Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Life in Twenty-Thirteen

It's that time of a year again... time for a summary of my life in 2013...

Doodles, 'cuz.. why not? © Osama Sidat

January: The start of the year was followed by a move to Cardill Crescent, about 15 minutes of a walk away from University. It was a fairly nice place, with some awesome house-mates!

I started the year with a full course load, consisting of three core Computer Science courses, an Applied Cryptography course and a business course at Wilfred Laurier.

Also, since I was aiming for a more Computer Science - related job for my next term, I started going through the nuisances (there's no other way to put it, UWaterloo folks understand this!) of JobMine!

February: We saw a massive amount of snow one Friday... caused a snow day (my first at UWaterloo... ) I remember the day especially because I had an interview scheduled that day, which got cancelled...

Snow on the Patio © Osama Sidat

Nevertheless, a few interviews (IBM, Zynga, Desire2Learn, BlackBerry, and Kaleidescape, as far as I can recall) happened in the following few weeks... some went well, some were okay...

Interview Season © Osama Sidat
Soon came Reading Week, a much needed break from the tough academic schedule... Since I stayed back in Waterloo, I participated in tubing and skiing, awesomely fun snow activities!

Me, with a friend's GoPro strapped to the head, ready to go downhill © Osama Sidat
Skis Strapped On © Osama Sidat
March: The JobMine round finally came to an end, and I was offered a role as Quality Assurance Analyst at Desire2Learn, a provider of learning solutions, head-quartered in downtown Kitchener! I was extremely thankful that I got a job in the first round!

Desire2Learn © Osama Sidat

Unfortunately, on the academic front, I wasn't faring very well with Crypto. Based on the prof's advice, I dropped the course, and I hope to get a shot at it again next year...

Random note: Paintball is an amazing sport!

Headshot! © Osama Sidat

April: The month brought with it...

Freezing Rain... © Osama Sidat

Studying... © Osama Sidat

... and exams at the PAC © Osama Sidat

Exams went okay, meaning I passed all of my courses... although if I were given another chance, I would not bother with BU111 at Laurier... I'd possibly look for an alternative...

May: Yet another move at the end of April and beginning of May... this time to Erb Street, 15-20 minutes south of campus...

I started work on May 6th. It was definitely a beginning of a different experience, compared to my past work terms... It was my first exposure to Agile software development. And boy, there was a whole lot of co-ops working for Desire2Learn in summer - lots of new friends and acquaintances!

Also started a Legal Studies 101 online course. To anyone planning on taking this course, it's fairly boring. I listened to the lectures while engrossed in other stuff, and didn't bother with most of the readings... I did, though, start watching Suits :P .

Since it was the work term, I found a lot more time for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.. I even started a recipe section on the blog to make sure I could replicate my experiments in the future...

Tuna Sandwich © Osama Sidat

June: Work started becoming more interesting, especially since I understood more of what I was doing.

I got a chance to visit Victoria Park in Kitchener. Nice place, got some awesome shots, and I did discover that benches and bridges are two of my favourite subjects..

Bench in Victoria Park © Osama Sidat

My Project 365 finally came to an end... my HTC One S served me faithfully throughout the year...

July: Ramadan started. Also, I found a new place for Fall and forward...

August: Started wrapping up the work term. Found a part time Dev/Analyst role with my company for the Fall term, since my schedule for classes was constrained to Tuesday and Thursday...

The Legal Studies course exam was fun... I just prepared using the course notes in about 6-8 hours... It had been a while since I wrote an exam involving essays... given the effort I put in the course, the exam went fairly well...

Welcomed my brother to Waterloo (finally, I have another test subject, other than myself, to try out my cooking!)... and made another move, just down the street!

I also got an offer from my team to come back in Winter as a Developer, which I happily accepted.

September: Started the term, this time with Operating Systems, and Databases, with a couple of electives, Physics of How Things Work, and Public Speaking.

