Friday, April 22, 2011

EXtinguishing the Fire(fox) (lolwut at "Distinguishing...")

My dearest Firefox,

We both knew this day would come. I've played the scene countless times in my head, imagining how my words will come across: how you'll be surprised, then angry, and then fall silent, save for the occasional sniff. How your little beady black eyes will quiver and glisten with dew. How every fiber of my being will ache with reluctance to tell you this, every keystroke a dagger into my heart.

But I must remain strong, and to be frank, I've already done the deed. This morning I quietly scrolled over your familiar orange curled form, cupped you in my e-palms, and gently moved you from your comfortable nest in my dock to the trash can all the way on the right, where you landed with a thud that resonated in the depths of my soul. 

Believe me, Firefox, it killed me to do it. I was so upset I even ate an Oreo to make myself feel better. Then I ate three more because they tasted really good. Then I felt a little sick and went for a walk. 

But I digress! Why did I do do it? Why, after so many years of mutual love and respect, did I cast you aside?

I found someone else, Firefox. I found someone else.

It happened at work, about three months ago. You couldn't support an application I wanted to run, and well, I had to find somebody that would help me. So while you were busy updating, I went to Google - yes, that Google, a longtime friend of ours - and he suggested Chrome. I gave it a shot. Thirty seconds later, Chrome had downloaded and was already up and running. I was impressed by Chrome's simplicity and speed - and I loved that I could Google in the address bar itself - but I got in, ran the application, got out, and returned to your familiar embrace.

But that night, Firefox, I couldn't sleep. I laid awake with my eyes open, fingers clutching the sheets, heart heavy with the realization that everything in Chrome had been harder, better, faster, and stronger. The small things, really - how downloads fall nicely to the bottom of my page instead of disappearing into a separate window. How my top eight appear every time I open the browser. Even how the bookmarks are compressed and can fit so much better! For the first time in my life, I'd stumbled across a browser that gets me for who I really am and for what I need in my online experience. And even you have to admit it, Firefox. You're cute as a button, but Chrome is clean and sexy - I can't even begin to describe how good it is or what it can do for me.

I'm sorry, Firefox. I'm really going to miss you. I'll always support your open-source distribution. I'll still cheer for your new releases and updates. I'll even stay in touch with your parents, Mr. and Ms. Mozilla. But I'm afraid this is the end of us. I regret it had to be this way. Please don't pull out tufts of your fur like you did that time I accidentally opened up Internet Explorer. It's not worth the drama and it grows back funny.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Competing with Mother Nature for "Most Beautiful in Jasper". Think I'm in the lead.

This weekend, the boy & I forayed up to Jasper, Alberta for a getaway in the Rockies. Boasting a population of merely 2,500, Jasper sits on the edge between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. It being 200 miles due northwest of Calgary translates into to a roughly five drive through what is considered one of the most beautiful highways in the world, Icefields Parkway.

I love road trips because they allow me to indulge in snacks, playlists, and naps. And boy, I had my fair share of all three. Friday morning, we hopped into our snappy little rental Ford Fiesta (very fuel efficient, and relatively kind to the environment) and began our journey up north. I'd been dreading the start a little because the forecast for that day had been a snow/rain/sleet mixture but the moment our parkade garage door opened, we were greeted with beaming sunshine and glorious blue skies. Suck on that, weatherman!

Along the way, we stopped at Columbia Icefield to check out the Athabasca Glacier. Unfortunately April isn't tourist season and a lot of the usual tours and roads were closed so we weren't able to actually step on the glacier as it's only accessible through a special route/bus tour. But we did manage to hop out and take some pictures and freeze our butts off.

Herro! I can't feel my face!

One of my favorite parts of the trip was where we stayed: a small bed & breakfast called The Glass House. Getting there was not so easy though. I'd left my notebook with its address back in my Calgary apartment and neither of us had a data plan in Canada, so we wound up knocking at what I thought was the right house for about five minutes. After a while we gave up and stood there quizzically and I gave the doorknob a turn just as a man walking his dog approached us from the sidewalk.

Embarrassing moment number one:
"Can I help you folks?'
"Umm...yeah, we're looking for a bed and breakfast called The Glass House?"
"Well it's certainly not here, cause that's my house you're knockin' on."
"...Oh. Sorry."

Embarrassing moment number two, with the same man:
"We're looking for someone named Tobi. He owns The Glass House, we think, and lives on this street."
"Yeah, I think it's short for Tobias." (at this point I'm envisioning a bespectacled man wearing denim cutoffs and covered in blue body paint)
"Last name?"
"Oh, the Fentons live over there. And Tobi's a woman."
"...Oh. Sorry."

