What the f*** Quebec?

Sometime in the near future, it will become easy for French labour to work in Quebec, and vice versa.
Now, you may say 'Great! We're making it easier for French labour to work in Canada and Canadian labour to work in France!'.
Let me reiterate:
'It will be incredibly easy for French labour to work in Quebec, and vice versa.'

That's correct. Quebec and France are making it easy to exchange labour between each other but in no way does this benefit the rest of the country.
In fact, once this piece of legislation comes into effect, it will be easier for a French national to work in Quebec than it would be for a Canadian national from any of the other nine provinces or three territories. It is absurd that Quebec is instituting these laws to deter Canadians from relocating to Quebec but is making it incredibly easy for French nationals.
Even Quebec's Minister of International Relations, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, agrees: "It's abnormal [that it's easier for the French] but we hope negotiations among the provinces will eventually make mobility easier. It is inadmissible that we can have a deal like this with France but not among ourselves". So then why did you establish such a deal with France before the rest of Canada?
That's not all. Maybe I'm being too cynical, but look at who made that statement: Quebec's Minister of International Relations. This begs the question: Why does Quebec have its own Minister of International Relations and why does the minister of international relations deal with other provinces?

Another consequence of this relationship is that it makes it easier for French nationals to apply for Canadian citizenship. This on its own is ridiculous. We're making it easy for foreigners to become Canadians while Quebec reaps all the benefits. It seems like Quebec is trying to join the EU.

It seems like my worst fear becoming reality. Is this the beginning of the end to Canadian unity?

Source: The Globe and Mail - French workers gain access to Quebec market (October 17, 2008)


Oops. It looks like my blog wasn't functioning correctly for the last few days.
Apparently, my host 'accidentally' deleted my and many other customers personal data...

Let's start anew

Global markets are swimming deep in the reds, the price of crude oil is falling like a rock, and the banks are failing left, right, and center.
All five economists of Canada's top five banks all agree that we're headed for more than a recession and that we won't see any growth in the Canadian economy until late 2009. The S&P/TSX composite has fallen almost 35% from June from 15,000 points down to 10,230.43 (as of 2008/10/6). The Canadian dollar has fallen from $1.07 almost a year ago down to 97 cents a week ago and 90.8 cents today.

Putting all this together, we have an incredibly bleak year ahead of us.

Who wants to buy an island and start a new country with me?

Why I will be voting this October 14th

While it's not 100% decided yet, I'm fairly certain in under one year, I will be residing outside of Canada for an extended period of time for work.
Let me put it simply: I'm leaving the country.

Why, though? Everyone who knows me knows that I love Canada and the role my country plays in making our world a better place. There's no other passport in the world I would rather hold.

Well, there are a multitude of reasons why I am making the choice to leave for work.
For one, the number of opportunities in my field is incredibly limited in Canada. Yes, there are many jobs in "high tech" centers like Waterloo or in Toronto's financial district, but most of the companies or work seem relatively uninteresting to me.
However, more importantly, I feel that our previous governments have made it incredibly difficult for companies to establish themselves in Canada (branch offices of foreign companies, new companies, etc) by either taxing them to death or putting in place laws to protect the interests of monopolies simply because they're Canadian.

So then why am I voting in this next federal election?
First and foremost, it is not only my right as a citizen of Canada to vote, but I believe it to be my (and every other citizen's) civic duty to voice their opinions on who they want at the helm of their nation. The result of apathy among voters is an unfair government and a poorly performing country.
Second, I want things to change. I want the next government to make me and other skilled Canadian workers want to come back home and work in Canada. There is a very clear trend by many in the high tech industry to emigrate to the United States and Asia, where there are plenty more high paying jobs.

Hopefully, under the right leadership, Canada will grow to become a technological powerhouse in the coming years.

"Finance isn't as unstable as you think"

One year and 6 months ago I had an interview with Barclays Capital for an internship in Tokyo, Japan.

At the time, I had mentioned that work in the finance sector interested me because of market forces, how they worked, and how easy it is for companies to fail at the drop of a hat thanks to rumors and investor confidence.
His response to me saying that was "Finance isn't as unstable as you think".

Tell that to Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merril Lynch, AIG and the others who will soon follow.

Tales from the Northern Sea Circuit

For those of you who didn't know, I went traveling to Hokkaido this past weekend (August 22nd to 25th).
One reason why I went was because I had never been north of Nagano in Japan. But the main reason I went was to visit Isis who is living in Shiranuka, Hokkaido working for the JET program.

Overall, Hokkaido was pretty awesome. The weather there was a lot colder when compared with Tokyo and considerably cooler than Toronto, at least during the summer months. It was nice to escape the summer heat and humidity of Tokyo to the fresh, cool, and crisp air of Hokkaido.

Hokkaido in Japanese is 北海道(ほっかいどう) which means "Northern Sea Circuit", as per my blog post title. Hokkaido has a pretty interesting (and sometimes sad) story which you should read up about in wikipedia.