Yet more experimentation - Nutella-Cinnamon French Toast © Osama Sidat

Since my cellular contract with Fido was up for renewal, I called them up for a better plan combination, with the new iPhone 5S... Got a great promised plan, but... more on this later...

October: Started learning why Operating Systems is considered hard... Luckily, I had a good team to work with...

Went out on an astrophotography trip with the UW Photo Club, got my first "good" images of the Milky Way...

The Milky Way © Osama Sidat

So a week before my iPhone was to be delivered (right before the weekend before Thanksgiving), and I was on a phone call with a customer service rep, I was told that the plan that Fido agreed to give me a few weeks ago was no longer valid. For a moment, I was livid (I haven't needed to call KESC or Worldcall in a long time now!). Three CSRs later, Fido refused to budge - whatever they offered me was lesser in features and greater in price compared to my original offer...

At some point on the weekend, I got fed up, and took to social media to explain my problem... Fido's social media specialists reached out to me... a week of negotiation, twenty email exchanges, and some well-reasoned arguments later, my plan was set back to the original offer Fido made to me, my phone was shipped and the matter was resolved. The ordeal was certainly a little frustrating, but it taught me a fair bit about dealing with cellular companies in Canada...

By the way, if anyone's interested in some Pakistani Hunter Beef, I think I'm qualified to make some now...

November: Crazy busy week, full of late- and all-nighters. Along with my team, this cool dude helped one day:

Tofu © Osama Sidat

In any case, we made it at the end. Piece of advice to folks taking OS: start early, work on it continuously.

Also, SPCOM 223 and SCI 206 are extremely fun, highly recommended courses. If you're at UWaterloo, take 'em if you get the chance.

December: I finished up with exams pretty early this term (since my physics prof was kind enough to schedule an alternative final exam; the original exam was on the last slot of the last day of the exam period). Spent until the end of my contract working full-time in my part-time role... the last two weeks of work were definitely more fulfilling than the first three-ish months. There's this thing about part-time when part of an active team - you can rarely finish off what you start...

Just before the holiday week, we had an icestorm in Ontario... everything just froze...

Frozen Twigs © Osama Sidat

On Boxing Day, went to watch my first hockey game at Air Canada Centre...

Toronto Marlies vs Hamilton Bulldogs © Osama Sidat

All in all, an interesting year. Learned a great many things, met some awesome people and had a number of new experiences. Based on current calculations, I am now two work terms and three academic terms away from completing undergrad.

Next week, I'm back on co-op, this time as a Developer at Desire2Learn. I look forward to the challenge.

By the way, I've started posting photos on Instagram, if any of you peruse that platform...


Dear Allah, 
On This New Year, And The Years To Come,
Grant Us The Serenity,
To Accept The Things We Cannot Change;
The Courage, To Change The Things We Can;
And The Wisdom, To Know The Difference.

Keep reading ...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hunter Beef

Hunter beef is a delicacy from Pakistan. Since I started cooking, I had always wanted to replicate it, and, finally, last weekend, right before Eid-ul-Adha, I was able to experiment... There are lots of variations one could make, here's the recipe I got from my Mom, and tried to follow to the letter...


  • 3 lb. (1.5 kg) boneless beef (I asked the butcher for a log-shaped piece to roast/bake)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pkt (~ 25g) Shaan Bihari Kabab Masala
  • 1 Tbsp meat tenderizer
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice


