Friday, June 25, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

I Miss CallTrex 

I have now officially spent two days in the employ of dedicated evil. Being one of three out of seven that actually made it through the training program and the first two hours of actual on-the-floor work I should feel special. Somehow special is not quite how I would describe it, but I don't know what word to use to describe the feeling of being hand-picked by the devil.

I can only imagine what they told the people that they were "letting go" from my training class: "Thank you, you may pick up your cheque and soul at the door".

I'm just upset that the one person that I made a connection with (and who I thought would be my friend comiserate through this experience) also got let go. She's a really interesting person. I only caught her first name (Rowen) and she's from Scotland, having arrived in Vancouver just two weeks ago. She's got an interesting and coherent accent and a one year's work visa to Canada. After that visa expires, she's going to spend a year in Australia and so on so forth. Sounds like something I want to do after I graduate. She's just finished her law degree (if she wants to practice she needs to sit for the bar exam, which takes a one-year course more) and before she decides that she wants to be a lawyer, she wants some life experience first. I wanted to pick her brains about working holidays so that I could plan something similar for myself after I graduate and before I pursue my masters. Beyond pure selfish reasons, however, she's also a great person to be with and she mentioned that it was hard to find a job. (Double for her than for me because she has a one-year limitation)

The telemarketing campaign that I belong to is focused on getting people in the South (that's Southern U.S.A.) to switch phone companies. I knew this job wasn't going to be easy when I went in for the interview and indeed before I attended training. I also knew that this job would pay for the bills until I could find somewhere to go that would give me similar flexible hours and somewhat okay pay. I also don't know if I'm any good at it yet. You would think that after several hours on the phone today I would be able to tell if I have a knack for this profession. I only made one sale today, but my supervisor did mention that people get better over time. I don't see how, but I will have to take his word for it and keep hitting those phone lines. I was speaking to someone there who is also at UBC and doing this part-time. She's the top salesperson. They had to change the comission scale because she kept exceeding the maximum limit. The pay up there is obscene and also very handy when trying to pay off student loans. If I'm even halfway as good, I'm going to tough it out because if you're making the money, after a while, nothing bothers you anymore.

What bothers me right now however is getting told off by people with a Southern drawl. There's one thing to tell me off briskly and get me off the phone. There's another to take five minutes to articulate one word. It's a scientific fact that people think ten times faster than they talk. These people must not be too quick minded. Not to mention that I speak slowly and clearly when someone picks up the phone and yet I get a large number of people telling me to speak slower. SLOWER?! I think the person on the other end of the line will reach their estimated life expectancy before we finish this conversation if it went any slower and I can't make a sale to a dead person.

Of course there are the really nice people. Usually these folks are far and few between considering the nature of my call but because the volume of my calls is absolutely ridiculous, statistics ensure that I get one at least every hour or so. I find that those are extremely useful when it comes to trying to keep the spirits (and tone of voice!) up. The only sale that I made today was to a diabetic whose eyesight is really bad because of cataracts. She spent a good long time telling me about her day/week/month/year/life and I didn't mind it one bit. Plus I was saving her about $40 a month which she was grateful for. I like her and I wish her all the best. She is the first experience I have ever had of Southern Charm and I think I can say that I know what people are talking about when the mention it now. (There was this article about Courtney Cox talking about how despite all her success she was still a down-to-earth person with lots of Southern Charm, and I really had no idea what they meant.)

It's not a nice job and right now I'm not making much money. (I have to make sales to increase my base pay as well as to make comission. It's all about the numbers, if you are really interested I'll email/MSN/ICQ you the details.) "It's all about the numbers" is a phrase that I hear again and again. The key to this whole business is in statistics. How good a salesperson you are only comes into play after you get people to start talking to you. Between the answering machines, the business lines (we only pitch to private residences), numbers that are not in service and the people who hang up before you have a chance to finish your first line you're really hungry by the time someone takes the time to ask (even irritably) what the hell you are calling for. I'm still not sure that I'm any good at this, but considering how successful the people who were training me are and that I was picked by them to stay on I guess I must be donig something right. I'm sure that once the money starts coming in my objections will steadily decrease.

Interesting point, the lady who runs the cafe on the opposite corner from where I work (who incidently speaks Chinese, Italian, English and who knows what else) told me that where I work has a very high turnover rate. My supervisors tell me exactly the opposite. I wonder who to believe.


posted by Joie! at 10:39 PM

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Excuses 


This is why Joie didn't get much housework done today.


posted by Joie! at 10:19 PM

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Movie Reviews 

I watched The Last Samurai on Sunday. It was part of a small Father's Day event with Jim's Dad. We went to an all-you-can-eat Indian Restaurant (which was very nice, although there's only so much you can eat because rice, naan, roti and pappadums are very filling) and then went to Rogers Video to rent a movie. No mention of that night would be complete without talking about the Sponge Cake that I made that was served with whipped cream (whipped myself! None of that Cool Whip crap!) and fresh local strawberries. I will stop here to talk about BC strawberries. For one thing, they are red the whole way through. None of that white core that you see with those pansy Californian ones. For another, they are so rich in smell and flavour that when Jim and I were cutting them up in preperation the scent filled the room as though someone had just sprayed strawberry air-freshener. Pity the strawberry season here lasts only about two weeks and then it's back to the GMed, flavourless Californian product. I digress.

