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Niall's Journal

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1st July 2017

5:51pm: Gone to dremwidth
misspelling intentional...

just add can to the name from here and you'll find me there.

12th December 2016

1:51pm: Major help needed
So... we're looking at buying a car. I've never done that, not even close. My sister's information is years out of date, like 10 or so. Things are different today.

Not sure about used, but we're looking at hybrid - not plug-in or electric, since we're not at a house and there's no way we can ever expect apartment buildings to offer this capability.

Does anyone have recent knowledge to offer as advice, including pitfalls to avoid?
- I'd be the one buying since I have better credit and have been insured for 25 years continuously, both as occasional driver on my sister's car and for a while with Vrtucar's group insurance. My partner is looking at learning with Young Drivers, which will also help on insurance rates.
- No idea what insurance companies are best... how do I even compare rates?
- Do banks check past history of putting money in savings as well as income?
- Do I go to the bank first to see how much of a loan I could get, and base the vehicle price search on that?
- Is there any way to have a clue about actual, final price of cars, with all the hidden or dealer fees? (I don't think we'd go for fancy options)
- obviously I'd prefer Ontario or Canadian knowledge, as some brands aren't even offered here... plus I know that I have to check on how hybrids fare in very cold weather (-25C and below), maybe there's information out there

Augh I know so so little and I can't even figure out how to search...

9th November 2016

11:50pm: One year later
I'm still here, if a bit scattershot. I'm okay - I had a lot of help, not least from my sweetie who helps me smile and comforts me. And in return I help them and get them to smile when I can. There are rough spots, but we weather through. The one-year anniversary (see previous post) went better than expected, I'll meet with my siblings this weekend in the middle of having a small con, so some friendly faces and positive vibes.

New apartment, living together. New part of town to live in. New habits, though some old ones die hard and make it a bit tough - need to clean up and finish unpacking so we can have an apartment-warming party. Life keeps changing.

Though I'm not happy that I've let most of my social activities slide, and the friendships. Will try to reconnect some.

5th November 2015

11:24pm: Monique M., May 1938-November 9, 2015
(I expect to update the title before too long)

This was the diceyness mentioned earlier.

My mother has stage four lung cancer (half left lung collapsed with air pockets - sounds counter-intuitive that it would be bad, but it's not air where air should be - spread to the liver below it and metastasised brain tumours) and is not expected to last the weekend. Might not even make it to the weekend. We're now on death watch.

Ugly medical details insideCollapse )

I have possibly the strongest link of all three children to my mother. I grew up with her for 20 years, and she marked me - mostly in positive ways. Even my sweetie, having met my mother but a few times, saw from those visits and from my talking of my mother how she influenced me in being the person that they fell in love with. We had our differences, but rarely quarelled. She helped me in times I needed it and allowed me to make mistakes, but also to take risks and end up having wonderful memories I would not have been able to have otherwise.

I dearly love my mother, and will miss her terribly. I do not know how I will take this when it happens, which is why I am typing this now. This weekend will be rough, and I don't know how I will feel at the end of it, or further down the line.

I thank you in advance for your kind words. I have some emotional support, and a few arms to hug me. Most people go through this and continue their lives - especially when it's not unexpected.

Bonsoir, mamon. Merci pour tout...

30th September 2015

7:43am: Home safe
Had a fantastic-y week in Seattle, despite developing what was possibly a throat infection, with fever. It slowed me down, but dammit, it wasn't going to completely destroy my plans. The Thursday downtown/Frement plans to go get chocolates before the con, however, were dashed by a horrific accident that paralysed traffic throughout the city all day. Still, keeping plans flexible with my sweetie meant we still got to see some of the city (and we got to chocolopolis on Monday instead). And just about no rain the entire time!

More later, but I do expect that I will never, ever have a connection home through Toronto ever again. Not only is their signage incoherent, confusing and insufficient, but after we went through customs then through the separate "connections" corridor, all that did was spit us out back in the main terminal at the arrivals level down the corridor from the main arrivals. Meaning we had to get back up to Departures, find the (exceedingly few and incredibly high-placed) departures board to find our gate number, and go through security again. We had 1h20 between flights, and we got to our gate just as it was boarding - thank goodness there was a yummy Mill St sandwhich-to-go counter right there or we'd have boarded very cranky and hungry.