  • Create a marinade by mixing yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and all the spices.
  • Make about 3/4 to 1-inch deep cuts, about one to two inches apart, across the length of the beef log. Use the tip of your knife to prick in random places. This is to ensure maximum absorption of the marinade.
  • Thoroughly rub the marinade into the beef, ensuring that it gets spread evenly, including on the inside of the cuts made earlier.
  • Place the beef in a dish, cover with plastic, and place it in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. (I prepared it on Saturday, took it out temporarily on Sunday to re-rub the marinade that had flowed off, and cooked it on Monday).
  • Before cooking, take the meat out at least two hours earlier, to make sure that it reaches room temperature.
  • Preheat oven by setting it at 450°F (230°C).
  • Place the meat in a covered dish, suitable for baking. I used a roasting pan with a lid. Put it in the oven.
  • After 30 minutes, take out the baking dish. Turn over the meat, and place it back inside the oven again.
  • Total cooking time will vary based on cut and size of beef. I took out the meat every 20 minutes after the first 30, and checked "doneness" using a meat thermometer (according to mine, "well-done" is at 170°C - that is the internal temperature of the meat). When I finally took it out for the last time, the total cooking time was around 1 hour 20 minutes (and the meat thermometer registered slightly higher than "well-done" - I should have taken it out slightly earlier)
  • After taking it out of the oven, remove the beef from baking dish, and cover it with a dishcloth. Allow it to cool before slicing.

Keep reading ...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

French Toast Stuffed With Nutella and Blueberry

The other day, I picked up a couple of boxes of blueberries that were on sale at Zehrs. Since I don't normally get blueberries, I had no idea what to do with 'em - I wanted to do something interesting, and not just scarf them down! The french toast idea seemed quick and extremely appealing...

The Yummy-ness Oozing Out!


  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/6-1/4 cup milk
  • 2 slices bread
  • Nutella
  • Blueberries
  • 2-3 Tbsp butter
  • 1-2 Tbsp Oil


  • In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar and milk with a fork.
  • Slather Nutella on both slices of bread and arrange blueberries on one of the slices. Sandwich the slices together.

Slathered in Nutella, Covered in Blueberries...

  • Pour egg mixture over the sandwich. Ensure both sides of the sandwich are well coated.
  • In a frying pan, heat butter and oil. Fry both sides of the sandwich until they are nicely golden brown (or browner, if that is how you like it!)

Looks like an ordinary French toast on the outside... until you cut it open!

Keep reading ...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Garlic Roasted Chicken

A fairly simple recipe, pretty much a variant of this recipe here, with a few modifications of my own, particularly the spice-to-chicken ratio.


  • 2 chicken leg quarters
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme, etc.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup water


  • Mix chili powder, Italian seasoning, cumin, salt and pepper with oil.
  • Add minced garlic and mix under it takes the form of a "paste".
  • Using a knife, add shallow cuts/slits to the chicken quarters to improve the marination process.
  • Rub the marinade onto the chicken quarters (I marinated the chicken about 2-3 hours before cooking).
  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place the chicken quarters onto the tray.
  • Mix the water and soy sauce and pour over the chicken quarters in the baking tray.
  • Bake for about 30-40 minutes.

There are endless sides that could be chosen with the Garlic Roasted Chicken; for tonight's dinner, I chose baked potato, cherry tomatoes and assorted veggies.

Keep reading ...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chicken & Vegetables in Sweet & Sour Sauce

Last weekend, I asked my Mom to share her recipe of Sweet & Sour Sauce, and decided to try my hand at it. The result was surprisingly similar to what I had in my memories...

I replaced the traditional fried chicken chunks in the original recipe with chicken chunks prepared in "Spicy Shake & Bake" - This was done in order to "parallelize" the cooking process...


  • 1/2 lb boneless chicken breast, chopped in chunks
  • 1 pkg Spicy Shake & Bake (won't be using the entire pack, only enough for the amount of chicken used)
  • 1 capsicum/green pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 250-300g frozen vegetables (carrots, lima beans, cauliflower) (optional)
  • 3-4 cloves pressed garlic
  • 1 Cup ketchup
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 Tbsp Sambal Oelek (chili paste)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp black pepper


