Sandy Chen

Archive for January 2010

Last week, my friend Andrew Currie helped installed Linux Mint onto Ryan’s laptop. Ryan’s not the most tech savvy guy, so installing Linux may or may not have been a good idea to begin with, but no matter, Andrew and I were set on giving it a new face, because Ryan had been mentioning that his laptop took forever to load, and its speed gets noticeably slower as each season passes, along with a few other little things that were problematic.

We had to give it a new hard drive, because the old one had issues with it, and any given moment, it could just crash. I honestly can’t tell you the process of installing Linux Mint onto the laptop, perhaps Andrew Currie would care to indulge on this.

Since bringing it home, Ryan’s been fidgeting around with it. His objectives with this laptop were to:
1) Surf the net
2) View documents that he brings home from work such as Powerpoint and Excel
3) Download, play music, and sync it to his iPod, which was given to him as a gift just prior to Christmas

Ok, so with these objectives, the first two were met with no problems. The third, however, proved to be a hell of a task for Ryan. Long story short, Ryan as no longer willing to invest his time any further with what he already spent on trying to figure out how Rhythmbox worked. By Saturday evening, he was so frustrated with it that he declared complete abandonment toward his laptop, and raised war on this poor iPod that barely did anything wrong except not have any music on it. So with that, I decided to make it my mission, since my desktop is still running on Windows OS, this was the perfect opportunity to start getting to know Linux, nothing better than baptism by fire, plus I enjoy a good challenge! So Ryan wants to play music on his laptop and put music on his iPod, I was going to make it happen if it was the last thing I do.

With the help of Andrew, we decided that perhaps there was something wrong with Rhythmbox, and therefore, let’s uninstall it and find another player.

Uninstalling it was easy, click on Software Manager, and type your search, and you can uninstall it a blink of an eye. Here comes the interesting part: I had no idea that within Software Manager, you can search for software that you wanted to install. As a female, the best way to describe it would be to flip through a Sears catalogue and ticking off the items you want, and the best part, all of it was free!

So here we are, music player-less, browsing through the list, first up, Songbird. We picked SB because Andrew has the experience with it and likes it. Installation complete, but how do we sync up this iPod? Find an Add-on, duh! So I did, but for some bizarre reason, still can’t do it, Songbird isn’t recognizing or picking up the iPod…oh well, let’s move on.

I uninstall it, and went back to the catalogue, Banshee was up next. I liked Banshee’s set up, it seemed really user friendly, I would definitely keep if, if I didn’t have this iPod issue I needed to resolve, seriously, why can’t I sync this damn iPod? Like Songbird, Banshee doesn’t want to recognize it either! Sigh, no luck, so we move on again.

At that moment, I contemplated on reinstalling Rhythmbox and finding out how far we can go with it, but wait, Andrew sees that perhaps Amarok would be our saviour! So, full of hope, I install it, boy does it take long to install in comparison to the other players we’ve tried so far, but hey, great big file could mean great big thing right? I start the application up, and omg, it sees my iPod and wants to talk to it! Woohoo! But wait, my attempt to import my music files into the player fails miserably! I would have tried to figure out what was wrong with it, however, the set up and navigating around the program was complicated that I don’t even bother, because if I’m finding it hard to navigate around already, I’d probably be seeing this laptop in pieces if I gave it to Ryan to use.

I do a little further reading, then finally I decide to give Rhythmbox another shot.

Perhaps this was the Tech Goddess taking pity on me, but the second time around, it was so easy! It’s as though whatever beef previously it had with Ryan or myself had completely disappeared. 

One of the biggest problems with Rhythmbox is that if it sources the music directly from the music folder you’re asking it to import from, and you decide to relocated the music to a different folder, Rbox becomes discombobulated and doesn’t like that. So I guess the key is to keep your music in a consistent folder and don’t move it. If you must move files around then make sure you update your imported files.