Maybe dagibbs and other frequent travellers can let me know, but are there other airports which treat arriving travellers so poorly, which get connecting passengers OUT of the security corridor and make it a gamble to get to your connecting flight on time? That seemed completely mind-boggling.

Even Vancouver was a better experience, even with its podunk-looking US pre-clearance area that seemed tucked away in a corner through a tiny door in what felt like a forgotten corner of the terminal (after we had walked half the terminal to get there, and felt we walked another half to get to our gate). We were tired from walking, and bemused, but not the nearly angry we were at Pearson.

17th September 2015

4:29pm: Still going, a bit of travelling
I'm still around... still happy in my relationship, which has many discussions, some deep ones, some emotional ones, but never any arguments.

In a week I'll be going to Seattle for a convention for the weekend with said sweetie, seeing friends and spending likely too much, and each of my sweetie and I will show each other parts of the city the other may not have seen before.

(Sadly, this will be a week before the NorthWest Chocolate Festival, a world-renowned extravaganza with tons of American chocolate makers (not just from the US) and a few international ones as well, with classes, seminars, and sooo much samples to taste and bars to buy. It would drain my finances - but deliciously so.)

Other things in my life are dicey, but I'm dealing with them as best I can, and with lots of support. I'll let everyone know at some point.

Otherwise, I'm pretty boring right now... oh, got a new job as my old one was about to disappear, same pay, same group, same office even. It's been a challenge, but a nice one. Good thing I didn't go somewhere else, this group would collapse without me...

10th May 2015

12:46pm: Grenade acquired
Boom. Boom boom boom. BOOM.

Way, way too weak. La Tablette de Miss Choco had half the store being new stuff for me...

I wasn't alone for this year's expedition; my sweetie Nej came with me, and spending the day even as a short trip with someone does help to bring out small traits that can be looked at later for personal review. But overall we had a fantastic time, and it was so fun to share all my favourite spots with them. :) The weather was absolutely splendid, and only when trying to find a spot to eat on St-Denis before our bus back did we get hit by the rain - and waiting it out, we noticed we were next to Sushi 999, so hey, why not. If we hadn't spent a fair amount of time eating chocolates (and macarons!) with a break for lunch, we could have eaten more, but their tempura was top-notch, and the salmon and whitefish sashimi were succulent (the latter accoridng to Nej, I don't like the taste). The baggage-checker at the bus station had a hard time believing all of my tote bag was chocolate... yet it was. :)

Considering how warm it has been, I am really, really happy I have my wine fridge right now. Which has one small bottle of red, one bottle of good port, and the rest is filled with chocolate kept at 18 C.

Now if dagibbs had an event soon, I could have a tasting there. :)

7th May 2015

3:00pm: Upcoming grenade and stuff
So this Saturday I'm going to update my Montreal Chocolate map. And I won't be alone, hee. I don't have a huge budget for personal purchases, but, um, new things must be tried to see if they're good enough for What The Fur's chocolate social, yes? yes? Yes.

Also, I've been happily watching Steven Universe. This animated show is cleverly written, with emotions that slip in for real impact sometimes, not dumbed down at all. It's difficult for me to figure out if this is made for children or for adults - I'm not going to check any article on it until I've finished watching all of season one, but it's nice to see character tidbits peppered throughout that develop each personality, or at least give it some roundness. It's still a cartoon about magical (and semi-magical) entities in a (weird) (semi) urban environment, so suspension of disbelief is quite paramount. And the main character's voice acting is likely to grate on many, but I think it hits the mark just on this side of annoying - because earnest children excited about things can be amazing or annoying, depending on the mood. (Also, this is lampshaded in the show itself. among so so many other things.) And goodness knows I can be annoying sometimes when excited about something. Like, say, chocolate. Or saké. :)

2nd April 2015

1:57pm: Beer tasting on Friday April 10
So the best date is April 10, 8pm. List of beers here.

