Archive for the 'Personal' Category


Video of Signature Lounge at 96 John Hancock tower

Here is a video of our Valentine’s dinner at the Signature Lounge at 96 John Hancock tower. The motif video is experimental and uses three different soundtracks to illustrate the transformative impact of sound.

Original sound

The Empire Strikes Back

Sound: Die Walküre Erster Tag de Nibelungen


February 9 Paul Van Dyk at The Mid Chicago

DJ Paul Van Dyk at The Mid Chicago
















With The Mid resident DJ Nathan Scott and Eugene. What an awesome night! Here are two iPhone videos from YouTube:


February 7





February 6 Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House

This is a documentation of our day at Robie House which was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is located at the University of Chicago.




The exterior of Robie House.




Wright’s window designs are so elegant, timeless, and beautiful…




Here are two videos of our tour of Robie House:

This is the first video with music:

Here is the second video which does not have inserted sound for a more natural/documentation/electronic/rough effect:

After receiving a private tour of Robie House as no one else attended at 9am on Sunday we went for breakfast and had Italian for dinner that evening. Good times!










February 4 Orange with a Peel and Union Sushi in Chicago












Here is a video of the experience of our favorite restaurants Orange with a Peel and Union Sushi in Chicago:


January 27


















Here is a video which captures the commute from Champaign to Chicago:


Renovation Report: The Ballad of the Kitchen Ceiling

Self-portrait while removing the kitchen ceiling.

June was definitely a productive and overwhelming month. As mentioned in my previous blog post, for the past several months we have been in the midst of our kitchen reno with the cabinets and wallpaper stripped, floor to be tiled, and kitchen ceiling to be renovated. However, when the electrician came over to re-wire the hideous pull-chain florescent ceiling light he pointed out there were structural problems with the plumbing from the upstairs bathroom that had cut out supporting ceiling joists.

The exposed ceiling joists which reveal the upstairs bathroom plumbing and needed supporting beams.

Unbelievable! This is a major structural problem. To make this clear, years ago when a plumber installed the upstairs bathroom they cut out parts of the supporting ceiling planks to put in the tub. This caused the second floor to sag and be structurally unsound. How did the housing inspector miss this? It was covered up of course- the previous owners who patched up the ceiling must have known about it and irresponsibly chose to ignore a giant accident waiting to happen. As we did not want our tenant Don to end up in our kitchen while having a bath we decided to have the ceiling jacked up and repaired with new supporting beams.

The new ceiling supporting beams that are in the process of being drywalled.

Repairing the ceiling has been a huge job. I pulled down the original ceiling to help save on the cost of labor. It was one of the dirtiest and most difficult things I’ve ever done. Imagine 100 years of plaster and mold falling all over you. The process revealed that the kitchen had three ceilings that were just put up on top of each other to save time/labor.

The old kitchen ceiling which hid the structural problems and had the ugly pull-chain florescent light.

The kitchen ceiling in the process of being taken down.

In addition, what made June an overwhelming month was that the neighbors complained to the City of Urbana and I received a letter stating I was a “Public Nuisance” for my ceiling waste which was temporarily put outside on the back porch and lawn. As it had only been four days I could not beleive it. Thankfully Illini Recycling removed the waste and I was not fined.

Mom and Dad were superheros and moved our furniture from Montreal to Urbana, Il.

Here Dad and Mom stand in front of the 16 foot truck.

While the folks were visiting we had some beer at ‘The Blind Pig‘ a local brewery and pub which has been rated one of the best bars in the USA.

A photo with Dad.

Boxes!!! The place was overflowing with them. Here is the spare room.

It was very overwhelming to have to unpack and re-organize all the boxes on my own.

The living room. There were so many boxes that I could not even open or access the front door.

However, I had to find a roommate and unpack the boxes to make room for Nicolas a graduate student from Chile who is completing his Master’s degree in Commerce. Nicolas moved in last June.

Portrait of my roommate Nicolas Navarrete Hernandez.

After spending a month working on the house a lot of progress has been made.

The unpacked living room. It feels great to have the leather couches and my beloved Structube Vega coffee table back.

But there is still so much work to do… At the end of June I left for Taiwan after the structural beams were put in. However, it has been two months and the ceiling is still not finished. My dream will be to…. have the light fixtures installed.  What a happy day that will be….

Our 8 light track lighting from Lowe’s. Can’t wait to see it when it’s finally up in the kitchen.

The kitchen ceiling in the process of being drywalled with the exposed beams.

Now that I am in Taiwan the renovations will continue and our contractor Richard Rhoades will instal a new roof and re-tile our bathroom and kitchen. It would be wonderful to come home and have all the tiling done by Rich and the bathroom renovated. We’ll have to see what time and our finances allow.


Long-distance Marriage

Long-distance love is increasingly common in our digitally networked and professionally outsourced society. In 2001, I met my husband by chance at a rave in Quebec City while living in Ottawa. We dated long distance for two years before settling in Montreal in 2003. In 2007 after getting married and moving to Taiwan, Ranjit went back to Canada to update his education at the University of Laval, a one and a half year process. Last year, I moved to the USA to begin a PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

An early photo taken about a month after we started dating, November 2001 .

As a couple we trust each other and are understanding towards time spent apart. The distance is always caused by education/career prospects that we both support. It is difficult and can be lonely. There are times when we both feel abandoned and harbor resentment. But we always manage to get through it. We are busy and the separation is always for a good reason that benefits us both.

Our wedding, May 2005.