Tobi (the woman) and the Glass House were both all sorts of lovely. Our room, the Garden Room, had a huge round wooden window that reminded me of being in a hobbit home and afforded us a beautiful view of the tree in the front yard and the quiet street beyond. It felt just like we were in a treehouse. The other rooms in the B&B seemed pretty neat, too - the enormous master Loft had a jacuzzi (but no privacy :s) and the Solarium Room a lovely, sun-filled lounge. I still liked ours the best and would recommend it for anybody who finds themselves in Jasper. After the ridiculous Airbnb Live Mission Startup/Incubator in San Francisco and now this cozy B&B experience I'm definitely putting hotels on the backburner and more open minded about exploring alternative sleeping arrangements.

The town of Jasper itself was very touristy, but we did find some good information centers, neat restaurants (LOVED Patricia's Deli. Best sandwich ever, still drooling as I think about that cranberry mayo sauce, guhh) and paid a visit to the famous Jasper the Bear, who was the subject of a much-loved Canadian comic and serves as a conveniently-named mascot for the town of Jasper. It's pretty much mandatory to take a picture with this guy and we happily obliged in the spirit of tourism.

We spent the next morning exploring some nearby fields and hiking along Maligne Canyon, which was still slippery in places, very muddy in others, and had me huffing and puffing and feeling morbidly obese in no time. But the views were worth it!

Check out that pro fob pose...I'm already converting him into an azn.

We also saw our fair share of animals in the park, which is always neat. I'd been hoping for a bear or a moose sighting but unfortunately didn't catch any glimpses of either :s Oh well. I probably would have been terrified of a real bear anyway and pissed myself silly.

I am disgusted by what it I imagine it is licking off the ground

Bambi's mother before I made her into a zesty little venison sandwich

Elky elk elk in front of trainy train trains. One on the right is sprouting antlers, how manly of it to do so.

TL; DR: my trip to Jasper was incredible. Excellent views, food, sightseeing, lodging, and opportunities for outdoor adventures. The company wasn't bad, either :) More pictures can be found here. Check out Jasper if you ever get the chance! Woo Canada!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dear San Francisco, I want to be in you forever. Love, Rose

 My coworker Bev, stopping for a photo op on the gluteal wrecking climb up to Coit Tower

I found myself back in San Francisco's sunny and welcoming arms this past weekend. Sigh. Words cannot describe how much I love this city.

My adventures began Friday morning, when I flew into SFO (in first class, no less! Thanks for the upgrade, United) to attend a User Experience & Design workshop led by my fellow ThoughtWorkers. The workshop itself was really fascinating and turned some gears in my mind that I didn't know even existed. Despite the wealth of new practices to which I was exposed (and I'm definitely planning on picking up a UX book or two or learn more!), I noticed that a lot of the thinking behind good design or how to ask the right questions when thinking about user experience are the same ones that normal, non-UX BAs should be asking. I guess at the end of the day, the key to implementation that brings value to the business is to have a strong understanding of that "Why are we doing this in the first place?" factor in the first place. I like that UX really forces out that question over and over again because of its visual and interactive products. Normal user stories can get trapped in a mire of acceptance criteria and lose sight of that crucial end-goal.

Anyway, business insights aside, we ended the workshop at around 5 and went to JonColins lounge for a drink and to catch up with other San Franciscan ThoughtWorkers. Afterwards, the party continued at Off The Grid, an outdoor food truck event made up of multi-ethnic vendors that reminded me of Taste of Chicago. The most ridiculous part? The Giants game had gobbled up all the our cheapest option, at $10 a head, was to hop into a black stretch limousine. I always thought that after prom, my next time in a limo would be after my wedding. (With Viggo Mortensen.) But whatever, no complaints here.

At Off the Grid, I had Phillipino chicken tacos and satayed chicken and pork skewers, pictured above. I got the skewers because I was hoping they'd taste like favorite food in the world world, spicy Chinese lamb kebabs oozing with fat and seasoned with cumin/every strain of MSG known to man that are unfortunately only typically found in sketchy alleys on the streets of Beijing. The verdict: spicy sketchy Chinese lamb kebabs they were not, but nonetheless delicious they were. After dinner, we took the limo back to a lounge and stayed there for a few drinks before calling it a night.

The next day, we made the drive up to California's famous wine country, Napa Valley, for some breathtaking views and yummy wine tasting! 