Location is highly likely to be my place - there's my impetus to clean up. I will attempt to make my chili on the Wednesday so that it's ready and in full strength for then. And no beer in it this time. Those who want chili can arrive an hour earlier, but I'll confirm this on the day before.

I've been asked what people can bring... I understand the protocol of bringing a gift for the host, but I've always been uncomfortable doing this for others as I never can guess what others like, and so I am fine with my friends' presence and enjoyment of my selection as all they need to bring.

25th March 2015

11:47am: news, mostly about beer tasting
I'm trying to get a few photo posts going to share things/places I've seen. Kind of the point of me having this forum, after all.

March has been the usual very busy time for me. Things should be more loose in April, including return to more physical activity, if the cold ever lets up.

April should also see the release of the phone I'm currently eyeing; thank you to arndis for the older phone I have that is keeping me going and making me contactable again.

Thank you to those who enjoyed my saké tasting. My next big saké thing is attending Kampai Toronto at the end of May, including figuring out when to travel and where to stay. I can only afford one night at a hotel though, even shared.

Also, while my apartment is not ready yet, I should start making plans for my dark beer tasting.Collapse )

19th February 2015

2:22pm: Saké, phone
Still hosting my saké tasting this Saturday, around 7:30pm, as a break from gaming at dagibbs' place all day. Surprisingly, there hasn't been any addition to the tasting line-up, for once! And I really hope all who I wanted to know got the message.

Because I'm still without a cell phone. First-world problems hidden away.Collapse )

4th February 2015

12:58pm: Quick smartphone question
So I was getting ready to choose, went to kiosks to try them out*, and suddenly noticed one design element that I had not checked for before: of the 5 "finalists" I was looking at, only one, HTC's One M8, did not have the charging plug hidden behind a water/dust protective swivel access door. Samsung's S5's door is at the bottom, but at least hides only the charge plug - Sony's Z3 compact's door accesses and thus leaves open the SD card when recharging. This made me blink, and rethink my dealbreaker criteria.

So I ask, for anyone who has a phone with one of those protective doors, has it impeded anything? Has the door ever broken? Am I weird for thinking it shouldn't be shared with other vitals?

I just wonder how they fare in prolonged daily use; also, the design seems to assume that recharging will be done at home in comfort, security and warmth.

I will likely, if past use is any indication, have to sometimes recharge "on-the-go" with a battery pack, so in my pocket (if with a coat) or bag (if summer). Thus, being outdoors in some way, I wouldn't want any even remote possibility of accidentally losing an SD card or something, or breaking the swivel.

*: I do like the Rideau Centre Bell kiosk since most of the phones there are live models, so I get to physically play with them. Otherwise a dummy piece of plastic does nothing, not even giving the idea of how it feels in the hand since the security tethers foil that idea.

26th January 2015

3:50pm: Sakés date chosen
I will have the saké tasting on Saturday February 21. It seems to work best with most people - and I will happily accept dagibbs' offer of venuing. It can easily be combined into a gaming day. :) If so, I expect post-dinner is best, likely 7:30pm.

Also, I will schedule the porters/stouts beer tasting on Friday February 27. Tentatively my place, unless more than 8 people express an interest. It will have its own post. I completely misjudged a very important date, which makes this one not feasible. Sorry. Must recheck.

I will be able to coordinate better once I choose a new phone. Currently narrowing choices from all six possible carriers (Bell, Rogers, Telus/Koodo, Wind, Mobilicity) as well as studying rate plans and trade-offs (yay great plan, but wouldn't even get non-roaming coverage in Montreal).

22nd January 2015

3:10pm: Phone blues
Well, seems like my cell phone is officially dead - the (admittedly one) place I went to tried replacing the flex cable (I get the feeling that's the mobile phone equivalent of rebooting a computer to fix it), but as I expected, that didn't fix anything. They feel it's the PCB itself, which makes some sense for a sudden double change in behaviour - first having extremely faint display (which sometimes suddenly worked in full, unless and until I wiggled the keyboard slider) but which booted, as the POST sound and double buzz told me; then a few days later, only a bit of backlight would show, even in complete darkness, and no sound or vibration anymore.