This blog post is a little bit of an experiment. During my trip, I was posting to Twitter giving somewhat live updates to my trip. It was pretty cool to take random pictures and upload them to facebook or post to twitter.
Now, given those tweets, I'm going to write my blog post revolving around them in a sort of chronological fashion. (By the way, If you want to follow me on twitter, add 'marreka'. For privacy reasons I have made my tweets private so you can't randomly spy on my life, but feel free to add me to track what I'm up to!)

Without further ado, my trip to Hokkaido as I twittered them!

Leaving work now for Hokkaido! 12:31 AM August 22, 2008
To catch my flight, which we took at about 3:00 PM for reasonable fares, I had to leave work a bit early.

At haneda airport 01:45 PM August 22, 2008
Arrived at Haneda airport (Terminal 2) via the Tokyo Monorail. This past weekend was the first time I had ever rode the monorail. Nothing special, really.

Went through the security gate with my cellphone. So cool. Next, boarding in 30 mind! 02:28 PM August 22, 2008
This was pretty cool. What I did was book my flight and select my seating online. From there, all I needed was either a mobile phone with Osaifu-Keitai and ANA Mileage Club application installed, an Edy-enabled ANA Mileage Club point card (or credit card), a printout of a QR (2-dimensional) barcode, or a boarding pass. Using one of the above, you can skip past the check in counter (unless you have luggage, of course) and go straight to security. All I had to do was swipe my mobile phone over the reader and I was ready to go through security. Getting right to the gate took 5 minutes from monorail to gate.

I meant mins. Stupid iPhone 02:28 PM August 22, 2008
Haha... silly iPhone messed up my earlier twitter.

One thing I didn't twitter between my typo and boarding was that I bought an awesome Starbucks mug. It's a "Japan Airport Special Edition" with a bunch of Japan's landmarks printed on it. It's super cool :D

Boarding now! See you on the flipside 02:54 PM August 22, 2008
To board my flight, all I had to do was put my mobile phone on the reader and out came a printout of where I was sitting and what flight I was on. Because of this, getting everyone onboard took literally less than 15 minutes.

The flight over to Hokkaido was fairly uneventful. It was cool to see Tokyo from the air! But unfortunately it was a cloudy day over Japan, so once we got above the cloud line we couldn't see Tokyo anymore. One thing that I found particularly awesome, though, was that Mt. Fuji was poking its head through the clouds. It was really cool to see Mt. Fuji from the plane!

In kushiro, Hokkaido. 04:56 PM August 22, 2008
For this trip, we decided to rent a car and drive around from Kushiro through Abashiri down to Sapporo. It was really awesome to be able to see so much nature and go through mountain passes, but it was quite the long drive.

I swear I'm in Canada except all the Asians speak Japanese instead of Chinese. 05:09 PM August 22, 2008
Haha... This is actually a reference to something I said two years ago when I went back to Canada. Then, I had said "It's like I'm in Japan, except all the Asians speak Chinese".

From the rent-a-car place, which is where I wrote this, we drove down from Tancho-Kushiro Airport to Shiranuka to meet up with Isis.

Here's a funny story: Shiranuka is so small, that Kiyo and I drove right through it without realizing we had passed the city. Once we were through, I looked at the GPS and realized we were past the city. Kiyo was in disbelief because it had taken no time at all to get there. It took about 5 minutes of us discussing this until we came to a consensus that we totally missed the town's "core".

After we finally found Isis' place (we passed it like three times), we went out for dinner to a ramen shop in the town. While there, we had a special Shiranuka version of ramune that is Shiso leaf (Perilla leaf) flavoured, called Tantaka Ramune (鍛高ラムネ). We tried both red shiso and green shiso flavour! It was really tasty!

After we ate, we decided to drive to Kushiro from Shiranuka (about 30 minutes) to see the "city". It was kinda cool to see Kushiro, but it's just a plain Japanese country-side city. It reminded me of Matsumoto and Ueda city centers. Since we were in the countryside, everything died down around 20:00. As a result, we went back to Isis' place at like 22:00... Haha.

SOOO COLD 11:53 PM August 22, 2008
This was me complaining that night-time Shiranuka temperature was something around 10 Celsius... So cold after a summer of 30+ Celsius every day.

The next morning (Saturday, August 23rd), we started our trip across the prefecture. The first thing we did was drive to a famous red shiso farm along country highway 392 somewhere around here in Tantaka(鍛高-たんたか). It was really cool to see the huge swaths of purple-ish red leaves.
From there, we drove back down 392 to Shiranuka and Country Highway 38 (Kushiro kokudo-釧路国道-くしろこくどう) towards Kushiro to head up to Lake Akan. Along the way, we had "breakfast" at around 11:30. What also made it "breakfast" was that we had a bowl of rice with charcoal grilled (炭火焼) pork called "kono-butadon" (この豚丼 meaning "This bowl of rice with pork on top"), which is famous in Shiranuka. It was pretty awesome.