The Last Samurai was quite a good movie. I was very impressed with their treatment of the Japanese culture and their cinematography. There were some shots in the movie that were so impressive that we actually pressed pause so that we could take another look at it. Just beautiful wide shots of sunshine in a valley or the mist that lifts shortly after dawn, very poetic. My only gripe about the movie is the casting of Tom Cruise. Don't get me wrong, I'm as big a Tom Cruise fan as you'll ever find, but the truth is that he was way too pretty for the part. He plays a hardened and bitter war veteran who battles the Native Americans shortly after he served in the Civil War (on the winning side). What makes him so embittered is that most of that battles against the Native Americans were just American soldiers riding into a settlement and shooting the hell out of women and children (General Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn not withstanding). He was under orders and he obeyed them, but he suffers from nightmares and flashbacks and the like. He also holds a grudge against his commanding officer for ordering these attacks.

There was nothing wrong with Cruise's acting. In fact, he did a stellar job and was completely believable, if not for the fact that he looked like Tom Cruise. They tried to make him look more rugged by making him grow a shaggy and uneven beard, but it was still Mr. Cruise, as pretty as ever. Especially when he smiled. Oh that signature Tom Cruise Smile™. In fact, I don't even remember what his character's name was because as far as I was concerned, I was looking at Tom Cruise do a fine job of pretending to be this guy. To compare him with Brad Pitt who is right up there in terms of looks and recognizability, Cruise falls short by several miles. If you've seen Brad Pitt in Fight Club, in Snatch and in 12 Monkeys you don't see Brad Pitt. You see Tyler Durden, Mickey O'Neil and Jeffrey Goines respectively. That's because Brad Pitt scruffs up well, and for some reason can really melt into a role. Tom Cruise on the other hand, not so much. In my humble opinion, Tom Cruise is better suited to roles like the one he played in Vanilla Sky where he was just a rougish hearthrob for the most part of the movie. Also where he had a few moments where he could play the tortured protagonist (behind a mask mind! So his superb acting comes through) just to flex his acting muscles a little.

I went into the movie also expecting a rah-rah-rah-Americans-are-so-amazing-type movie. Afterall, the story is about people from the American army going to Japan to help them modernize theirs. On the contrary, the Americans were portrayed as the bad guys and when Tom Cruise was with the Samurais he didn't try at all to teach them anything about his culture. Instead, he instantly recognized (well, not all that instantly, but fast enough) the value of their ways and culture and tried to start educating himself about it. He was rightly ashamed of his past as well as the part that he played in the military. In fact, right at the start of the movie, when he was still against the Samurai he had the respect enough of that ancient culture not to underestimate them. Strikingly, the Japanese spoke Japanese amongst themselves! This is quite unlike other American movies in which the foreigners speak accented English to each other when they are alone. I really appreciated that point, it just drives me insane when they do that in movies. It's mostly because the average American cannot read subtitles fast enough to appreciate the movie and understand what is being said. They didn't even slow down the language so that the subtitles would look like a Sesame Street reading lesson and Japanese is a fast language. There was this part at the end where the Emperor says something to one of his subjects angrily and the subtitles kept right up with his speech such that Jim couldn't read fast enough to catch it. I can't speak for myself because I read abnormally fast (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire under four hours anyone?)

I also have to give the filmmakers credit for not tacking on a cheesy love interest. They had plenty of opportunity but the fact that Tom Cruise and the pretty woman (indeed the only woman in the whole movie) did not get it on is not just respectful of the culture again (when you watch the movie you will know what I mean) it also helps to add dimension and complexity into their relationship (and rightly so!). Whilst on the topic, the actress did a marvellous acting job. She had very few lines although she had substantial screen time. Every time she was on screen I found it hard to take my eyes off her. It was more than that she is very stunning and graceful, it was also that she had a commanding presence that helped give the audience a strong sense of the powerful emotions that her character is experiencing. It was simple enough to let the story tell us of those emotions, but she played them so well that it was hard not to feel for her. It was a nice touch that her character never spoke English, not even to Tom Cruise (who in the film learns to speak Japanese). Realistically that is how it would have played out.

The rating is higher than normal for a blockbuster of this ilk but it's just because there are very many violent scenes. I'm typically a very squeamish person, but I wasn't too uncomfortable while I was watching this movie. They did not play down what a battle with guns and swords and arrows would look like. On the other hand, they did not celebrate the blood and gore. It was a very balanced take on the fight scenes (not to mention the choreography was riveting!) that left me feeling like I had seen something that could well have happened. Comparing it to the final installment of the Matrix which also had realistic fight scenes (albeit fewer ones) I would have to say I was far more uncomfortable watching the Matrix.

All in all, I think it was a good movie. I might watch it again, but not anytime soon. It might be something that I want to own, if not only because it would look good in any collection.


posted by Joie! at 12:37 PM

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Monday, June 21, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

1 Eternal Soul: Sold! 

I have just returned from an interview in Downtown Vancouver. Full time position that will become part-time in the fall so that I can return to full time studies. My hours will be 8:30am-4:30pm Mon-Fri for the rest of Summer. The catch? I'm a telemarketer for a firm that has contracts to sell long distance phone plans and newspaper subscriptions.