As for the iPod, as soon as i plugged it into the laptop, Rhythmbox found it, but it won’t sync on its own, you have to manually do it, takes a little longer I guess, but not at all complicated.

In this small session working on the Linux OS, I discovered that it is definitely worth your time to learn Linux if you’re the type of person who enjoys a challenge, and have some patience. The option to be able to customize your computer and make it uniquely your own is definitely quite the reward I look forward to. However, if you’re the type who likes to be smacked around, be told exactly what you need, and then be charged an arm and a leg after each bitch slap session, I suppose Windows is definitely the way to go for you 😉


To embark on my geek quest, I’ve decided my first mission would be to learn about Linux. I’ve known and heard legends of Linux for quite some time now, but my understanding of Linux has always been “Linux users are strictly for computer programmers” or “Common folk don’t use Linux, common folk use Windows, and if you’re an artistic folk, then you use Mac”.

A couple of reasons why I have decided to embrace Linux: First, Ryan’s laptop was in need of an overhaul, and Andrew Currie was more than happy to help, but with the condition that it gets the Linux overhaul, plus he doesn’t have any Windows software anyways, he’s a former snooty Mac user. Secondly, I’ve always been frustrated by Window’s blatant strategy to make more money by coming out with a new version of Windows as soon as most people have upgraded to their last version. For eample, the new craze is the Windows 7, but what happened to Windows Vista, I swore I had just heard about it and saw it come out not too long ago. To upgrade to a new version of Windows, you need to pay for the software. If you don’t know me already, I’m pretty cheap and stingy, so I have a hard time paying to upgrade my software that I’m not guaranteed it’ll be better than the previous version. I’ve been pretty lucky to have always somehow scored my Windows for free, but I’m pretty sure my freeloader status is bound to expire any day now. My understanding of Linux is that it is open source software, and therefore, it’s el cheapo, in fact, it’s free!

So my very first experience with Linux is through Ryan’s laptop, and my second experience is with an Asus netbook that Andrew is kindly letting me borrow to take notes for a class, which I’m really digging so far, minus a couple of hicups, but otherwise a very good gadget to have. I think I’ll end up buying one myself. So far, I don’t have much to say about Linux, however, the one thing I’m seriously hung up on is the lack of anti-virus. Having been a Windows user for such a long time, it’s etched in my brain that anti-virus is a must and that if you don’t have it, then you’re an idiot. Over the course of one week, I think I must have asked about aniti-virus at least a dozen times, and each time, Andrew tells me that it is not necessary. I asked him once again yesterday about the lack of anti-virus on the latop, and out of irritation, Andrew accused me of having severe emotional Windows baggage and that this baggage will take a serious toll on my new relationship with Linux if I choose to take it with me.

To ease my paranoia, I’m guided to this article by Truth be told, it’s hard to reverse the brainwash Windows has done, therefore, I’m still not 100% convinced.

Anyone a user of Linux? I definitely welcome your comments, discussions, as well as your expertise, if you so willing to share.

This afternoon I attended the anti-proroguing rally at Dundas Square. I originally agreed to go because my friend Andrew Currie asked me to go with him. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know too much about this issue until Andrew brought it to my attention a couple of weeks ago. Prior to the rally today I took some time reading up on what was happening, and with the information that I gathered, it was enough for me to attend this rally not because it was the cool thing to do, but knowing it was the right thing to do. By putting the parliament on hold, all bills, regardless of its state of progress, became invalid, therefore, all work put into it essentially was wasted.

My opinion, proroguing parliament simply makes Stephen Harper a big pussy.

Here are some articles to read up on and decide for yourself whether or not you think proroguing parliament is acceptable:

CBC News
The Globe and Mail

That I’m not! I’m a huge fan of Persian food, and being a fan, I thought it would be cool and wise to try and make some of my favourite dishes, considering eating out all the time would be costly and harsh on the budget, girl’s got a mortgage you know, so every penny counts!