After we finished off our "this pork bowl", we drove up to Lake Akan. Unfortunately, it is one of those towns who relied heavily on tourism to survive, and as a result is pretty much dead or on the verge of dying; It was pretty depressing to drive through it. Also in Akan is a little Ainu museum street called "Ainu-kotan" (アイヌコタン), which means "Ainu village" in the Ainu language (To learn more about the history of the Ainu, read this wikipedia article or for further reading buy a book on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca). It was cool to see the traditional crafts of the Ainu, but it was yet another testament to the lack of attention the Ainu get.

After we left the Akan region, we started driving along Highway 241 mountain pass (阿寒横断道路) alongside Mt. Oakan (雄阿寒岳-おあかんだけ). As we were driving the mountain pass, we passed a lot of bikers who were traversing the mountain pass... That's pretty impressive. I would love to try that sometime.

After we got through the mountain pass, we stopped at a rest stop somewhere along highway 241 near Mashu Onsen (摩周温泉). While we were there, I got this awesome cup of coffee... It was SO good. The coffee was freshly ground and brewed right infront of me.
The store we got it at was this quaint little shop with a lot of trinkets and 80's era decor. The workers were all wearing Mennonite type clothes, which kind of reminded me of Waterloo and Grebel.

At my lake I'm Hokkaido! (lake mashu) 03:29 PM August 23, 2008
Ah... finally. After three years, I finally visit my lake in Hokkaido! I call it my lake because in Japanese, by full name (Matthew) is pronounced "Mashu" (マシュー, can be written as 摩周). Since the name of this lake is also Mashu (摩周), I claim it as my lake.

While there, I had some super awesome Hokkaido ice cream and a slice of Yubari Melon (夕張メロン). Very tasty.
I also bought this cool (but expensive) handmade towel that says (translated sort of) "Natural spring faction, Mashu Onsen" (源泉派 摩周温泉 in Japanese). It's pretty cool.

After leaving Lake Mashu, we continued along to Abashiri (網走-あばしり), passing through Hama-Koshimizu (浜小清水). There was a cute little train station and a beach right behind it. We stopped to check it out and have a little photo shoot.

From there, we got to Abashiri and decided to call it a day. There, we ate at a great restaurant that had sushi, crab, and other good stuff. The hotel we stayed at was pretty sketchy, though.

The next day (Sunday, August 24th) we drove from Abashiri along Lake Notori (能取湖). Before getting to Lake Notori, we stopped at a little parking area by the seaside that had a great view of the Sea of Okhotsk (オホーツク海) approximately here, just above the 76 hexagon.
Along lakeside, there was this cool looking bike trail that connected Abashiri to a smaller town along the lake. I wish I had my bike in Hokkaido!

While driving through all these places, we were trying to find a place to eat. It was about 10:00 and we still had not had anything to eat. After an hour or so of driving, we finally found a little restaurant along the Okhotsk Country Road (オホーツク国道) past the town of Tokoro (常呂町) that had fresh seafood donburi. It was pretty good.
From there, we drove along side Lake Saroma (サロマ湖) until we got to Kami-Yubetsu (上湧別町) through to Engaru (遠軽), from which we took the not yet completed highway (so it was free!) towards Asahikawa (旭川市). The drive through the mountains was very beautiful.
We were pretty lucky that they had the highways partially built, so we could completely bypass the mountain passes. This shaved at least an hour or so off our travel time. While it wasn't as scenic, we also were able to get to our destination on time.

Finally, we arrived in Asahikawa between 14:00 or 15:00. While we wanted to stop and have Asahikawa ramen as a late lunch, we unfortunately did not have time. Instead, we drove to the outskirts of town to get a cup of starbucks... Yes, we were that desperate.

Just left asahikawa. En route to Sapporo/Chitose. 04:00 PM August 24, 2008
After we got back to the highwawy, we drove straight down to Sapporo. The drive took about an hour to Sapporo (札幌市), then another 15 minutes to Chitose (千歳市). Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to stop over in Sapporo to have a bowl of ramen.

Originally, we wanted to go to Tomakomai (苫小牧) to get seafood, but we didn't have time. Instead, Kiyo and I checked into our hotel in Chitose and went to get dinner at a nearby restaurant. Of course, the seafood was still incredibly awesome and super fresh.

After we ate, we had to say bye to Isis who took a train back to Shiranuka from Chitose (about 3 hours). It was great to see Isis again and we were all sad that we won't be seeing each other again for a long time.

In chitose, getting ready to sleep. Flight to Tokyo tomorrow. Last week in Japan :( 09:50 PM August 24, 2008
After we left the train station, we went back to our hotel. Because we were so tired from the 800KM drive, we just went to sleep. Nice and comfortable.

The next day (Monday, August 25th), we had to go back to Tokyo. The first thing we had to do was to refil the gas, which is only significant because this was the only time we did so. That's right, 800KMs on a single tank of gas. Impressive, no?