Whilst it's true that sales is an essential part of our life and culture, I think there's a specific level of hell that's reserved for telemarketers. For one thing, you should expect a pitch if you were walking through a shopping centre or some other such retail establishment. Yet telemarketers assault you in the privacy of you own home. Not to mention the universal dislike (and therefore directed hatred) could be potentially hazardous. Bonus points if you interrupt their dinner.

The way I see it, a job's a job. I have the potential to make $15-$25/hr because of the commission scale, if not it's a base wage of $10/hr. All things considered, it's an excellent position. The centre is open from 8:30am-8:45pm, which means that I cannot have shifts extending past those hours. They are absolutely willing to work with me when I return to UBC in the fall. I just have to be thick-skinned about having people telling me to go to hell (or that I will be condemned to live out eternity there). Besides, the way I look at it, I'm letting people know about things that they don't know they want yet.

I start this Thursday and I'm anxious to start. I hope the training has a sales component in it because to be frank (and I wasn't in the interview) I'm not all that comfortable selling products and services to people in their homes. I'm sure that I will get over it once the money starts rolling in. I mean so I've taken 5 minutes out of someone's day. As long as I'm helping them save money, I think it's a fair deal for both sides. Sales is all about perspective, and I'm already honing mine.

Wish me luck!


posted by Joie! at 11:47 AM

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Saturday, June 19, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Cover letter - ESL Choices 

Hello, I am responding to the job posting on the HRDC student jobs website.

18th June 2004

ESL Choices
405-510 W. Hastings Street
Vancouver, B.C.
V6B 1L8

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am interested in the position of Modern Languages Tutor with ESL Choices. I am well-suited to this position as I am a patient and outgoing individual. I have excellent writing and oral communication skills and enjoy working with others. I am always able to find creative solutions to any problems or issues that may arise and I am extremely fluent in the English Language.

I have demonstrated abilities in the skills you are looking for. In addition to the work experience listed on my resume, I have also been a tutor on the side for 6 years now. I have taught many subjects, including English. I believe that I am a successful tutor because of my commitment to establishing a working relationship with my students and understanding where their difficulties with the subject lie. As a third year student at the University of British Columbia studying Speech Sciences (which has a large Linguistics component) I am armed with a deep understanding of language. This knowledge will enable me to teach English as a Second Language far more effectively than a candidate who has not studied Linguistics.

My fluency in the English language is evidenced by a few of my accomplishments. I am currently the youngest winner of the 24hr Playwriting Competition (held annually by Theatreworks Singapore). Also, I have represented the Lower Mainland at the Provincial debates, after placing 9th in the Lower Mainland. I achieved this only three months after I had landed in Canada. Through my work experience, I have acquired outstanding people skills through constant interaction with the public. These people skills will help me relate to my students and offer quality instruction.

Thank you for taking the time to review my application. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,



Johanna Tan
Encl: Resume

So I drop off my application in person, and they tell me that there hasn't been a position open for 6 months, that they have been trying to contact HRDC to have the posting removed but that they will keep me on file. Waste my time.


posted by Joie! at 10:36 AM

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Thursday, June 17, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Job Search 

So I went for an interview to work as a Customer Support Representative at eBay's call centre. The pay is insanely good, the only catch that it's 40hr/week unpredictable schedule. My plan is to tough it out for the summer and then "decide" that I want to go back to school in the fall and take the risk that they fire me or reduce my hours. Either way I would be getting a ludicrous hourly wage to support a community that I already am very, very active in.

The interview was nothing like I expected. I was told that I would have to undergo some testing to prove my typing speed and accuracy (59wpm at 93% accuracy on the first try...and this was one of those snarky ones that don't let you backspace after you press the spacebar). They used the linked website to test me. Some of the more astute among you might read the small print that: "This test is not to be used for recruitment purposes". That's just because they design custom typing tests for a fee fo recruitment purposes. The passage that eBay chose was reasonable, in other words, it was not chock full of words that no one ever has to type in their lives (except for on a typing test). But I digress.

When I spoke to the lady on the phone who was calling me in for the interview, she said that the testing will take about three hours. I thought she was joking because she said that the tests I would sit for were for typing and internet proficiency. She wasn't joking. It takes the average person three hours to get through it all, if they get through it at all. I feel rather flattered that I finished within two hours with higher than average scores on each individual test.

There are eight (maybe nine) tests in total. If you happen to fail one, you are not allowed to progress to the next. (Pass is not 50%, it's usually 80%) After you have completed the tests are you then given an interview. You are not even considered for the position if you fail a test. I will list the tests as I remember them. There was the typing test, internet proficiency (which included questions about the eBay website as well as some tricky questions), spelling test (you have a list of words and you have to pick out the misspelt ones and correct them, the worst part being not all of them were wrong), a writing test (1-2 paragraphs on why you will be a successful Customer Support Representative, graded on spelling, grammar and punctuation), a punctuation test, a business language test, a basic math test (that was easy for me, but I'm sure the average Canadian would have to wrestle a little to get the answers. This is evidenced by the lady's surprise at my perfect score...look lady, I'm Asian, what were you expecting?) and a personality test. I'm sure that there was one or two more but my brain was so addled at the end of it that I really was no longer keeping count.