Today, I decided it was the perfect time to make ground beef kabab (a.k.a kabab koobideh in Farsi). I had bought these flat metal skewers that looked like a sword. The objective is to press the meat around the skewers.

The result: an epic fail! Ground beef kept falling apart from the skewer when we started cooking it on the b.b.q. You wouldn’t think pressing ground beed around a flat metal skewer would be difficult, but damn, it takes mad skillz!

Thank goodness I had some marinated b.b.q.chicken on the go as well, otherwise, the boys (Ryan and Leo) and I would have been left hungry tonight.

So based on tonight’s disaster, I think we’ll put Persian off to the side for a little while. Let’s move on to something less exotic, maybe chicken pot pie, or meat loaf…mind you, I’m Chinese, and grew up eating mostly Chinese food, so chicken pot pie and meat loaf is super exotic to me, but the white boy at home (Ryan) has made a special request, so I guess I’ll have to find good recipes for it. If you know of one, please feel free to pass it along!

Saturday January 16th was our grand excursion to Niagara region for the Ice Wine Festival. Ryan and I were joined by our friends Leo, Ian and Pochuen. We woke up pretty early as there was quite the packed itinerary ahead of us. By 9:30am, we were already at Ian and Pochen’s place to pick them up. Before heading on the highway though, we stopped by timmies for a breakfast. By 10:00am we were fed, and ready to go.

Our first stop is Tawse, ok, so maybe my snarky remark from my previous post of them being hoity toity was a bit harsh, but that was because back in November when Ryan and I went, we walked in, and walked out immediately without a tasting, because they were busy, and the people that were tasting the wines were just obnoxiously snobby, topped by looking at the pricey list of the wines they were selling, all this gave off the impression of it being a hoity toity place. So I stand corrected, not as snobby as I thought, and that’s because the staff members are actually very friendly, and extremely informative, so shame on the visitors for being such snooty brats. We arrived at Tawse at 11am, however, the ice wine discovery event was not fully set up yet, so to buy some time, one of the staff members warmed us up by offering us both white and red wines from their regular tasting list. A little side note, although for the next three weekends it is the Ice Wine Festival, those who wish to have a tastings of the winery’s white or red wines are more than welcome to do so. I won’t get into too much details of each of the wines I tried, because that’d take too long, however, those that made an impact to my taste buds will definitely be mentioned. At 11:30, they were ready for us. we were each given a sample of their Gewurztraminer ice wine paired with foie gras with cracker topped with some sort of a vegetable jam. The ice wine was pretty good, the foie gras was absolutely delicious.

Our next stop, we headed over to Calamus Estate Winery. Back in June was when we first visited the winery, Calamus Estate was a unplanned visit, but now it has become one of our top places today. The winery’s website statement is “Very rustic, very scenic, and very good wine!” and I agree! We started off with the winery’s white and red wine, because Ryan and I had raved about their wine so much to our friends, there was no way we were going to let them leave without trying some. Mind you, I have to say that the red wines are more of Calmus’ forte, as I’m not a fan of their white wines. The verdict: 2007 Cabernet Franc was the favourite. After tasting we proceeded upstairs for the main event. By far the best “bang for your buck”. Calamus definitely went all out on their wine tastings and food pairings. They produced three ice wines, and sure enough, they busted all three ice wines out, and had food pairings for each wine. First was their Vidal ice wine, paired with crackers and a semi-soft cheese. Next was the Riesling ice wine paired with pate on artisan bread. Lastly we had the Cabernet Franc ice wine paired with dark chocolate cups filled with chocolate mouse. The stand out was definitely the Riesling ice wine as it was very crisp and fresh, and had hints of green apple, super delish!