(This started Dec 5, the day after I arrived in Chicago for a con, where staying in contact with some people would have been really, really nice. Also nice would have been the repair shop calling me with any news, including that it was unrepairable, but instead I had to phone five times and finally talking to the tech who gave me the news - and to his credit, will make a note that I don't have to pay the $35 ausculting fee due to this lack of communication.)

I found a Toronto Amazon seller that has new ones for $200 - not a bad price for a full three years' use - but they say it's unlocked. The question I ask from more knowledgeable people, is: does Bell support unlocked phones? I do have a pay-as-you-go plan (a sort of mistake to switch from a billing plan, as I realised when I could not use a US data plan at said con - but then again, I now haven't paid $150 with no phone to access said service), if that is important.

Also, I'm curious - where are all SMS kept? On the phone itself (and thus now lost for me), or on the micro-SD card? Someone told me on the SIM card, but I thought those were ROM chips... also, space issues. So when I eventually get a new phone, put in my SD and SIM cards, and turn it on, all the text messages will download, but will that be all I have? I expect the contacts are all saved on the googlemail account... This would have been interesting considering that the repair shop said (much, much too late - as in last week) that they could give me a loaner phone, but I wasn't sure if I wanted all my texts on that machine if it wasn't portable. Also, leery of all kinds of things done that might stay there as an imprint of my activities.)
10:55am: First tasting thread - sakés
EDIT: Feb 21 is the chosen date.

A certain amount of my time is trying to be taken with cleaning up my place for myself, which would also mean for visitors, so this winter's dark beer tasting will have to wait to be scheduled.

As this one tends to be more popular, I would be looking at a gracious host to venue it. There are only six this time, so it might be incorporated into another event as it would take less than an hour to do. But not on a Sunday.

I'm hoping for two weeks' notice, since I would have a couple of new-to-tastings people interested who need advance notification to free up their schedule.

List below the cut.Collapse )

Indicate interest in comments.

14th January 2015

3:06pm: Still alive
Just been a bit busy. Also fighting some laziness. And inertia. Despite the changes that have happened.

Work is still the same, living in the same place, which gets more cluttered as time goes on. Same old same old.

I went to four conventions in 2014, two of them new, big and in the US - Seattle (NorWesCon) and Chicago (Midwest FurFest). I explored more of the former, and a bit of the latter. Found my mecca of chocolate stores in Seattle, as well as a fantastic, all-sustainable sushi restaurant of delectable delights, while in Seattle. I finally got to try authentic Chicago deep dish pizza in my journey from Midway to almost O'Hare airports on public transit, going through downtown; the Chicago River is not as large as I expected, about three times as wide as the Rideau Canal.

I made new friends with many artists online; I even managed to meet a few at cons. I met some longtime online friends for the first time, again through (or around) the cons. Somehow, I had fun and just enjoyed myself, and stopped feeling sorry for myself somewhere along the way; I had friends, I was well-liked, and I did what I could to spread bits of joy and smiles around me - what else would I want to do?

So somehow two hugs in a weekend have led to exploring a relationship. New emotions, new ways to think and feel, and new ways to spend time and share things with someone. Whee! Not that the nature of the person or the relationship itself are anything typical (nor that there should ever be anything typical about love - the people involved are the people involved, whoever and whatever that are), but it makes me learn more things about people and the world. And I'm happy. So that's that.

I'll try to be more active on here again, possibly make a few long-outstanding photo trip reports. Tastings will continue, if nothing else...

10th May 2014

11:29pm: Hello
My name is Niall, and I'm a chocoholic.

I may have a problem... went to update my chocolate map. Sadly, my #2 chocolatier closed, but I found a new one, and then I walked into La Tablette de Miss Choco (Mont-Royal, two blocks east of the subway station) which imports bars from all over the world and oh god I was done. (So was my bank account.)

7th April 2014

12:08am: Hobbies are dangerous
Looks like I'm not safe from any of my hobbies:

- Dancing: first injury back in 2000, then 2002 at my first real date, and more followed, all toes
- Orienteering: broke big toe in 2009, and of course my major clavicle fracture last June
- And now Curling gets added tonight: took a fall on my mid-lower left of my back, fairly flat, nothing on elbow or head.