The interview went well, with the interviewer making positive comments throughout my responses. That's usually a good sign, I take it. During the part where she asks if I've got any questions I asked the standard "So what would you say is the most challenging part of this position?" and also "When will I be notified?". The answer to the first is pretty standard, and it demonstrates an interest in the position, it's really good people, take the tip and use it at your next interview. Having a few well-researched questions doesn't hurt either. I didn't want to break out my heavy duty impressive questions until the second-interview round (would you believe that after all that I have to go through another interview?!) because this lady wasn't working for eBay per se. All this testing et al is conducted by a staffing company. Again I digress.

I was told that they practice continual staffing and that they are not sure of when eBay's call centre will need more people. This is due to the fact that eBay has not told them much yet. All they know is that the next training class is on July the 5th, she is not sure for which department (phone, live chat, email) and how many people they need. As it stands, there are 20 people to whom she is ready to send job offers. In all likelihood, even if I am a well-qualified candidate, I will not be included in the upcoming class. Class frequency is dubious, sometimes classes are held fortnightly, sometimes monthly, and on occasion bi-monthly. All that testing for this. Riiiight. After that two hours of trying to prove that I am not the average product of the Canadian school system I might not even get my SECOND INTERVIEW (let alone job offer) for a month, maybe more. She also mentioned that she will be checking my references and that if those are not to her satisfaction (I am assuming that she will be asking rather specific questions in order to determine my skill set) I will not be called back. *insert swear*

Either way, now that I know the nature of the position, it is unlikely that it will allow me to return to school in the fall if I haven't been working there long enough. It's one thing to start now and then ask for concessions in September. It's another thing to possibly get a job offer mid-August and be asking for concessions in two weeks.


posted by Joie! at 5:26 PM

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Monday, June 14, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Study Group...yeah right... 

Last night had a wicked-ass Linguistics study group. The exam is this Wednesday so we thought that we would get our heads in gear and start preparing for it. Not much work ended up being done, in-between the quest for a photocopying machine and the enlightening conversations that we were having, but it was an enjoyable night nonetheless. I like having people over to my place. It's a really nice feeling that I cannot explain. Unfortunately there will not be another opportunity to gather at my place owing to the fact that the other members in my study group either work or are taking a stupid number more summer classes. Frankly, three summer classes is being very brave. I think two of them are taking five a term. That's just suicide, and I can see them contemplating it.

Jim and I had roast leg of lamb last night. I would have taken a photo of it but we were really just trying to finish up quickly because the study group was returning (we dispersed for dinner because the guys wanted to go to Richmond and Anna had to go home and have dinner with her family). Besides, I didn't want this blog to start looking like Joel's Blog albeit my lamb looked a helluva lot better than many dishes he has on display. I still have about 5lbs of it left in the fridge and we're counting on it to feed us for the week I think.

What happened was that I walked past a Mister Meats while I was temping at Lougheed Mall and they said that they had a meat special. Whole leg of lamb for $3.99/lb. That's cheaper than sometimes when we buy beef and lamb is typically a very expensive meat. Not to mention I really really like lamb and have been craving it with mint jelly as of late. So I sent Jim to buy a leg of lamb. I mean how big could this thing be right? Lambs are baby sheep. They are small. Since then I've learnt that lambs get up to 120lbs before they are slaughtered and prepared and hence our 6lb leg of lamb really is very standard. We made a monster meal and the lamb is soooo yummy. On account of me being sick Jim did all the chopping and prep. All I had to do was turn on the oven and throw in the vegetables when it was time to. I felt like the Iron Chef, it was a good feeling.

Also on account of me being sick (I've got an inner ear infection as a result of having the flu) and the fact that we were having people over, Jim cleaned the house. Thanks buddy, I owe you so much for your housekeeping. He's a much better housekeeper than I am and it's slightly embarassing that he knows more about vacuum cleaner attachments but boy am I grateful for it. If not for Jim this place may not get messy as quickly as it does (I'm more of a passive mess creator, things gradually get messier over time and Jim's an active mess creator. He can devastate a room in seconds) but it will steadily drop in livability until my grandma comes, lectures me about it and cleans the place for me. zha bo kia do be ka leng li dam bo...yeah right.

I have to go and get cracking on more Linguistics stuff. It's not like I got all that much done in the eight hours in which I hosted the study group. It's also time to pop another painkiller (with codeine!) so that I can function.


posted by Joie! at 12:49 PM

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Friday, June 11, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Contagion 

So Jim wakes up today and tells me that his tonsils are swollen. Oh bloody hell, that's how I got started. I'm just starting to get a little better too. I really hope he manages to head it off with the "drowning" method. (i.e. he drinks so much water so often throughout the day that whatever has got him is flushed out)

What really amazes me about housework is how it's such an ongoing maintenance thing. I could've cleaned like mad just three days ago and the house will need more work. Seeing as how I've been incapacitated as of late this place is a travesty and I'm thinking of holding a study group here this Sunday. Which means that I need Jim to be in the pink of health to help me whip this place into shape. I'm sore all over and tender as hell, I don't think I could clean effectively solo. Not that I'm the world's greatest housekeeper either.

So here's the deal with how I feel. I wake up feeling wretched, choke something down and actually feel decent for about an hour. Then it starts. I start to feel bogged down, stuffed up and sore sore sore. If you touch me, it feels like I'm bruised. Recalling that stupid blonde joke, no, my finger is not broken, I really -do- hurt all over. All this discomfort is in a constant crescendo until nighttime by which point I can barely move. You can imagine that I'm not looking forward to tonight's shift at the cart.