I'm at shin-chitose airport, waiting to board my flight to Tokyo Haneda airport. 09:48 AM August 25, 2008
Once again, check into my flight using my mobile phone! So fast!
This time I had a drink with me in my starbucks mug, so the security guy sniffed it. Kiyo joked that he was testing the green tea to make sure that it was up to standards ;)

Boarding now! See you on the flipside. 10:19 AM August 25, 2008
On our way back from Hokkaido, we boarded an ANA 747 double decker plane. This was my first time ever on a double decker plane and I even got to sit on the top floor! Yay!

Along the way, I watched pokemon. It was awesome. I would like to point out that Japanese Meowth sounds so much more annoying, and Pikachu sounds exactly the same.

When we arrived in Haneda airport, I saw the pokemon airplane sitting at a gate and then as it was taxing to the runway. I was in a rush so I was only able to take a quick snapshot of it.

Arrived safely at haneda. Off to work! 12:26 PM August 25, 2008

And that was that. Overall an awesome weekend of nature and food! I hope to one day go again and do the southern shore... But this time I'd like to actually visit Tomakomai (苫小牧), Sapporo (札幌), and Otaru (小樽) ;)

Pictures of my trip should be coming soon to flickr! Right now I'm in the middle of my move back home with sobetsukai (送別会, [reading]そうべつかい, [lit]seperation meeting, [proper]goodbye party) almost every night, so I don't have too much time to sort through my photos.
I'll post another entry once they're up!

P.S. Sorry for the horribly long post. Thanks for reading this if you read through it all.

Cheap textbooks = good

To my Canadian readers:

There's a textbook sale going on at Amazon.ca for (up to) 37% off new books and up to 90% off used textbooks!

I remember I bought a textbook for one of my classes off of Amazon with rush shipping and it still cost less than buying it at the Waterloo used book store. I later sold it for $20 more than I paid for it ;)
I also found out this book (Introduction to Algorithms, Second Edition for CS 340) cost $80 less (for a new one) than it does at the campus book store. Crazyness, eh?

Here is a link to the sale: Amazon.ca Textbook store

Overdose on catechin!

There is this green tea here in Japan called "Helthya" (へルシア) that supposedly assists in loosing weight. The magic behind it all is that they've filled the drink with an excessive amount of catechin.

In one 350ml bottle, there is 540mg of catechin in there. Even drinking it is hard because it's such a strong brew of green tea. I bought a 1L bottle today, and they have each 350ml well marked off with a warning saying (translated) "We recommend you only drink 350ml a day". I'll probably end up drinking half today and the rest tomorrow, though. Warnings be damned!
I wonder if it actually works, though. I've known about this drink since I came to Japan but I'd always opt for the better tasting (read: way less strong) Kirin Namacha (キリン 生茶) or Suntory's Iyemoncha (伊右衛門茶), which are my two all time favourite chilled green tea drinks.

If any of you are in JP and feeling adventurous, you should buy a bottle... or 12 off Amazon for cheaper!
Helthya Green Tea on Amazon.co.jp - 12 1L bottles (ヘルシア緑茶 1Lx12本)

Hokkaido this weekend!

Friday August 22nd, I am going to Hokkaido to spend the weekend with Isis and Kiyo!
Oh yes, and eat a lot of seafood.

So there are four things that excite me about this trip
1. First time to Hokkaido and anything North of Nagano/Tokyo (they're about the same in terms of north)
2. I get to fly in Japan for the first time
3. I get to fly in a double decker plane for the first time ever (and we're on the top deck!)
4. I get to check into my flight with my mobile phone.

What? mobile phone?
That's right. Let me describe to you how it's done:
1. Buy your tickets online. Pay for them either by credit card, convenience store, or bank transfer
2. Take your osaifu-keitai enabled mobile phone (or Edy enabled ANA milage card. I have both)
3. At the airport, arrive at least 15 minutes (that's right. 15 minutes) before your flight leaves at security and tap your phone/card on the reader
4. At your gate, tap your phone/card on the reader and board the plane (10 minutes before your flight leaves).
5. Sit back and relax

Oh right, and you can also do step 1 from the mobile browser on your phone.
Let's see you do that with your silly iPhones.

There are also other methods of checking in online (such as printing your pass or downloading a QR code to your mobile phone), but this one is so much cooler.

Flickr = awesome customer experience

A couple of years ago Flickr launched this small little widget on their landing page for logged in customers.
It said "Hello, " where the hello cycled through multiple different languages.

However, I had noticed that not once has there been the standard Japanese greeting of "konnnichiwa".

So yesterday night, I decided to post to the help forum asking what was up (among other things like poor geo-tagging support).
Within 1 hour, I had the co-founder and a staffer respond. Within 2 hours, it was added to the list! Yay for listening to your customers!

Another reason why I love Flickr :)

iPhone = traffic?

So, apparently, the iPhone has driven two visits to my site yesterday.
Apparently Google Japan yields my blog as part of its results... Cool.

Maybe I should blog more about the iPhone... such as...


Which is essentially me just saying the iPhone is garbage ;)
Or, at least in Japan when compared to all the other phones here.