Driving down SF's famous Embarcadero, the name of which my coworker Hammer and I decided was just made up a long time ago by some white dude who was trying to say "Embark" in Spanish

It's not touristy if I took the picture at a RAD ANGLE!

Napa was, in a word, therapeutic. Everything was serene and calm and nested within rolling green hills. It was hard to believe we were only an hour out of a busy metropolitan area. Or that people still live in Calgary (it's snowing up a shitstorm here as I type) when places like Napa exist on the same planet.

I also had my very first wine tasting experience in Napa. At first I found it mindboggling that I could just walk up to a winery and ask to sample their wine and drink it at no cost. But I quickly got used to it ;) My favorite tasting took place at the beautiful Artessa winery.

I know you're supposed to spit the wine back out so as to not taint the palate...but I sure as heck swallowed that baby down (stop your snickering). The winner of the afternoon was a sweet dessert wine that tasted just like juice. Mmm, juice.

After we felt merry from the combination of sunshine and wine, we made the short drive over to the town of Yountville. Things I noticed about Yountville: everybody drives in either a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz and the most popular spot in town was a cutesey, $$$$$$$ bakery called Bouchon, where I found myself in MACARON HEAVEN. There was a macaron for every flavor under the sun. If it wasn't for the hefty price tag I would have tried one of every kind, but I ultimately went with Hazelnut and Espresso. Mmm, I'm salivating as I'm typing this/remembering how they melted in my mouth...

I call this "poop bread"

The next day, we explored a bit within the city of San Francisco itself.  We kicked the morning off with a defuckinglicious brunch in Chinatown. As usual, I ate way beyond the natural limits of my body would allow and thought I was going to keel over and pass out on the floor. But the short walk over to the Coit tower proved to be an awakening experience. Mostly because all the streets were practically vertical. You guys remember that scene in Inception where the streets start folding up into the sky? Yeah, that was inspired by San Francisco. And yeah, I just made that up, but it may as well be true. My sore butt is proof.

We wrapped up the trip with a visit to the de Young musuem, where I checked out a very neat "Balenciaga and Spain" exhibit that featured over a hundred of Balenciaga's pieces. Some were beautiful and others were just, well, retarded, for lack of a better word for it. One of his dresses was called the "Catepillar dress" and consisted of three green cloth spheres stacked on top of each other. I don't care how prestigious the brand or haute the couture or expensive the piece. I would rather eat rat vomit than go outside wearing that dress.

As always, I left San Francisco yearning for more time. I'm excited to revisit the city at the end of April though, it'll be a nice victory celebration after eight long months in cold, cold Calgary!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

God daaaamn it

I came to Canada prepared for Celsius. I came to Canada prepared for Tim Horton’s. I even came to Canada prepared to hear Nickelback. I came to Canada, however, not at all prepared to be told that I had a Chicagoan – excuse me, I mean Chicaaaaagoan, eeaaaccent.

The first few months I brushed it off. South Park had taught me that all Canadians were delusional and had no idea what they were talking about. “I speak perfect English!” “You're adopted!” and “Well I hope your stupid Flames lose the game tonight” were my usual replies to people who dared to make these slanderous and treacherous accusations.

But it hasn’t stopped. The remarks, teasing mimics (“Stay “staff rates” again, Rose! Steeaaaaaaaaff”), and looks of skepticism that flash across people’s faces when I insist that my pronunciation is normal have only grown exponentially over time. Usually I just get it from co-workers but I think today was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I walked into Starbucks and ordered an Americano and allegedly pronounced it more as “Ameri-ke-anne-o” rather than “Ameri-cahn-o”. The new girl behind the counter flashed me a smile and asked me if I was from the Midwest.

“Fuck! No. I mean yes. Well sort of. I’m a Chinese-American US citizen from Maryland but I live in Chicago and I work in Calgary on the weekdays.” …I always have no idea what to say when people ask me where I’m from so I just blurt out my life story. Then it’s awkward.

But, I digress. I’ve never had an accent my entire life, except for maybe when I was five and first moved to the states. Growing up, there wasn’t really such a thing as a Maryland accent. I remember absolutely LOATHING Chicagoan accents when I first came to the UofC. I thought all Midwesterners sounded inbred and that I, with my parents-who-were-not-cousins, spoke in such a superior and sophisticated tongue by comparison.

But now that I think about it, I can’t even discern those nasally, drawn-out As anymore. I can't remember the last time I've paused or been annoyed from hearing a distinctly Chicagoan way of pronouncing something. I guess I too have become inbred, maebe.