Jim's mom works at Cartwheels which is a company that rents those carts that you see along pathways in malls that aren't stores but are hawking merchandise. She got me a temp position with one of her renters. Most times people use these carts to sell trinkets, cheap jewellery that they buy from Thailand (and sell for upwards of $20/piece) $10 watches (from Hong Kong) etc. Basically stuff that would not be able to support an acutal store at the mall. Every so often, you get some people whose stuff -will- do well in a store in the mall but want to start out with a cart just to market test. There are a few problems with this, one being that people are used to paying more at a store and less at a cart. So if your items are store priced, people will get the impression that whatever you are selling is overpriced. Another being that it doesn't help you reach your target market effectively, because carts are so generic and usually only attract the bargain-hunting, can bargain damn well people. Not the best environment to test your market. I'm working for the latter scenario.

I'm selling Trolly Dolly merchandise. Up until this point, it's only been sold in upscale gift shops. Which means that she -can- charge $31.99 for a baby tee (you can see nipples through the white ones) and $27.99 for a tank top. You have to remember that the sales tax here is 14.5% so those prices are even more ludicrous. (side note: most of these carts -include- GST and PST with their list prices) Factor in that no one here knows what a Trolly Dolly is (neither did I, really...) because it's European slang for an air stewardess you have a really really slow cart. So slow in fact that I stand the risk of having my hours cut (and I'm only working 12hr/wk for 2 weeks). I can understand why nothing is selling. The designs are really cool, but it's not like the average mall walker is going to pay more than $10 for a t-shirt from a cart. Especially not one that you can see your nipples through. I did manage to sell one on my last four hour shift though, but it was to an airline stewardess that was actually looking for us. It was luck, really, not my sales prowess.

So the whole point about this is that even though I'm sick to the gills and it only gets worse as the day wears on, I have to fill a shift today from 5-9pm just because it's probably the only hours that I'm going to get. The economy is just abysmal right now. No jobs and no one has the disposable income to spend on an obscure European in-joke. I mean the lady in the adjacent cart asked me how sales was. I told her that I sold one thing in four hours. She said that that was actually pretty good. Holy shit. I just hope that she pays me $10/hr and not minimum wage.

I'm hoping to have dinner with Jim's dad tonight after my shift. I'm not sure that he would want to meet up with someone who is potentially contagious but I really want to see him. He came back early from his vacation yesterday. He was looking forward to and planning this vacation for the longest time. He was going to take his kayak to a group of islands that he had never visted before and camp on the various shores before paddling home. He's the kind of guy that enjoys this sort of thing.

He kicked off the vacation with terrible weather. Bad weather really sucks the fun out of being in the outdoors, not to mention the ocean conditions in a storm. He was rained in for three days before the rain abated a little and he decided to go to another island. The water was still choppy so it was not a plesant paddle. Picture this. You are in a place you've never been before, will probably not return to and instead of being able to look around and take in the environment you're waging war on it to get from one point to another. It's disappointing on so many levels. He finally made it to the island and pulled his boat up on shore. He turns his back on it for five minutes and when he turns around, it's 20ft off shore. Being that the boat is your lifeline, this is a very grave matter. So he dives into the water after it. Halfway there, he starts to get hypothermic and gradually starts losing control of his limbs. Clearly he cannot make it to the boat and he's too far away from the shore to gamble his remaining energy trying to get back to it. Luckily he's got his radio on him and he calls in a mayday to the coast guard. He's rescued by a prawn fishing boat but now his kayak needs repair and he's lost his paddle and his spray skirt. Nothing, really considering how close he was to losing his life.

Right now he's really bummed out (and that's the understatment of the year) and I just want to see him. I would completely understand if he wants to spend the next few days alone but if he wants company, I want to be there for him. I feel so bad, just because he was really psyched for this trip and now there's doubts in his head about his age and abilities. He isn't young anymore, but he is fitter than most at his age. Jim's right though, regardless of his relative fitness level, he's not fit enough to be taking risks like that.


posted by Joie! at 10:38 AM

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Chicken Porridge & Cucumber Sandwiches 

Yesterday I woke up with a bit of a sore throat. I really didn't think twice about it until later in the afternoon I started to ache everywhere with a killer headache to boot. By night time I was a quivering wreck, barely able to stand up by myself with a pretty high fever. Looks to be the flu because while I'm feeling better now I still have a sore throat and a mightily stuffed nose. All I've been eating are cucumber sandwiches and chicken porridge. This time with real white rice, not like the last time when I was assuming that I would resume the Atkins diet (therefore buying a box of Uncle Ben's 5 min Rice so that there wouldn't be any leftover).

My Grandma called last night. That's always nice, I really like talking to her. She can be so cute at times. The standard procedure for our conversations is her asking me if I've eaten. Then what I've eaten/plan to eat. Then she will tell me about the new "dangerous food" (like in the case of Mad Cow Disease it was beef..) and tell me to avoid it. This time was different though. She started telling me about a disease that was worse than SARs that was making the rounds in Montreal. So when she asked me how I was feeling I wasn't going to gamble on her knowledge of Canadian geography and just said that I was fine. I looked it up though and this Superbug is nothing like the flu. It's more like virulent diarrhea. Good to know.