(English follows below)

 □留守番電話を切りたい方:「留守番電話 OFF」を押す
 □留守番電話を再開したい方:「留守番電話 ON」を押す


How to turn off voicemail on the iPhone without memorizing obscene codes (softbank):
1. Go to the home screen by pressing the home button
2. Click on settings
3. Scroll down and click on "Phone"
4. Click the bottom most option, labeled 「ソフトバンクモバイル提供 Servi...」
- To turn off voicemail, click the second option "留守番電話 OFF"
- To turn voicemail back on, click the first option "留守番電話 ON"


Metrics are a lot of fun. It's always cool to watch the statistics of my blog and see where/how people landed onto my site.
Apparently, over the last month, 50.91% of traffic to my blog has been through referring sites (although I believe part of that is me. I should fix that), 21.82% organic growth through search engines, and 27.27% direct traffic.
See, isn't that cool?

And the great thing is, I can break it down further! For example, Mr. Jason Booy's blog (www.jasonbooysmells.com) has contributed to 20% of the traffic to my site!
That's second to direct clickthroughs. Impressive, Jason... Thanks for the traffic ;)
What's also awesome is that I can see what search terms people have been using to stumble upon my blog. The weirdest one so far (only 1 person it seems) is "daiso japan clothes dryer". Pretty nifty.
(You may notice that I've only posted percentages. The reason being is that the numbers behind the percentages are pretty pathetically low. Go figure, eh)

It's also a lot of fun to watch metrics at work. Every morning I check how much money things I created have been contributing to cash flow, in addition to overall company health (only a moron would ignore the state of the company they work for). It's actually pretty surprising (and awesome) at how much I've been making for the company!
I can't wait to see how my next (top secret) project will bring in the mad internet cashs... Unfortunately, I leave shortly after it launches, but I'll be there to see the huge spike!

The Tales of Beetle the Bard

Maybe you've heard of this really famous series of books written by some British author. I think it's called Harry Potter... or something like that.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 11 years, you know what I'm talking about. Even those who haven't read any of the books probably know about it. (By the way, I haven't read any of the books, for the record)

In J.K. Rowling's last book, she makes a reference to something called "The Tales of Beetle the Bard", which supposedly has clues how to defeat the evil bad guy Voldemort (or something like that. I'm sketchy on the details).
Well, it's no longer just a figment of any of her reader's imaginations. Less than a year ago, J.K. Rowling sold a handwritten and handmade copy of this book for over $4mil USD to Amazon (with proceeds going to Rowling's worldwide orphan charity).
Two weeks ago, this book was brought over to Japan to coincide with the release of the last Harry Potter book in Japanese. I was fortunate enough to get really close to the book to see it's magnificent cover and beautifully illustrated text.
Although the Harry Potter series is not significant to me, taking a look at the book itself was an incredible experience. It was a work of art.

Up until now, only a select few people have ever read the tales. Other than the 6 close friends of Rowling (to whom she gave the other six handwritten copies to), only one editor and (likely) the top brass of Amazon have read the tales. I personally saw the first page of each tale.

But Potter fans, do not fret! Starting December this year, Rowling and her charity are publishing these tales in hardcover book form for your reading pleasure.
"The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition" goes on sale in the US December 4th from Amazon.com, with pre-orders already being accepted. (Canadian fans do not fear, you can pre-order from Amazon.com and have it shipped to your home in Canada).

For the hardcore Potter fans out there, there is something even more special. An Amazon.com exclusive, "The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Collector's Edition" is a book inspired by the original hand crafted version. Though, at a steep $100 USD (over 10x the regular edition), this is for the biggest of hardcore Potter fans.

I consider myself quite lucky in that I was able to see this book. Witnessing the result of the (nearly) lost art of handwritten, hand-drawn, and handcrafted book was something special.

For those of you who are interested in buying the standard or collectors edition of the book, I have included the links at the bottom for your convenience.

Dangerous Mix

The following is a dangerous mix:

  • 2 hours of sleep
  • Waking up at 4AM to Quest telling me I can't enroll in certain courses
  • Drinking a Tall Cafe Latte, Grande Americano, and Matcha (Green Tea) Frappacino  with two espresso shots (no whip) within an hour
I'm going to bed at 21:00 tonight. 

Good night to JP and gokigenyo to those on the flipside. 

(gokigenyo = 御機嫌よう = Have a nice day)

Quick tips to reduce your waste in Japan

While I hardly consider myself a hardcore environmentalist, I do believe in reducing our unnecessary taxing of resources (i.e. excessive waste).
In Japan, there are many steps the country has been taking (some for many many years) to reduce the country's output of garbage.