(What's left: congoing, DDR, boardgaming, videogaming, online chatting...)

Quick trip (less than three hours) to the Civic, x-rays, nothing shows up, so likely no hairline fracture. Just soft tissue damage, as much to the surface muscles as the muscles underneath, the ones connecting various surface muscles together. In ways one doesn't normally think. I'm getting a pretty darn good anatomy lesson if I move a particular way, or extend to pick up something, or bend a bit, or... do a lot of things, really.

But if I sit fully in a chair with my back and neck straight, then there's no real pain (though I happily will take the tramacet prescribed, I know how well it works on me). Yay, an injury forcing me to improve my posture! (this is called grasping at silver linings)

And in ten days, I'm flying to Seattle through Vancouver. Yeah, could have been better timing. Take-off should be fine, it's the landing I'm not looking forward to. And going to a con, but no dancing... that'll be hard on me.

16th March 2014

10:40pm: Reminder - beer and chocolate March 21
It'll be my place, 8pm. I should have room for the 8 people I think are interested. I have 8 seating spaces at least! I already know ironphoenix and dagibbs will be later. There'll be enough left.

Ambers, browns and blacks - three of each to go with Rochef's specially-made chocolates. I already have one amber, Fursten Weizen hefe dunkel from Germany, and plans for the others. Just need to stop by LCBO and the new Bières du Monde in midtown Hull...

14th March 2014

7:57pm: ALL the Pi(e)s
It is now Pie Days - but more than that, it is Pie Weekend on Pie Year: 3.14-16 of 3/14!


I'm starting with cranberry, then have to see what other filling I can do. I can't do my rhubarb-pineapple since I can't find any rhubarb anymore, fresh or frozen...

25th February 2014

8:41am: Beer and chocolate - March 21?
How does Friday March 21 sound to interested people? Friday, 3.5 weeks from now, sadly not on Pi Weekend.

As I expect a single-digit number of people, the plan is to have three beers each of ambers, browns and darks to try with Rochef's pairing chocolates. Each bar can accomodate 8 people this way. With a total of 9 beers, there's even a chance we could drink everything that night. :)

(And I know, lately I only post about alcohol. I do other things too, but they're very limited interest and boring to everyone else than me.)

22nd January 2014

9:11pm: Postponed - beer and chocolate tasting
Unfortunately, I won't be able to host the tasting this Friday after all. I had taken this Monday and Tuesday off to finally unwind from two months of stress at work that finally ended, but instead I developed a cold that left me unable to do anything until tonight, and I know I won't be in shape to do anything Friday. I haven't even had time to shop for the beers yet.

So I'll have to see for venue, and likely won't be until the second half of February.

I'm okay, just a bit woozy still. At least I have great teeth as my hygienist checked tonight.

11th January 2014

12:15pm: Party #1 big success, on to party #2 planning
Thank you for the dozen people who came last-minute to my saké party. It may be the last saké "party" I do - from now on, if I find one I like, I can just bring it to share as part of another party or something. There were enough bottles of good to high to excellent quality all at once that I doubt I can match it in the future. :)

We found out South Korea can make a distinctive, weird, highly floral but very acceptable saké. We also found out that for the higher quality, even how long the bottle has been open makes a huge difference. Three weeks is definitely too long open. Two people had more unusual palates for alcohol, and even they found something to appreciate. Very few bottles were underwhelming or unpalatable for everyone (and in one case, it was established the bottle itself was too old), showing well how what one really likes, another can dislike just as much. Also, past a certain point, the price for quality shows, as the last offering, once from a fresh bottle, pleased everyone quite a lot. (And I'm still hoping to buy more, would need three bottles of a case of 6 to find takers...)

I thank dagibbs for venuing very much, and hope I did okay as host.

So next up...