If you’re a fan of cool architeture then Flat Rock Cellars will definitely make you giddy. Flat Rock Cellars is for the hip, modern and fun folks. Everything from their eco-friendly facility to their trendy packaging seriously begs for the younger generation to take notice. Pay attention people, wine is not for the old haggardy folks anymore! Flat Rock Cellars is more known for their Pinot Noir. Personally I’m not a fan of Pinot Noir, so I wasn’t overly excited by their tastings. The boys tried a couple of samples, but we quickly moved on to the main event. We handed in our pass tickets, and within a couple of minutes, we were served a glass of their Sweet Revenge Vidal ice wine along with a serving of ice wine glazed pulled-pork slider. Yum yum yum is all I can say!

Hernder, now there’s a winery that’s a little bit hard to pronounce, and a little bit off the map. Grab a free tour map of the Niagara region wineries, and you won’t find Hernder on there. We only knew of Hernder based on the fact that their event description was delicious enough to catch our eyes. Hernder is located on “A quiet country road, the gentle swell of vineyards beneath the brow of the Niagara Escarpment; turn down the lane, through a unique wooden covered bridge up to an immense, perfectly restored 1867 Victorian barn”. This is the winery that no one knows about, and this is definitely the hidden gem that everyone should go and experience for yourself! Can’t say we were overly impressed by their Vidal ice wine paired with their ice wine marinated chicken with apricot, however, we were quickly distracted by their regular line up of white and red wines. Most people probably wouldn’t give two shits about Hernder’s wine if it were placed in the LCBO. The bottle labels are uber tacky, and the price of the wines are listed at a shocking bargain basement range. What they lack severely in packaging they definitely make up for in the taste. Now mind you, we generally like reds better, so hence you’ll hear me talking about reds more often, but I will make a notable mention of their Green Tea Gewurztraminer, very neat concept to infuse green tea into the gewurztraminer, it’s definitely a cool beverage to have on a hot summer day. Now back to the reds, wow, is all I can say. I can’t speak for my friends, but I definitely had a boner when I had the Cabernet Franc! Perhaps Hernder is not well known for their wine because they have a larger focus on their Vinegar products, so we have been told.

By far the shortest stop, based on our collective experience and wine preferences, we all agreed that Chateau des Charmes has a collection of less than impressive wines, but we stop anyways, because it’s a pretty chateau, and we’ve never had their ice wine, so we were willing to give it a chance. The Vidal ice wine was pretty decent, and the hand made ice cream was good too.

Ice wine and the name Inniskillin pretty much go hand in hand. You can pretty much say Inniskillin helped create an international market and demand for Canadian ice wines, so therefore, I suppose Inniskillin has every right to charge an exorbitant amount on their ice wine. Pochuen and I didn’t feel like “wasting” a ticket on the event that paired their Vidal ice wine with a piece of shortbread cookie, which we saw a few people had left on the tables barely touche, so we left the boys and headed over to the other building, which we received samples of Vidal ice wine on its own sans shortbread, without the need for an event ticket.

Since the boys used their tickets and the ladies didn’t, we popped by Reif Estate winery. Pocheun and I wanted to visit Reif mainly for their food pairing, and by this time, we were getting hungry as well. Their Vidal ice wine was paired with spit roasted pork served on a mini-brioche with apple icewine sauce…yah, I know, enough said!

As a bonus round, we stopped by Strewn because Pocheun and I were heavily drooling over the food pairing of their creamy chowder. This was 4:15 in the afternoon, 45 minutes left before the wineries close up shop for the day. So I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when we walked in and the staffs told us they were completely out of chowder…but we were still a little bummed out, because as we stood there, we could smell the lingering scent of the chowder mocking us. Feeling rather sympathetic towards us, the tasting staff busted out every single ice wine they had and started bombarding us with samples. By this time, we have had so many different samples previously that now everything just blended together. But no matter, he poured us wine, so therefore, we must drink!

That pretty much concluded our day of ice wine tasting. For dinner, we went to The Old Winery Restaurant. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was warm, the service was top notch. Even though we claimed we were all “wined” out, we couldn’t resist ordering a bottle to go with our dinner!