Anyway, here are some of my steps I'm personally taking to reduce my waste:

  1. Use the phrase "袋は要りません" (fukuro wa irimasen) meaning "I don't need a bag" when you buy small things at the convenience store
  2. Buy a pair of chopsticks (105JPY at your local Daiso) and keep them at your desk at work. When you buy food from a convenience store, tell them "お箸は要りません" (Ohashi wa irimasen - I don't need chopstics).
  3. Carry a hand towel with you in your back pocket. Most washrooms don't have dryers or paper towels to dry your hands with. Even if they do, save some trees and use your cloth towel. These cost anywhere from a few hundred yen to a couple thousand if you want one made of the finest quality.
  4. Walk or take the train. Chances are what you need isn't that far from where you live. This only holds true for large cities like Tokyo and Osaka, though.
Obviously there are many more things you can do, but every little bit helps!

Credit card please?

Earlier this week I applied for a Yahoo Japan branded Suica Visa card. 

Pretty much within a single day, I was rejected. (They allow you to check your status online, so that's how I found out so quickly).

This is their response (sorry for the japanese):

Direct Translation (poor english):
The result of the investigation, the card distribution has been decided to be restrained.
You did hard work at applying and we are truly sorry. 

Proper Translation:
After our investigation, we have decided to not approve your request for a credit card.
We are truly sorry for the inconvenience. 

Sigh. Just like in America. I guess I'll just have to apply to hundreds of cards again. 

Black Sesame Swirkle

Today I bought a Black Sesame Swirkle (黒胡麻スワークル - Kuro-goma Suwakuru) frozen drink from Tulley's in Tokyo. I guess it's strange that I'm posting about a drink, but it was so different that I had to post about it!

It was quite the interesting flavour! 
It was mildly sweet, with a hint of cream, and a nice dose of black sesame. Of course, I had no idea what was coming when I took my first sip. It wasn't until I tried it again that I really appreciated it's flavour. 

This drink is one of those crazy Japanese/Western fusion food/drinks that are available everywhere around here. Kuro-goma is a very common ingredient in snacks in Japan, most notably in rice crackers. But the introduction of this popular Japanese flavour in a creamy milkshake is quite nice. 
I'm definitely going back for seconds.

Blog problems

Hi everyone,

Sorry about the problems with the blog the last few days. 
student.cs went down sometime last night (without me  noticing) so a lot of my images weren't being served up for all of marreka.ca.
I've been meaning to migrate all the images over to my server, but I've been lazy about it.
However, now it's all done so I shouldn't have this problem again!


Free music!!

One of the great things about working at Amazon is the loads of free giveaways we get.

Today I went down to the music department and culled the giveaway shelf, or at least partially. It was pretty much all Japanese, which is pretty exciting. I was looking for new J-music!

What's great is that I can try a lot of these artists without having to make any sort of payment and thus I find new music I like!

Today I got 5 CDs and 3 made the cut. Next week, I'll definitely be going back to find some more new music.

By the way, if you're wondering which artists I like, here they are:

Muscular destruction

So today I had my last CS exam of the term... Only 3 more left, all CO... My hardest one will be on Thursday, so I should really get studying.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. 

After my CS exam and after cake with a friend of mine, I got back to my res and started playing Ultimate frisbee. 
As an aside, today was probably the best game I've ever played because this time, the frisbee was actually thrown to me ;)
Anyway, back to the story. So I played ultimate from about 5 to 6:15. While I was playing frisbee, I landed on my left foot a bit awkwardly, hurting my knee slightly, and then somehow managed to get my right calf into a cramped state. Ouch. But that's ok, I kept on playing... It got better.

After Ultimate, I decided to go get my roommate from Chapters, which is about a 10 minute bike ride. We could have taken the car, but I had to work off that Bailey's Irish Cream Cheesecake (oh the calories!). Of course, the wind had to be blowing at me and for some reason I took the long route... But about 10 minutes into the bike ride, my right calf, right thigh, and left ankle cramped. They just stopped working. It was grotesquely painful. Since I wasn't too far away from Chapters, I decided to walk the rest of the way. Well, more like limping in pain...
I swear, I have never felt such pain in my life. I felt like I was about to collapse. 

So I get to Chapters and find him... Only to have him tell me he isn't coming back! (I broke my legs for you! You big meany! :P). 
Luckily, my legs recovered and I made it back to res in 8 minutes. But now I sit in my chair with a back ache, throbbing legs, and a singing knee. Fun times.

Time for man. 

Wii Sports Update

Today, my friend learned that a clock (or a pendulum) can play Wii Sports Baseball and tie (or maybe even win!). And apparently Morgan is best at clock baseball batting.  But he also sucks at outfield because he errored. 

Oh wait... the clock lost. the computer got a home run.

Also, it is very hard to go down to skill level 0 in tennis. 

Didn't I learn this already?

This term, I've had most of my courses overlap... 

With the exception of CS 360 (Theory of computing), all my other courses have used theories and concepts studied further in other classes I am taking this term. 

For example, concepts from Network Flow Theory is used by Computer Networks in our study of routes and multicast. Also, Computer Networks used theories of Coding Theory for bit error detection/correction in the link layer.

But this doesn't compare to the web that is Computer Networks, Computer Security, and Cryptography.
Computer Networks ideas were studied in Computer Security and Cryptography. Cryptography was used in Computer Networks and Computer Security. And finally, Computer Security was used in Computer Networks and Computer Security. 