Seems like Friday January 24 is a go for my dark beers & chocolates tasting. I received a number of chocolates supposedly made to go with black, brown and amber beers, so hey, why not! I think I can limit it to three of each type, but will try for very different representatives. Currently I have Guinness for a black and Fürstenberg Weizen Hefe Dunkel for the amber, but I'm very likely to find much more fun stouts than that. I expect sipping while munching on a square for each type representative, which means I have enough chocolate for 8 people. That's about how many tend to get for my beer tastings anyway.

It would be venued in downtownish Hull. Some cabs can be shared for returning to Ottawa and busses, though walking to the 8 is possible - but how easy depends on how much snow there is. Interest can be expressed in comments.

8th January 2014

7:44pm: Food before Saké
Okay, all is in readiness for Friday.

...yes, this means I doubled the number of bottles from my original estimate. This is a somewhat frighteningly regular occurance in my tastings. But with a baker's dozen people coming, there's definitely room for it - and I'll keep the ones that were served previously for the end, as they all are ones that everyone has loved so that no matter how well the new ones go over, there's something to look forward to. They won't be explained much except to the very few who hadn't tasted them before.

- Hakutsuru Draft and Junmai Ginjo as proper introduction for the newcomers to the drink - the rest can skip it (except jagash, likely)
- Hwa Rang, a South Korean junmai daiginjo. I think it's time I finally check it out.
- Kikusui Fountain of Youth junmai ginjo, from Niigata, among the oldest sakémaker area
- Yoshinogawa Kamé Daké no Saké ginjo and Goku-Jo junmai ginjo, also from Niigata, which also has soft water
- Tamanohikari Omachi junmai daiginjo, a highly well-liked offering from before

I also made an experiment in glassware, and it turns out there is quite a difference in using white wine glasses over the smaller open-rimmed tumblers I've used (some of which are to check colour and clarity instead of odour, and mostly by brewers). So people are encouraged to go that route, depending how many area available.

Revisiting the early bottles after getting the tongue sensitised should be interesting. Okay, for me it'll be fun, but I'm weird.


I'm heavily leaning towards Chu Shing around 6:15pm. I've got me a hankering for mu shu pork, and theirs is the best I've had so far. With a few more people, a smattering of snack size plates doesn't take long to demolish and fill the belly.

31st December 2013

2:18pm: Invitation to saké tasting, Friday January 10, 7:30pm
For those local, I will have what promises to be a very high-quality saké tasting on Friday, January 10, at 7:30pm at dagibbs' place. Highly likely that I'll get some food in Chinatown before, people are welcome to join me.

There will be seven bottles, three of which I've had before and which were very well received. Five of them will be junmai daiginjos, meaning the rice grains are milled to take away at least 50% of the outer shell of "impurities" (not-starch); two others are junmai ginjos, meaning rice is milled to leave at least 60% of the rice grain; only one is above that rate. Three were taken after tasting them at Kampai Toronto, the big saké tasting event done in late May. No basic starter taste this time - well, of a sort, only.

In order:
- Hakutsuru Sho-Une junmai daigingo (50% of the rice left), the first mass-market I've seen in north america (Hakutsuru's regular local mass-market offerings are all done in Oregon)
- Masumi Karakuchi Ki-ippon junmai ginjo (55% rice left), a repeat from my first ever tasting
- Fukucho "Moon on the Water" junmai ginjo (55% rice left), the first Kampai Toronto discovery I really liked
- Tenzan genshu junmai, the only non-ginjo/daiginjo at 75% rice left, but is undiluted and comes from the southern island of Kyushu, a robust taste that intrigued me greatly at Kampai Toronto
- Murai Family junmai daiginjo (45% rice left), another repeat that was bold, floral, almost syrupy, always #2 or #3 choice at that tasting
- Île Four junmai daiginjo (unknown milling, estimated 50%), the last repeat from my most recent tasting, done for a german-Swiss company, very smooth
- Taiheizan Tenko junmai daiginjo (40% rice left), the biggest surprise at Kampai Toronto, which I had to import privately and which I predict will leave no one unmoved - either love or hate, no middle ground. The taste pattern is extremely wide and bold.

Let me know if you want to come and if you're bringing someone else, so we can estimate total seating. Do eat well beforehand to absorb the alcohol, though my pours won't be huge for each.
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