where I come clean about my true identity, and finally say loud and clear that I am, indeed, a geek. Now, you may have already figured it out from my "100 things about Noha" post, where I admitted to being a grammar obsessed comma queen, and loving the parentheses (especially the nested ones), or corny jokes, or run-on sentences (see the sentence you're reading right now for evidence - no, proof!), but maybe you thought all my geek-characteristics were purely linguistic. Well, I'm here to tell you otherwise.
This week, it really dawned on me that I'm a geek on sooooooooooo many other levels than just my linguistic quirks, starting primarily with my academic geekiness. While I constantly tell myself that I could never do grad school (unlike my PhD-pursuing hubby), and while I shuddered one time when he actually asked me if I remembered what the sine of e-squared (or something like that) was, I will admit to loving (LOVING!) my third year logic and discrete mathematics course.
Deductive logic was honestly, truly a thing of beauty, a marvel to me. I would sit there in the front row (yes, by choice), hanging on to the professors every word as he showed us one incredible proof after another, scrawling formulas down the page until at the bottom - bang! - everything just balanced. I remember how he would turn before writing the last line on the board and wink at us, and say "nothing up my sleeve" and some of the students would role their eyes. Not me, I was entranced. To me, that line where everything balanced, where the right side of the equals-sign and the left side of the equals-sign suddenly fell into perfect synergy was like the part in a book with 10 pages left where you suddenly get exactly how it's going to end, and yet you have to read on just to respect the author's genius, or that last scene of the sixth sense when the twist becomes evident and you're shaking your head in shock (and yet delighted!), and you're telling yourself "Oh my God! I didn't see that coming! Did I see that coming?" and then you replay the whole thing in your head trying to figure out exactly when you started to figure it out...
And this is how I feel about deductive logic, ergo, I am a geek.
I did the same thing when I started comparing my programming and design logic to the philosophy notes my sister (a psychology major) took. And-Or constructs in programming where just another way of talking about necessary and sufficient conditions in philosophy. Philosophy and math were the same thing, and to me, this discovery was another little miracle.
I love finding connections. It's hard to describe beyond that, but I think that all disciplines in science and art are very intertwined and it's just for us to delight in finding the links....
Today, I stood in my boss's office for about 5 minutes at mid-morning, staring at her marker-covered whiteboard and shaking my head with a similar level of satisfaction. We were both doing it, looking at the board, happily, and telling each other how beautiful it was... "beautiful" one of us would say. "It's beautiful, just beautiful. It all fits together" the other would respond. We've been working on a problem for a few weeks and it started off as a huge mess of seemingly random information, and now we've found a little box for each piece of the 'random' information and the pieces fit in the boxes, and there are links. It was beautiful, and we couldn't stop repeating it. So the highlight of my day was seeing the pieces click together on the beginnings of a process model that has been hurting my head and running me ragged for the last little while. and after 5 minutes of being pleased, we laughed at ourselves and realized that the process model wasn't going to implement itself, (in fact, was still in the early stages of development), and I walked out to make phone calls and fill out spreadsheets of information... But happily. Maybe the geeks out there will understand?
P.S. My food challenge is still going. I haven't eaten any dairy, wheat, or sugar-products for 5 days (with the exeption of a few drops of milk in my coffee...)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Crazy Subliminal Cucumber Post

Cucumber would have to be one of those vegetables I rarely eat. It's good in salads, but M's not a fan, and when I buy them they end up going bad before I get through the small package of 4 or the one massive one. Plus, you can't cook cucumbers, so you can't salvage the slowly wilting veggie by slicing and dicing and throwing it in a pot, right?
Well, it would seem that cucumber is subliminally trying to convince both myself and a friend of mine that it can indeed be cooked or baked. The evidence:
Situation A
Last week, I was describing to my mom the vegetable soup I was planning to make as part of dinner for a little dinner party M and I were having on Friday night (random note: I ended up making cream of mushroom soup. M made the most divine chicken. No one could believe he'd cooked it. We have left overs. I'm in heaven.) So, as I'm describing the soup, I say it has diced onions, celery, cucumbers, only I'm saying all of this in Arabic, and my mom goes "Wha?? Cucumbers? WHY are you putting cucumbers in your soup?"
To which I respond, "I always put cucumbers in my soup. I got it from you. YOU always put cucumbers in your soup" and she shakes her head profusely and we continue to have this debate for 5 minutes before my little sis says "I thought M didn't like cucumbers?"
I start to answer that "no, no, M doesn't like.... oh, wait, M doesn't like cucumbers". At which point I realise that I've been saying cucumber all along when I meant to be saying carrot. Cucumber in soup jokes ensue for the remainder of the evening.