  • Boil the frozen vegetables for about 2-3 minutes (over-boiling will make the vegies too soft). Heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok. Stir fry the vegetables for a few minutes. Remove from wok.
  • Heat one tablespoon of oil in the wok. Add chopped onions and green peppers. Stir fry for a few minutes. Remove from wok.
  • Mix ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, chili paste and black pepper in a bowl.
  • Heat one tablespoon of oil in the wok. Add garlic and sauteed for a few minutes.
  • Turn stove to medium heat, and add the ketchup mixture to the work. Mix thoroughly.
  • After a few minutes of cooking, add a cup of water to the wok. Stir. Once bubbles appear, turn the heat to low, continue stirring every now and then.
  • Prepare the chicken chunks by following instructions on the Shake & Bake package. For me, this involved coating the chicken in the Shake & Bake mixture, placing on an aluminum-foil-covered baking tray and baking for about 20-22 minutes.
  • When the chicken is almost ready, turn up the heat on the wok with the sauce mixture. Add a tablespoon of cornflour to thicken it, and stir. Add the vegetables, onions and green peppers to the sauce.
  • Remove chicken from oven and add to the sauce.

Voila! The Sweet & Sour Sauce is ready!

Serve with boiled or fried rice...

Chicken & Vegetables in Sweet & Sour Sauce with Boiled Brown Rice

Keep reading ...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spicy Meat Sauce

Nothing too fancy here, just a meat sauce I made today to have alongside pasta, although I believe it wouldn't be too bad with some form of bread or rice...


  • 1 pound (~ 500g) Ground Beef
  • 500ml (about 2 cups) Pasta Sauce with Mushrooms
  • 1 medium or large onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 bell peppers (I used about 2/3 of each, green and orange), diced
  • 2-3 Tbsp Sambal Oelek (chili paste)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • Dried parsley flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cooking oil


  • In a wok, add butter and a bit of cooking oil. Turn stove on medium heat. Add chopped onions. Remove onions from wok when they start to brown.
  • With wok on medium heat, add the ground beef and allow to cook.
  • Once the beef starts losing its reddish color, add salt, pepper (to taste), garlic, chili powder, coriander powder and Italian seasoning.
  • Once the meat starts to brown, add 2 Tbsp sambal oelek and mix thoroughly.
  • Add the onions back into the wok. Add the bell peppers and allow to cook on low-medium heat.
  • After the meat has lost all of its pinkish color, stir in the pasta sauce. (Optional: Add 1 Tbsp of sambal oelek and mix, if you, like me, think that the pasta sauce is way too sweet and should be spicier.)
  • Allow the sauce to rise to a simmer. I allowed the meat sauce to cook on low heat for about 20-25 minutes (could have been more, time flies when you're in the kitchen...).
  • Sprinkle parsley flakes before serving.

Serve with spaghetti (just a suggestion!).

Questions/comments are welcome!

Notes: Possible addition of shredded cheese to make the sauce richer (and heavier, for the calorie conscious folks!).

Update: Leftover meat sauce folded inside an omelette makes for an awesome meal!
Keep reading ...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Salmon in Lemon Butter Sauce

Yesterday, I decided to experiment a bit with salmon, something I hadn't cooked myself before. Fairly quick to prepare and cook. Turned out pretty well, even if I say so myself...


  • 1/3-1/2 lbs salmon
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (alternative: parsley)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or pressed)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Lemon slice (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil (olive oil will probably be better, I just used whatever I had on hand)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  • Prepare a marinade by mixing the cilantro, lemon juice, salt, pepper, butter and oil.
  • Cut the salmon however you like. I had 3 smallish slices.
  • Preheat oven to 450 °F.
  • Place the salmon on a foil lined baking tray, skin-side down (the foil prevents the fish from sticking to the tray, and consequently, helps you avoid the intense scrubbing required to clean the baking tray).
  • Pour and spread the marinade over the salmon. Make sure to also apply it on the sides of the salmon pieces. Place the lemon slice on top of the salmon
  • Place in oven for about 10-15 minutes. Do not over-cook - salmon is awesome even if slightly under-cooked.