If you've never tried cucumber sandwiches you must. The cucumbers must be sliced very thinly. Almost so thin that you can see through them. The bread must be white bread (Wonder Bread if you can get it) with the crusts taken off. Jimmy tells me that Wonder Bread is toxic, but I say if it tastes good, go with it. Just a tip on making crustless sandwiches, make the sandwich with the crusts on before you cut them off, that way all the good stuff goes right to the edges. (Tip courtesy of Jimmy) On one slice of bread spread it thinly (thinly!) with butter. On the other slice, spread it thinly (thinly!) with Litehouse Dill dressing (or butter and then sprinkle it with dill). Arrange the cucumber slices so that they slightly overlap each other. Voila! The most refreshing sandwiches you will ever have. Not to mention if your throat is sore, this is just about the most amazing thing in the world. (Cucumbers are so good for a sore throat)

I'm going to spend the rest of the day feeling punk and revelling in it. Sure I'll do my homework and go for class and all, but I'm not going to do it all that willingly. Homework is easy this week, seeing as how when I was trying to complete this course last summer I already did all the work, so it's as if I've already got my first draft down and now I just have to hand in a polished version. What scares me is that the final exam is next Wednesday and there is so much of the course left to cover in class. I really want to just get a doctor's note and fuck this class but I just don't dare. The reason I didn't take the exam last summer when it was offered to me is because I didn't attend the classes and didn't trust that I had it all figured out by myself. I was right too, while I -had- a very good concept of the material I had no idea how to answer questions the way the prof wants me to. She's the "show all your working" kind of prof and when that happens, you best be sure that you know how she wants to see your working.

It sounds like my chicken porridge is ready so I'll end the blog here. Be grateful. I have much ranting left in me.


posted by Joie! at 10:56 AM

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Monday, June 07, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Long Day 

Yesterday was a really really long day. I performed in the annual Summer concert for the Bach family of choirs. It was the 20th Anniversary this year so it was more special than in all the previous years. Usually it's held in the Old Auditorium (built in the 1920's and probably hasn't been updated since) which always fills me with a sense of "Man, if I hit that high note really well, this thing just might fall down on my head". This year it was held in the Chan Centre for the performing Arts. This venue is right up there with the Sydney Opera Hall in terms of places to perform. It's quite a bit younger which is why it's not all that well known yet. Interesting fact about the Chan: You can tune the building. (Another interesting fact about the Chan, I've actually performed a solo in it!) For yesterday's concert, Bruce Pullan had them tune it such that the acoustics were the hardest the building could manage. That was really something else. If you even whispered on stage, the people in the farthest seats could hear you. You can imagine that the children's choirs were quite fun because of it. (Especially when they started marching while they sang the Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine').

On a sidetrack about the Beatles, I think it's really cool that Paul McCartney is finally admitting that some of their songs are really about drugs. Hrmphf, here I was really believing John Lennon's story about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds being about some artwork that his son completed in Kindergarten featuring his class' teacher. Folks, gig is up, it's really about LSD, like everyone else since the song was released has been saying it was. Bah.

The concert was a bit of a drag for me, I left my glasses in Jim's car. (I was wearing my prescription sunglasses when he dropped me off so it wasn't as obvious as you might think it was...it was also really bright out) I had to go the whole concert not even being able to read my music much less see the expression on my conductor's face. For the in-between portions while the other choirs were singing, I put on my sunglasses just so that I could see what was going on on stage. I had to explain myself more times than I really cared to but it was worth it for the most part. There was the most amazing soloist from our Alumni choir doing things with her voice that I've never heard anyone else do, and I've heard many talented, professional singers. With my sunglasses on I was able to see what was going on with her diaphragm, her throat, posture and her mouth (passive and active articulators). It was quite an experience. Pity I couldn't catch her name (oddly enough it wasn't on the program) because she's supposed to be a successful opera singer. I would very much like to get my hands on some of her recordings. I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't be too difficult to find out who she was.

After the concert, we went to watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I wasn't expecting too much from it because the last two movies were lifeless money making machines. From watching the first two, I really didn't get a sense of the book. Compare it to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The LOTR movies were clearly a labour of love. Especially the extended versions on the special edition DVD sets. You can see the care that Peter Jackson put into the making of the movies, in the cinematography, in the characters, in every detail that was painstakingly eked out for the three movies. In contrast, you see Chris Columbus merely taking the movie through its paces. The characters were stock and things were arbitrarily removed from the plot just so that the movie could fit into the average American's attention spans.

Not so for the latest installment. Credit has to be given to Alfonso Cuarón for completely turning around this set of movies. If he keeps it up, it could well be the most amazing series (of course after Jackson's LOTR) ever made. Cuarón also directed the soft porn flick 'Y Tu Mamá También' which has been described as a foreign 'American Pie' but I will have to disagree. I would still recommend the movie, but I have to warn you that it's not a comedy..and in many places it is much more explicit. Still a nice film. My bets are on that in the final movie, once all the actors are "of age", as Rowling so succintly puts it in the fifth book, Hermione will take it all off and blow both Ron and Harry in the Gryffindor common room. Just a thought.