Look, they're all linked together like a perfect digraph (I've been studying too much...)

To get full marks...

From one of my assignments...
"To get full marks for this question, the running time of your anonymization algorithm should be shorter than one minute."

Mine takes 5 seconds. Java for the win. 
And I'm sure I could have optimized it further... but it works ;)






Eric Woroshow

Hello World,

This is Matt posting for Eric Woroshow.

Eric Woroshow is a funny man, who likes strange things. But he's cool. And smart. And LOVES Waterloo. I can't think of a single person who loves Waterloo more than Eric Woroshow does. 

Vote Eric Woroshow for US president in 2008. 

Who killed the editor?

Lately, I've been finding many poorly written articles and blurbs all over the internet. 
Whether it be blogs or company websites, blatant spelling mistakes and horrific grammar plague me wherever I click. 
This gives rise to my question: Who killed the editor? 

When you're a company (for-profit, non-profit, NGO), you want to look the best you can. Often, a website is the front door to your company and your blog provides insight into the company. When they're hideously designed and riddled with poorly written english, chances are your client's impressions aren't positive. If I have to spend 10 minutes trying to understand a five sentence paragraph, something is wrong. I'm fairly certain hiring a proof reader will, in the long run, provide a lot benefit than it would cost. Well constructed english is part of professionalism. 

What about personal blogs?
When the blog became incredibly popular, the technology was touted as the harbinger of death to traditional print. It was believed that the millions of people who are now able to publish their thoughts and views so easily would no longer rely on some reporter's views. However, one fundamental problem was overlooked when making such a claim. It assumes that everything that is published to blogs will be sensible and useful. This is most definitely not the case. With a newspaper, an article goes through a long and rigorous process of editing and fact finding. Reporters spend four years in University being taught how to be an effective, ethical, and unbiased reporter. Just because you now have the ability to publish your works, does not make you an expert. 
However, I digress. Not all blogs are bad. Blogs have a huge impact these days. Blog networks like CNet and Weblogs Inc. have a huge reader base, and are able to present new and relevant information at a much faster pace than traditional media. And now, microblogging tools such as Twitter and Tumblr are providing new outlets for people to spread news quickly. 

I'll be fair. I don't have an editor nor do I have a degree in journalism.
Most of the time I write short posts that have short sentences and ellipses thrown everywhere. Short and to the point, but hopefully nothing obfuscated. 
When I want to write anything, large or short, I do my best to write in a concise form that won't give my readers headaches. (Or at least I hope. Anyone think otherwise?)
Your reader needs to understand what is being presented before they can accept your proof. Confusing them doesn't help. 


So it appears my assignment for Networks is due monday next week instead of this friday...

All I can say is Thank God... I'm going to work on it this week still, but at least it won't be a mad dash and stumble to the finish like last time.

Now, to find motivation to study for my Coding Theory midterm tomorrow... hmmm... 

Why? Why does it happen again?

This week I have...

3 assignments...

  • CO 351 due monday
  • CS 360 due tuesday
  • CS 456 due friday (worth 10%)
2 midterms
  • CO 487 on monday
  • CO 331 on wednesday

I haven't started any of these assignments... I'm still working on an assignment that was due yesterday. 

... I hate school

I can't concentrate on school

This summer, I am going to Tokyo.

In between now and then, I have 1 month of class, 12 assignments, 3 midterms, and 6 finals.
I have zero desire or motivation to work.

I want to go to Tokyo now :(

The decision is made

It's official.

Starting April 28th, 2008 (barring any delays due to visas), I will begin my internship as a Software Development Engineer working for Amazon.jp in Tokyo, Japan.
I've been in talks for a while about this, but I didn't want to say anything until I held the papers in my hand. Now I can say with certainty that I will be going for sure.
Of courses, there could be some extreme wild scenario which could block me from going... But I'm fairly certain those won't be happening ;)

Now to survive the rest of this term. The funny thing is for me to arrive before the 28th, I need to fly out of YYZ (Toronto) on the 26th. My last exam is on April 23rd, so I will have 2 days to move out of Waterloo and pack for Tokyo.
And, I'll probably have to skip a couple days of school to go visit the Japanese consulate in Toronto. Fun times.

The week of hell is over

Finally, after two weeks of incredible amounts of stress and homework, I am done for reading week.

How bad was my week, you ask. Here's what my schedule was like

  • Last week: 1 assignment due wednesday, 3 assignments due friday
  • This week: 1 assignment due tuesday, 1 test on wednesday, 1 midterm on wednesday night, 1 midterm thursday, and 2 assignments due friday (today), one of which is worth 10% of my mark. (One thing for almost every course)

Needless to say, I'm tired. This has been such a brutal month of school so far. Thankfully, I have reading week to relax and procrastinate studying for my two midterms in one day the week after reading week. But, with that said, I'm looking forward to a week of virtually nothing.

I swear, all my profs colluded together to crush my soul... And it may have worked.