Enjoy with a side of veggies, mashed potatoes, boiled rice, or even on its own!

Tonight, I'm going test it out with a spicier marinade. May make a new post, or just add to this one...

Update: The spicier marinade was a lot more interesting. Made the following modifications:

  • Replaced 1 Tbsp oil with a bit of extra butter and 1 Tbsp of Sambal Oelek (chili paste).
  • Sprinkled a bit of paprika powder just before baking.

Here's the modified version, with a side of couscous:

Keep reading ...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vegetable and Egg Fried Rice

Over the past year, I've made few variations of fried rice, using whatever was available to me. Made some this weekend. Allow your creativity to take over...

Note: This recipe is devoid of any "proper" measurements, since I cannot attribute a measurable quantity to the rice (I was basically emptying my bag of rice...) - the boiled rice by itself would amount to about 1 serving. Adjust other ingredients based on your amount of rice.


  • Boiled Rice (1-2 days old cooked rice will do just fine)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Frozen Vegetables (mix of peas, carrots, corn, green beans and lima beans) (slightly less than the amount of rice, in terms of volume...)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped/minced
  • 2-3 Tbsp Soy Sauce (feel free to increase or decrease the quantity)
  • Paprika powder
  • Mustard paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Possible additions/modifications: chopped spring onion, cooked tuna.


  • In a bowl, crack the eggs. Add mustard paste, salt and pepper. Whisk the eggs. Add 1 tablespoon of oil into a pan. Add the egg mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat. "Scramble" the eggs and remove from pan once a creamy consistency is reached. tl;dr: Make scrambled eggs.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the frozen vegetables. Remove and strain the vegetables after about 6 minutes.
  • Add about 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Set stove to medium-high. Add garlic and sauteed for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the vegetables to the pan. Sauteed for about 1-2 minutes and then move the vegetables to a side of the pan.
  • Add the boiled rice to the pan. Stir in the scrambled eggs and soy sauce and mix with the rice.

  • Mix the rice and the vegetables.
  • Sprinkle a bit of paprika powder on top of the rice (optional).


Keep reading ...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie - a dish I had only read about in what I remember to be Enid Blyton's story books (probably the Famous Five or one of the many other adventure books and series she wrote). A month or so back, I wanted to do something creative with the ground beef I had in my freezer, and decided to experiment with Shepherd's Pie, described by Wikipedia as "a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato".

Outlined below is my version of the Shepherd's Pie - the basics were developed by following the recipe here. This was my second attempt at it - the success of the first attempt encouraged me to give it another shot and add a bit more flavor to the meat.

Note: Any measurements are approximations, or could possibly be totally erroneous (especially when it comes to adding cooking oil or spices), since I pay very little attention to how much I'm putting in of each thing...

Without further ado,

Ingredients (for the meat):

  • 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 3-4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp Paprika powder
  • 1/2 tsp Red Chili powder
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp Coriander powder
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp Black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning (oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, etc.)
  • Salt
  • 300-350g Frozen Vegetables (mix of peas, carrots, corn, green beans and lima beans)
  • Cooking oil
  • Butter

Ingredients (for the mashed potato topping):

  • 1 large potato, peeled, chopped and boiled
  • Cream Cheese (I used Roasted Garlic and Herb Cheese)
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Pepper
  • Shredded cheese

Doing the mashed potatoes and the ground beef simultaneously saves a lot of time, compared to doing one and then the other...