I digress. The latest Harry Potter movie is amazing. I really really enjoyed it. It transposes the timeline in the book so that events such as the Christmas celebration and the Halloween feast are not in the movie. Despite that, however, all the major plot points are addressed, the characters are fleshed-out (unlike how they were two dimensional in the first two movies) and there are some parts in the movie that are hilarious! (Just like in the book!) I disagree with some of the casting choices that were made. For example, I think that Joseph Fiennes is the only actor that should even be allowed near the role of Sirius Black. Not that there was anything really wrong with Gary Oldman's portrayal of Black. It's just that he didn't look like Black... Also, Lupin was played by David Thewlis who is rather skinny. You would think that someone who is a werewolf, while he -would- be haggard and wasted looking would be rather stockily built. Again, nothing really wrong with his portrayal, just doesn't look like someone who would be a werewolf. The description of Lupin in the book also pegs him as someone who looks slightly grizzeled and older than he is (which means that he will look older than the people with whom he went to school i.e. Sirius and Snape) but in the movie he looks to be about the same age.

After the movie we thought that we would take advantage of the "Buy on entreé and get the second one free" coupon that Jim cut out of Friday's newspaper for Kam's Singapore Restaurant. First off, I was suspicious of any Singapore restaurant which doesn't serve Char Kway Teow. I was made more suspicious by the fact that both waitresses had no idea what Char Kway Teow is. Compounding the matter was that Nasi Lemak, Rojak and Chendol were also missing from the menu. Jim decided to order Nasi Goreng and I Laksa. Their Laksa was nothing more than a clear broth with bee hoon, chicken, prawns and broccoli. Broccoli?! The broth obviously had some kind of curry powder in it and I suspect it's the same red curry powder that Singaporeans use to cook Chicken Curry. Jim's Nasi Goreng was nothing more than fried rice. Not bad fried rice, but hell, I could cook better. It was a disappointing but cheap meal. I was really hoping to find a place where I could eat authentic Singaporean Cusine. I'm really starting to miss the food and Joel isn't helping...bloody, he's been writing about Singapore food in all of his last week's blog entries. I think it's time that I start breaking out the canned Laksa gravy and start taking matters into my own hands.

After dinner, we took a walk so that Jim could smoke his birthday cigar (and that was all there is to it. I should not be hearing sniggering). I took a few puffs without inhaling the smoke and I find that it's something that I don't mind doing. I would go so far as to say that I enjoy the flavour. I just think that as a singer, it's just irresponsible to even be thinking about these things. Besides, it's not like Jim smokes more than twice a year (Christmas and his birthday) so I wouldn't really have the opportunity to take more than one or two puffs off that cigar. It was a nice cap to a long day (we shared a creamsicle!!) and finally meandered through our door at about midnight. We were so pooped from all the events that neither of us woke up until 8am this morning. Jim usually has to punch in at work half an hour away at 7:30am. Instead of going late, he decided to call in sick, which oddly enough does reflect better on you. Didn't get anything done today that can with some excuses be avoided on weekends but should be accomplished on weekdays. We did manage to get our recycling in though and I think we got about $10 for it.


posted by Joie! at 4:41 PM

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Thursday, June 03, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

92.5% Baby! 

I got my Linguistics mid-term back last night and I was rather pleased with the results. Considering a few things, I could have gotten a higher mark, but really who's complaining? All I have to do is pass the final exam and I've got an A. Now what I'm going to do is frikking ace the final and then talk to the Advisor about honours. *hums* I'm well on track especially because the only course that I have a C in *shudders* has absolutely nothing to do with Speech Sciences anyway. I'm not, however, listing the course here because by all means it's a course that I should have scored a lot better in. In my defense, there was alot going on in my life when I was trying to complete it and this prof was less forgiving than most.

There really isn't much else to say today, except revel in my 92.5%. Granted the class average was something like 83% so it's not like it was a difficult test, but I'm still almost 10% above average. That's saying alot.


posted by Joie! at 10:38 AM

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Four Hundred Dollars Later 

The cats were due for their annual vet check-up yesterday and to be honest Fort was long over due for his "new cat once over". We left it for a while mainly because we knew that there wasn't anything wrong with him and if there was it's not like we were going to give him back to Tom. The animal return policy would have been the only reason to get him checked up in 72 hours.

We went to Anderson's Animal Hospital which is really really close to where we live. This guy is great, he can treat exotics, small animals and of course cats and dogs. Not only is he a great vet though, he is also a superior salesperson. In Jim's words, this guy tried to sell us the farm. He wanted us to do $100 blood tests on both cats to test for both Feline Leukemia (which is apparently the number one killer of pet cats) and Feline AIDS. His main reason was that if either Gato or Fort had either disease (both of which are contagious and fatal) it would be best to find out and have the sick one put down rather than lose both cats. Eventually we settled on just doing the blood tests on Gato for the simple reason that we don't know her history and that she has had a litter. (Both diseases are STDs although they can also be transferred through bodily fluids)

After Gato's results came back negative (yay!) we got both cats vaccinated. It was about $90/cat. Dr. Anderson gave us the option of spreading out the vaccines if we didn't want to pay for them all at this point in time. There were two reasons why we decided to bite the bullet. One: that because this was our first visit, we were getting 50% off our consultation fee. This means that the next time we visted, we would have to pay $40/cat on top of what it would cost us to vaccinate them, whereas if we got them all done now, we were only paying $20/cat. Two: their shots were due and it would be really irresponsible to let it slide. Pets are a commitment whichever way you slice it. I've committed to taking care of them and money should not stand in the way of that committment.