This weekend kicks off the Ice Wine Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake. I’ve developed a fancy for wine about 5 years ago, but what really sparked my passion for wine was when Ryan (the guy who claims that he takes cares of me and puts a roof over my head, but seriously, it’s the other way around) and I spent a weekend back in June 09′, because we had a free night’s stay at White Oaks Resort and Spa. We thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do wine tastings and tours. I learned more about wine during that weekend than having drinking it for 5 years.

If you’ve ever considered doing a wine tasting tour, I highly recommend it. If you have the opportunity to do so, take your bike and ride along the Niagara river, stop by wineries such as Reif, Peller Estates, and Inniskillin for a wine sample. Trust me, there’s nothing more fun than riding your bike up and down the Niagara river slightly tipsy!

Keep in mind, ice wine is not for everyone, because of it’s high sugar content, it’s super sweet. Ryan doesn’t like ice wine as much as I do, but he does enjoy a small glass of the Cabernet Franc, as it’s not as sweet as the Riesling or Vidal.

So this Saturday, we will head over to Niagara-on-the-Lake with our friends Ian, Pochuen, and Leo. We’re each getting a discovery pass, which gives you access to 6 participating wineries. This includes a glass of their ice wine with food pairing.

Our itinerary this Saturday is as follows:

Tawse A very hoity toity winery with the equally hoity toity price per bottle to match, this makes me curious as to how great they really are

Calamus Back in June 09′, we stumbled upon this winery by chance, and immediately fell in love with the winery. The tasting takes place in a rustic barn house, where the owner themselves will greet you and chinwag with you. Intimate setting, great wine, great atmosphere.

Flat Rock Cellars The winery is built purely based on the idea of “Environmental Sustainability”. Every part of the building is designed with preserving the environment as much as possible. Very cool, and the view is amazing too!

Hernder Can’t say I know much about the winery, however, their food and wine pairing description had us sold “Sweet ‘n’ Sassy: Enjoy a succulent sampling – a breast of Chicken encrusted, lightly seasoned and engulfed in our very own Icewine Reduction – topped with an apricot marinated in our 1996 Vidal Icewine. Pair this with our award winning 2007 Vidal Icewine – then try our Sparkling Riesling! Sweet ‘n’ Sassy!”

Chateau des Charmes It’s got the word Chateau in it, enough said.

and finally

Inniskillin They’re world renowned for their ice wine, so the destination is simply a must.

I’ll definitely be taking notes, and sharing with you our trip once we get back.

And of course, have a DD, because drinking and driving makes you nothing but a huge douchebag.

Ok, so I know a few people reading this will gasp and shake their head at the fact that I skipped rehearsals tonight with my sketch troupe Asiansploitation to go for a facial and manicure at Elmcrest College. Sorry for not admitting it earlier troupe mates, but I really needed the pampering.

The fact of the matter is, not everyone can afford facials at a starting rate of $70 for a basic treatment. If you’re a vain diva like myself, but on a tight budget, you too can spoil yourself like the rich girls do by getting it done at a student clinic.

There are many clinics around the area, do a google search and you’ll find places like Elmcrest College. Keep in mind that student clinics’ atmosphere is definitely not as serene as “La Super Expensive Day Spa”, you’re in a room with other student estheticians and clients, but they do their best with providing a serene atmosphere by dimming the lights and playing tranquil music. What they lack in atmosphere, they definitely make up in attention and care. These are students, therefore, what would normally be a 30 minute manicure would probably take around 45 minutes. My student esthetician Brittany was a sweetheart, she was extremely attentive, and she was really awesome. All clinics are supervised by the college instructors, so you’re definitely in good hands.

Going to student clinics you’ll save at least 50% than what you’d pay in a regular spa. What made it even more awesome tonight, was the fact that this week was “Friends and Family” week, therefore, all treatments were half off. $20 for a facial and manicure, not too shabby I say!


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