The meat base:

  • In a frying pan, add cooking oil and about a tablespoon of butter. Sauteed the chopped onions and garlic, until slightly brown. Remove from stove.
  • In a cooking pot/pan (I used a wok... ), add about 2-3 table spoons of oil. Add the meat, and starting cooking over medium heat. Break up the ground beef (with a wooden spoon) to prevent any lumps from forming.
  • Add salt, paprika, red chili, coriander and pepper to the meat. Then add the sauteed garlic and onions. Finally, add the Italian seasoning. Keep cooking over medium heat until the ground beef loses its pinkishness. Turn the stove to low heat once it starts to brown.
  • In a pot, add the frozen vegetables and enough water to cover them. Put on the stove on high heat. About 6 minutes after the water reaches a boil, remove the vegetables and pass through a sieve to strain any water. Add the vegetables to the meat. (I kept my wok containing the meat on the stove on low heat until I was ready to progress to the baking stage).

The mashed potatoes:

  • In a bowl, thoroughly mash the boiled potatoes with pepper, cream cheese, butter and milk (until it forms a creamy texture).
  • Add Italian seasoning and paprika (optional).

The baking stage:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  • Grease a baking tray or dish. I use a 9-inch square baking tray.
  • Add the meat and vegetable mixture to the tray, and press down with spoon/spatula.

  • Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the ground beef. Add some shredded cheese (optional).

  • Put the tray in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes (until the potato starts to brown).

  • Cut into six or eight pieces (or more, depending on tray/dish size).
  • Serve/Eat. Enjoy!

Questions are welcome!

Keep reading ...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Baked Chicken

Created this recipe about last weekend. Sources included asking my Mom, and incessantly Googling "baked chicken".

Note: Any measurements are approximations, or could be totally erroneous, since I'm recalling this from memory...

Ingredients (for the chicken):

  • 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breast (sliced into 3 separate, palm-sized pieces, in my case)
  • 2 Tbsp chili paste (I use a Chinese brand that comes in a green-lidded plastic jar)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard paste
  • 1 Tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 Tbsp barbeque sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning (a mix of oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped

(possible addition: Worcestershire Sauce)

  1. Mix the chili paste, mustard, the sauces, salt, pepper, butter, garlic and seasoning to form a marinade.
  2. With a knife, slightly mark the surface of the chicken pieces with lines (don't cut too deep!); I am told this improves the absorption of the marinade.
  3. Marinate the chicken pieces, ensuring that both sides are properly covered.
  4. Place in glass bowl, covered with plastic. Place it in the refrigerator. (The first two pieces were taken out after 4 hours, the last piece was left marinated for about a day and a half.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
  6. Place chicken pieces in a baking tray and bake until chicken is cooked*. Turn the chicken pieces to ensure evenly baked pieces.
* I baked the first two pieces for about 30 minutes on the central grill in the oven (15 minutes for each side of chicken piece) and then for 10 minutes on the upper grill - result was pretty dry. The last piece was baked for 20 minutes on the central grill (10 minutes for each side) and on the upper grill for about 5-7 minutes - result was comparatively juicier.

Optional: Serve with potato wedges, cucumber and vegies.

Baked Chicken with Potato Wedges, Cucumber Slices and Other Vegies

Keep reading ...

Friday, March 29, 2013

A New Section - Cooking!

Since I started university, at times I have found joy in cooking. As a student, I am the sole subject of my culinary experiments, so I can be rather liberal with my experimentation

Most of my recipes are combinations of recipes found on the Internet, along with additions/subtractions of my own. I thought it might be a good idea to document some of them, so amateur cooks like myself can get an insight into the wonderful world of cooking. Hence, I'm starting a new section in my blog, titled "Culinary Experiments".


Disclaimer: Follow recipes at your own risk. There is a lot of hand waving involved, since most (read: all) of the time, I'm not very precise with my measurements.
Keep reading ...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Life in Twenty-Twelve

A summary of my life in 2012...

Time is a mysterious thing. At times,  memories created years ago are as if they occurred yesterday. At other times, events from mere months or even weeks before seem ages apart.

Since I started this blog, my Life in Twenty-Ten and Life in Twenty-Eleven posts have not only served as something for me to write about, but have also allowed me the opportunity to look back upon the passed year, and reflect on instances that are now memories. So, without further ado, let me step back into time...