We also asked about tattooing for cats. (I wanted to give them butterfly tattoos too...haha) Dr. Anderson (again with the upsell...) brought up a really good point about tattoos, that over time, they became smudged. Tattoos are usually a serial number of some sort in the cat's ear. The "font size" used is obviously very small. Indeed, I can't read what Gato's tattoo says (she came with one from the pound) and Gato's tattoo number isn't even registered with us as her owner. The alternative that he was offering was a microchip inserted under cats' skin. It is procedure for vets and pounds to scan all the "found" animals to see whether they belong to someone. It's a one-time fee and the chip will last as long as the cat does. So we got Gato microchipped with 24hr PetWatch which is an organization that vets and pounds can call to find out who the pet is registered under. I can update my information on Gato anytime online and I never have to pay admin fees. (They should pay me to advertise for them) We will get Fort microchipped when he goes in this Saturday to get neutered. The microchip was another $30.

We would have microchipped Fort yesterday too, but this is one cat that does not like the needle. When Gato is getting her shots, she just sits there with an indignant look. When Fort even -feels- the needle he jumps three feet in the air and yowls. Considering that the needle used to insert the microchip is much wider than the one used to administer the shots, we opted to have him under General Anaesthetic before he got chipped. You -could- argue that since they are indoor cats and since they both wear their snazzy tags with our phone numbers on them (Jim made them, parts and labour courtesy of Jack Kobelt) we don't really need a microchip. I would say that you are right. Regardless, I would rather waste $30 than accidently leave the screen door open one day and find them gone without any means of getting them back. Plus, 24hr PetWatch also offers insurance for $20/year for up to $3000 accident coverage. I'm probably going to get that just because I live on the corner of two extremely busy streets.

I think that it's really important that the public is educated about spaying and neutering their cats. There's this really good documentary out there called Best Friend Forgotten. It's only 47 minutes long, it's narrated by the yummy David Duchovny, go download it off Kazaa or something and watch it. I know that it's not all that relevant to everyone out there because it's filmed from an American perspective and we know that the Americans always have bigger problems than everyone else (let me quantify that, America has the most and biggest first-world type problems) but it's still a good film. For example, all of Canada's pet shelters are no kill and the most major pet chains help house and cycle these animals throughout the community instead of selling kittens and puppies so a large part about the wanton destruction of animals is moot. I have my own reasons for neutering Fort (I don't want him to want to escape....Gato will NOT tolerate dry, or otherwise, humping etc.) and I don't expect anyone to share them. That was my two cents about pet population control anyway.

All in all Jim and I have spent $400 (what is now a week's wages) on our cats. Don't tell my grandad, he will flip. As a result, we are not going to start the Atkins diet because it is a relatively more expensive diet. *sigh*


posted by Joie! at 3:54 PM

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Me:1 Computer: Almost 0 

Parental Advisory: This entry has alot of swearing. No really. More than usual anyway.

To my chagrin I came home last night to discover spyware, adware and dialer viruses on my computer. I have a firewall and Norton Anti-Virus and very little patience for things of this ilk. Despite all efforts to the contrary, my homepage remained some generic search page with the URL: "about:blank"...indicating that it was STORED on MY computer. The indignity! I don't understand how people get off with the notion that they can put shit on my property or in any way compromise the performance of a machine that I paid good money for. Listen up people! I paid for this computer in CASH, this is considered vandalism, which they actually CANE people for where I come from.

Take these people and put them in fucking straps. Forget about the doctor certification that tells you whether they are fit to be caned and just let it rip. These new viruses copy themselves into Window's system files so you have to turn tricks to get rid of them. Like accessing places that most newer systems forbid you to just because misstep could render your computer inoperable. The problem here lies with persecution. What would happen to someone who was caught vandalising cars on a large scale? Something like putting sugar in gas tanks. It will make the car operate less and less smoothly over time and eventually turn the car into sidewalk art. Fines and caning. I know that there have been steps taken to persecute people who release things like the Sasser virus and the blaster virus. Great, we caught a couple of teens who were just mucking about. The Blaster guy wanted to stick it to Microsoft and the Sasser dude just wanted to drum up some business for his parent's computer repair shop. (The latter guy also had no idea how powerful his program would turn out to be) The inconvenience they have caused is monumental and sure they should be locked away but their removal is not cause for celebration.

It seems as though authorities use these high profile cases to say, "See, something is being done!" but in reality there really isn't. So what if you can catch two big fish? It's really the small ones that are swimming through the cracks most of the time. Why isn't there privacy legislation with regards to this? Or if there is, why isn't it effectively enforced? It's just that this is my property. It would not be right for someone to walk into my house, after picking my locks and paint my couch bright red. Same thing with these stupid viruses.

After two hours of battling the "this file cannot be deleted as it is currently in use...blah blah blah" and restarting numerous times in safe and normal mode I finally eliminated everything. That's two hours of my life that I won't ever get back. Something should be done. No one should be allowed to fuck with my stuff and/or rob me of two hours.


posted by Joie! at 12:42 PM

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