I am pleased to announce, that after spending nearly a whole day trying to get this to work instead of studying, my photoblog has now launched!
My photoblog can be found at http://photoblog.marreka.ca, or by simply clicking on the "Photoblog" link in the menu above!
For now, the photoblog has it's own theme, and that's because I haven't had the time to create a new one yet. Hopefully, soon the photoblog will adopt the same theme as all pages across marreka.ca (such as this blog).

If all goes well, there will be a new photo everyday!

I hope you enjoy!

Is Google afraid?

First, read the linked article on Google's Official Blog: Yahoo! and the future of the internet

Does anyone else find this incredibly hilarious? It sounds like Google is petrified of the idea of Yahoo! and Microsoft merging. Almost to the tune of "What?! NO! MICROSOFT CAN'T BUY YAHOO!! LOOK HOW BAD IT IS!!! THIS CAN'T HAPPEN!".
It smells of a cheesy smear campaign... "In 1995, Microsoft was sued by the US government for extending unfair practices. Microsoft establishes proprietary monopolies and then strongholds its dominance into new marks with a vengeance. Do you want this company to apply these same practices on your open internet? Vote for Google".

Of course, I don't like Microsoft buying Yahoo! either. If flickr becomes a Microsoft product, I might actually cry.
However, the fact that Google would post such a harsh stance, on it's official blog no less, is quite surprising, but also very amusing.

On another, funny note: While I was at a Staples today, I noticed that on one of their display computers, some person opened up Notepad and left the message "Microhoo vista sucks!". haha... Microhoo.

Stack has officially hit the heap

Normally, I would refrain from using such profane words on my blog... But looking at what I'm about to go through for the next three weeks, I'm fairly certain I'm allowed to do so...

So, in a nutshell here is my next four weeks:

Week of Jan 28: CS 360, CO 351 due
Week of Feb 4: CO 331, CO 351, CO 487, CS 489 due
Week of Feb 11: CO 351, CS 456, CS 360, CO 331 quiz, CS 360 midterm, CS 489 midterm
Week of Feb 25: CO 351 midterm, CS 456 midterm (and potentially more. don't know yet)

CO 331: Coding Theory
CO 351: Network Flow Theory
CO 487: Applied Cryptography
CS 360: Theory of Computing
CS 456: Computer Networks
CS 489: Computer Security and Privacy

What the hell possessed me to take six faculty of math courses?

Edit: I was annoyed by the profanity.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
Originally uploaded by marreka
Niagara Falls trip with Misato, Nathan, and Maki.
October 2007

Good morning?

The weirdest thing happened this morning.

I was sleeping. I had this really weird dream where I was watching TV shows in a movie theater (who knows). Suddenly, my mobile phone (the real one) started vibrating. It was a call. Somehow, I knew it was a phone call and not an e-mail/text message (in my sleep no less! I remember making a decision during my dream!) and darted up out of bed.

It's 7:50AM so I'm a bit groggy... I pick up the phone...

"Hello? (In a groggy voice) "Hello, Alan?" "No... I think you have the wrong number" . Ugh.. it's a wrong number. I hate when that happens. But then, she says "Is this Matt?" "Yes...". Weird... I wasn't expecting a phone call from anyone this early in the morning asking for an Alan. I don't even know an Alan. At first it sort of sounded like my mother, but then I realized she had a chinese accent. Maybe it was an important call?
So anyway, this lady on the phone starts going off about what the phone number she has is and tells me it's 5:00PM there (my guess is she's calling from China) so that's why she's calling now. I'm just out of it and confused, and this lady is going on and on.
Finally, I go "Who are you trying to get through to?". Here's the rest of the dialogue:
"I told you, you have the wrong number"
"You don't live with Alan?"
"But your name is Matt?"
"Yes... Who are you?"
"Alan's mom. Can I talk to Alan?"
"I don't know any Alan"
"So I have the wrong phone number?"
"Ok bye"
*hang up*

So weird...

This is why I love Amazon

Ars Technica has reported on a recent ruling by French courts in the case of French Booksellers' Union vs. Amazon.fr.
In a nutshell, instead of caving to France's arcane laws on selling books (from 1981: before the advent of the internet), Amazon is willing to stomach a €1,000 per day levy to ensure that it's customers continue to receive free shipping on books. This fee is set for 30 days, at which point the french courts will decide whether they will increase or decrease the levy. It is believed they will decide to increase it to pressure Amazon to begin charging for shipping.

According to Ars, France's laws states that booksellers are not permitted to sell books at a discount greater than 5%, which for some reason applies to shipping costs (France's booksellers union claims that the shipping cost is more than 5% of a book's value).

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on the other hand has begun an online petition to defend free shipping, which has over 120,000 signatures already. This is why I love Amazon as a company. When I was interning at Amazon, customer experience was the top priority of every project. They always do their best to provide for customers, and it is clearly evidenced by their willing to pay fees so the customer doesn't have to.

Source: Amazon's free shipping costing €1,000 per day in France - Ars Technica