January: The New Year started off with a continuation of my search for suitable accommodation for the Winter 2012 Co-op work term.

2012, Day 2 © Osama Sidat

On January 3, 2012, I joined Loblaw Inc. as the SAP Organizational Change Management Co-op Integration Analyst. The first day was basically an orientation about Loblaw in general and its SAP program in particular, an introduction to a few individuals, followed by a short tour of the building. We (that is myself and the other co-ops) were provided with the laptops we would be using, and were asked to initiate the setup of our email accounts, plus other related "stuff". Meanwhile, I waited for my boss to "collect" me and provide further instructions.

The rest of the day went by pretty rapidly; met my boss, had lunch and conversation with him (trying to get a feel for what it was that I would be doing). He showed me to my desk, provided me with relevant documents and showed me a few things that I could work on.

My assigned desk wasn't exactly permanent (and it was separate from the rest of my team), so I spent the next few weeks switching seats, in order to be closest to the people I would be working with. Some may have found this to be an annoyance; I actually enjoyed it as it prevented monotony from creeping up and also gave me the opportunity to interact various people in the team.

I was assigned a few daily/weekly tasks (nothing that caused any grief). I spent the month mostly tinkering with Excel VBA and investigating ways to automate the data analysis processes from surveys.

Starting from my third week, I was assigned as a tester/guide/overwatch for an Access developer, who was called in for a short term contract to fix a database tool that we used...

I was able to find a room a short bus ride away from my workplace. Best part about the place? There was a cat!

Am the Cat © Osama Sidat

My Street in Brampton © Osama Sidat

February: By this time, I started liking work life a whole lot better than university life. The best part about it was not having to worry about work after getting back home. Another thing about it was the sense of accomplishment after successfully completing a task or side project... something that is absent from most university assignments/exams.

By the end of the month, the developer had left. The question of whether the goals of the contract were completed remain debatable to this day. In any case, my previous experience with Access helped me assume administrative responsibilities of the database (along with the responsibility of "fixing" the "fixes"!)

I found that a co-op term is a pretty good time to experiment with photography projects that had been on the back-burner, such as this:

Water in Glass © Osama Sidat

Visited the Toronto AUTO Show - quite an awesome experience! Would definitely try to check out the show whenever it happens next (equipped with more camera gear, of course!).

A Piece of History © Osama Sidat

March: Sometime during March, some of my colleagues started calling me "The Overlord". I have no idea what triggered it (I'd love to know!).

A couple of my cooking experiments from then:

Chicken & Mushroom Spaghetti © Osama Sidat

Pasta with Ground Beef © Osama Sidat

April: Couldn't believe that the co-op term had reached its final month! Started the preparations for the return to Waterloo...

Meanwhile, Ludwig dropped by for a visit. Who's Ludwig? This gorgeous fellow:

Ludwig © Osama Sidat

The term concluded on a happy note, with a great evaluation from my boss. I also signed up to come back in Fall 2012 (at this point in time, I wasn't exactly sure about continuing with Actuarial Science, my original career path since I started off at Waterloo).

My work term ended on Friday, April 27, 2012. Packed up my room overnight and moved to Waterloo over the weekend.

May: The school term started off on May 3. Had little time to get my bearings straight.

In Spring 2012, I took up Intro to Actuarial Mathematics, Intro to Combinatorics & Optimization, Linear Algebra II, as well as two Computer Science courses, Logic & Computation and Object-Oriented Software Development.

My schedule during the term was fairly spread out. Really busy Mondays, fairly busy Wednesdays and Fridays, really busy Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Rather challenging weekly or fortnightly assignments, as one should expect at the end of the second year.

Won myself a delayed birthday present... an HTC One S from Techvibes! Embarked on a Project 365 using the phone soon after.

HTC One S © Osama Sidat

June: By mid-June, midterms were under way. Most of them were pretty challenging, but none more so than Linear Algebra. Despite being in class for every single minute of the lectures, the material seemed totally foreign to me. Ended up dropping the course to avoid further damage.