Situation B
I have been eating everything on my allergy list with complete abandon on and off for about 2 months and I have decided to put an end to it with a 7-day no wheat, no dairy, no sugar challenge to myself. For moral support, and to hold myself accountable, I posted this to my status on facebook and my friends have been very good in cheering me on. So much so that one of them offered me her "cucumber cookie" recipe.... Now, having just had this cucumbers-don't-cook conversation with my sis and mother, I am very skeptical, and ask her what on earth this could possibly be. Somewhere in the back of my mind I'm thinking there's a teensy possibility that a cucumber cookie does in fact exist in some alternate raw food vegan universe, but I'm just doubtful that my friend belongs to this universe. Well, ta-dah! I'm right. Friend meant zucchini cookie. She sent the recipe too. it looks divine, but it has butter, sugar, and wheat flour... I could substitute. I might give an alternate version of the recipe a try. if I do, and it's edible. I will post.

So there you have it folks. Cucumbers are feeling the heat (or they aren't and badly want to be... hardy-har-har).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ah, to be a litte girl

I write a lot about my Little Angela in Dubai, and her kid brother the little angel, but I think most of you know I have a Bigger-But-Still-Little Angela in California too (not to mention her two little angel kid brothers)...
BBS (Bigger But Still) Little Angela is 5, going on six in a month. She's in Kindergarten, and to listen to the conversation she had with my mother on Wednesday night, you would want to be her age again, and back in Kindergarten... I hadn't spoken to BBS Little Angela in months, so the conversation was extra-amusing for me. My favourite parts:
  • "Grandma, can you send me a letter with a picture in it? I'm going to draw you a picture and send it to you in a letter first and then you can write me back."
  • "Grandma, do you have Mama's address so you can send the letter?" (Always skeptical)
  • "Grandma, can you also buy me a a beaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful blouse from the market?" (and people, I wrote beautiful that way because I swear, that's how she said it. The moment she said beautiful, I felt like we were out of the actual conversation and in a fairy tale where they were talking about the "beaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuutiful princess").
  • When Grandma asks what colour the blouse should be: "Oh, a beaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuutiful pink blouse. But if you can't find pink, it can be purple or white or any other colour" (so the key here again people, is that the blouse just needs to be "beaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful")
  • And my favourite, as the phone call is winding down: "Grandma, I have to go now, because I have to watch TV"

Where do I get a time machine? Are they accepting applications to be 5 again somewhere?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I want my hour back!

This weekend, we turned the clocks forward to daylight savings time, and while we won't have to deal with the sun setting until nearly 7 p.m., the downside is that I suddenly feel so behind.
Daylight savings time (DST) used to happen on the first Sunday in April, and all through university, this hour-thievery had such an enormous effect because it was always, always, always right around exam time. I felt like the time people were out to make sure I couldn't have just 60 more minutes to figure out a proof, to solve a program that refused to compile, or even to just sleep so that the next day's studying would make some sort of sense...
Two years ago, the U.S. decided to move DST three weeks earlier, and being the good Canadian neighbours we are, we of course followed right along. It was necessary, 6 weeks of time difference (three in the fall when setting clocks back, three in the spring when setting clocks forward) between places like New York and Toronto would have wreaked havoc on the business world, but you wonder why Uncle Sam really thought it was such a good idea to do it anyway...
The theory was that it would save energy, that 3 weeks of extended day light would mean people would turn their lights on later, blah blah blah, yadda yadda, insert more detail...
There is NO way to ever measure whether this worked. What I do know is that at work, we were thrown into a frenzy working on the DST project, making sure all IT infrastructure, systems, and applications were DST ready... It was many hours of overtime for many people. Some did so much OT they bought flat screen TVs with the money after. Others took vacations. (Me, I just did the boring thing and put it in the bank). It was like a mini version of the Y2K freak-out 7 years earlier... We love to have to worry about whether something wrong with the machines can possibly cause the whole world to end.
In hindsight, I look back fondly at the DST project as the first really technical, large scale project I worked on. But I still got up this morning and realized that instead of the 9:50 blinking on my clock, the time was 10:50. And I still feel groggy while I write this. And I still feel, well, honestly? A little jipped.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Pool, Continued

In case you're wondering, I've been swimming at the condo's pool several times since this happened, the most recent of these times having been this morning. I thought I'd share the good news that each of these swims was completely uneventful and unremarkable, i.e. no more angry racist swimmers trying to ban me from the pool for wearing too much. Thought I'd let y'all know.