At the moment Ranjit is half way through his Masters in Mathematics in Taipei and is developing his on-line cycling business. 2011 will be a big year for him as his finishes his Masters, re-vamps his on-line shop, and establishes the business in Hong Kong. I am supportive of all of  these endeavors. It is just too bad that we have to be apart. But it won’t be forever! Just one more year…

Snapshot from home, December 2009.

Late next May, I am planning on meeting Ranjit in Hong Kong for a romantic break which will mix business and pleasure. After spending four months apart the holiday will be an event to look forward to and I feel lucky to see parts of Asia as a poor student in North America. Life and relationships are about compromise. You have to remember the bad times are only temporary and be thankful of the positive elements that can easily be taken for granted.


Christmas 2010 and Reflections on the New Year

The New Year inevitably brings hope towards the future and hasty reflections on the recent past. 2010 was an intense year in which I changed jobs, moved to a new country, started a new Doctorate program, paid off student loans, and became a homeowner.

It was also a year that made me accept and move on from the negative attitudes of others and find peace in my own definitions of family/community.

Which is all we can do right? Before you can change the world you have to acknowledge how it functions and be understanding towards inevitable bias.

In 2011 I’d like to:

  • get pregnant
  • paint suede paint in the living room/bedroom
  • successfully refinish the floors and add new doors/blinds
  • survive the next academic semester which intimidates me (4 courses + 3 jobs and 2 conferences)
  • maintain a strong connection with my mother and friends in Canada
  • spoil my husband for his birthday
  • help the husband pay off our Visa bill
  • finish editing and publish a certain overdue article
  • develop my leadership skills (…groan, but the pressure is on)
  • spend more time with the dog and cat
  • get a new pair of Tom Ford sunglasses

And here are the photos from Christmas which was the best ever:

Ranjit, my handsome, witty, and creative Indian husband.

White lilies Ranjit brought home for Christmas Eve lunch.

Entrance to Diamond Tony’s on the 85th floor of Taipei 101 where we celebrated Christmas dinner.

A box from Tiffany’s. Ranjit surprised me with a silver necklace from the Frank Gehry Torque collection.

Christmas dinner

Bathroom with a view

Interior of Taipei 101


How to pay off student loan debt

Today I paid off my student loans.  The amount owing was originally $38,000 CDN but I’ve probably paid an additional $5,000-$6, 000 in interest over the past four years.  When I first started paying the loans off I was spending over $6 a day in interest.  Several years ago I worked as a high school teacher in Canada and had a hard time paying off the interest and principal.  Making anything more than the minimum payment was a real stretch and I remember feeling like paying off the loans would be impossible.

Try and make as much money as you can in your current occupation: be aggressive.

As I worked as a high school teacher, I thought it would be a good idea to move to Asia and start using my Masters in Education degree as a university instructor.  A higher paying job I wanted that was not available in Canada.  In addition, I’d heard that frugal hard working teachers in Asia were able to save between $10,000- $20,000 a year which is true.  While this might seem like a clear choice it is hard to just give up your job, home, and culture to embark on a professional adventure.  The first year in Taiwan was a very hard adjustment and many people thought I was crazy to have left my settled former life behind.

Work a part time-job in addition to your full-time gig: if you need to make money you have to take every opportunity you can to do so.  Work in the evening and on weekends when you have spare time.  To budget, I would live off my part-time income and save the majority of my full time income.

Live below your means: while this is an obvious piece of advice it is something few people follow in our consumer society.  The apartment we live in is not fancy but it only costs $450 a month.  I walk and take the subway instead of using a car.  This does not mean I don’t splurge but it is within reason and usually on sale.

Pay for everything in cash: it is a lot simpler, less hassle, and you don’t have to worry about credit card debt.

Anticipate unexpected expenses: understand there might be that unexpected $500 expense, tax return that doesn’t come through, or expensive travel bills.  Accept that unexpected expenses are a part of life and be ready for them.

Develop yourself professionally: go to school and continue your education, gain new marketable skills, attend conferences, network, and volunteer.  Often your employer will pay for part of your tuition or conference expenses.  If you go back to school you could get a scholarship that brings in more funds.  Attending conferences are a great way to network for graduate school or meet contacts for a new position in your field.

Stick to your guns: this piece of advice is a lot easier said than done as it takes real discipline to stick to a budget.  In our society we are conditioned to brag about how much we’ve spent not how much we’re saving. Many people have shown disrespect towards me for choosing to go to an international conference over spending money on a vacation in Asia, working on Saturday mornings, not owning a car, and living below my means.  “I could never live like that” is something I’ve heard often enough.  Just ignore it and keep making those deposits in the bank.  As your income grows, increase your monthly deposits and start paying off the smaller chunks of your debt until it’s gone.

It feels amazing to be debt free!!!

Jo’s tweets


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  • Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon Race Review: 1:49:40, June 22nd 2014 August 14, 2014
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  • February 2014 April 12, 2014
    Here are some images from New York and Urbana, Il from February 2014 Filed under: General
  • PicFrame Collages March 17, 2014
    Here are photographs from our trip to Washington DC last weekend that are framed using the PicFrame app. Filed under: General
  • Photographs from January 2014 February 10, 2014
    Here are some images from Urbana, IL and New York, NY from January 2014 Filed under: General
  • Photographs from December 2013 February 9, 2014
    Images from the holidays in Urbana, IL and New York, NY   Filed under: General
  • Photographs from November 2013 February 9, 2014
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  • Photographs from October 2013 February 9, 2014
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