I finally made the decision to switch from Actuarial Science to Computer Science. My interest in ActSci was declining rapidly, whereas I found CS fun and enjoyable. In the end, the decision was logical, and in my head, the right path to follow.

Towards the end of June, FEDS Waterloo arranged a visit to Canada's Wonderland. What a thrilling experience!

Me at Wonderland © Osama Sidat

My first ride: The Leviathan, a roller coaster, which has a highest drop of 306 ft. and a maximum speed of 148 km/h. Everything else seemed tame after that...

Leviathan - The First Climb © Osama Sidat

July: Spent Canada Day in Waterloo - witnessed a pretty impressive fireworks show over Columbia Lake.

Over Columbia Lake © Osama Sidat

The rest of July was spent pursuing the end-of-term CS project along with the preparation for exams. This also marked the first Ramadan I actively spent in Waterloo - a completely different Ramadan from the ones I've experienced all my life.

August: The exam frenzy started off... Looking back now, given the way the exams went, I feel lucky that I was able to clear 'em.

My 5-year Sony Alpha was showing signs of aging. Instead of continuing with a new camera from the Alpha line, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to downsize, by switching systems. After a few months of research and comparison between the Sony NEX and the Micro Four Thirds Systems, I decided to go with the latter, starting off with the Olympus OMD E-M5 as the camera. Based on the system-building lessons learnt over the past five years, I am now able to start afresh, taking a slightly different approach by focusing on quality rather than quantity of gear. So far, any cons of switching systems have been overshadowed by the pros.

Since term ended early and I wasn't due to start work until September 4, I moved all my stuff to Brampton as soon as the exams ended and then flew back home to spend Eid with family. Had quite a long flight (via Lahore) but it was definitely worth it.

Home © Osama Sidat

Watched The Dark Knight Rises... an awesome and deserving finale to the trilogy...

September: Flew back to Canada on the 2nd... the troubles I had at the Karachi Airport this time round made me seriously doubt the wisdom of flying with PIA in the future. Moved into the familiar accommodation from last term and returned to Loblaw as the Overlord OCM Integration Analyst - for a second time.

It was nice to see Am again - no Ludwig, since he had gone back to whoever owned him.

The Majestic © Osama Sidat

Earlier, my role was quite small. However, since we were in a major phase of the program, my role inherited (according to my observation) around three times as many responsibilities - not necessarily a bad thing. Thanks to my boss, I was able to keep my working hours in check, would've definitely gone overboard had it not been for his reminders.

October & November: Nothing of much significance, other than routine work, and a bit of photography here and there. Oh, and I got my G2 driving license - street legal now!

Square One Mall, Mississauga © Osama Sidat

A Gaggle of Geese, Fletcher's Creek, Brampton © Osama Sidat

December: Started wrapping up my projects, since I was getting a week off at the end of my scheduled co-op term. Handover of responsibilities was smooth (or as smooth as can be).

On my last day, my team presented me with a fitting poster - something that should definitely be up here, part of this post. Unfortunately, to date, I have not been able to get a scan of it... I'll definitely put it here sometime soon.

A shout of thanks to all the people I worked with, especially my team and particularly my boss. My great experience at work wouldn't have been the same without all of your contribution, and your roles in the initial stages of my career shall never be forgotten.

Now: spending the holidays peacefully (read: lazily), until I jump into the fight again, 7 days from today.

The Sight I Wake Up To! © Osama Sidat

Looking back now, I have a feeling that this year was an important one. Not that any year was/is unimportant... it just feels that this year was a tad bit more...

Just like last year, I'll end this year with the following prayer:

Dear Allah, 
On This New Year, And The Years To Come,
Grant Us The Serenity,
To Accept The Things We Cannot Change;
The Courage, To Change The Things We Can;
And The Wisdom, To Know The Difference.

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