Wednesday, September 29, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Small Blessings 

Right now I'm still officially sick, but not sick enough to be able to excuse myself from school. Technically, I could walk into a doctor's office and get an MC that will let me take a week off, but that would mean that my studying would be thrown a week off. I still anticipate that I would be a little set back in my more important classes, but I'm sure that it's a smaller setback than it would be were I to miss classes entirely. Here's why it's a setback at all: I'm stuffed up, I'm miserable, walking to and from classes leaves me in physical exhaustion that take a little while to overcome and thus it's rather impossible to fully concentrate on lessons. Then again, there are students who are much less concientious than I who manage to pull a pretty decent average, so I'm not all that worried. My main concern lies in the fact that it's hard for me even to concentrate on a task, which makes course readings and homework a bitch. I'm going to fall behind on course readings (rather than try to do them, get a headache and end up not doing them anyway) and I'm going to try my darndest at my homework but I can more or less guarantee that it's not going to be my best work. The small blessing is that despite all this I am actually attending classes, rather than holed up with a box of tissues and a week's worth of DVD rentals.

Some of you might remember reading about Jim's appeal to ICBC in a previous post. Yesterday we finally got a response. As we expected they were sticking with their decision to revoke his licence and along with it slap on the accompanying fees involved with the eventual reinstatment of the licence (totalling $131, plus a $196 speeding ticket that he has to pay off before he is allowed to reinstate it). However, they shortened his suspension from four months to two. This is a huge relief because it means that I sure as hell do not have to do the driving when it comes to Christmas shopping (which usually takes place in icy road conditions plus the increased stress levels that every person harbours during the Christmas shopping bedlam). Meanwhile, I would be driving him to work for the next two months. The upside of that is that I get to use the car during the day. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays (class from 3:30pm-5pm) I get to go places without having to consult a bus schedule that is often treated by the bus drivers as more of a "loose guideline" rather than an actual schedule. See? Silver lining to every cloud.

My new favourite professor is Stefka Marinova-Todd. She's a professor at the UBC school of Audiology and Speech Sciences (graduate level). She also conducts ongoing research with her focus on second-language acquisition in children and adults. I met with her today and she has agreed to let me volunteer with her on a project that she has just begun to start up. She is looking at the factors that affect a child whose native tongue is either Mandarin or Cantonese when he/she is starting to learn English. We are focusing mainly on Kindergarten aged children and we have not even begun the data collection portion of this experiment. I'm getting in right at the beginning and she expects this study to last at least until next spring if not longer.

First things first. This (to me at least) is going to be an extremely fascinating study. It is a subject with very little former research so in a way Prof Marinova-Todd is going to be a pioneer with her findings. Naturally, this makes me really excited. An added bonus to this is that it will give me concrete experience in data collection as well as analysis. Grad school application anyone? With this under my belt, all I need to round out my application is a few hours of clinical observation, which really just involves watching a Speech Pathologist with a patient for a little while.

On the periphery of my getting involved with this study is the in-depth look at second-language acquisition. Something that I'm thinking of doing after graduation is spending time in Japan (because they pay the best) teaching English. There is a ridiculous demand there for English teachers and my work on this study (and hopefully another one of Prof Marinova-Todd's studies) will make me an extremely attractive candidate in a not too competitive field. All it requires is a 60 hour certification course. For the most part, the companies who administer these courses will help you with placement. This just fits into my "travel for a year after graduation" plan. If I don't get to teach English overseas (Japan is really the only country that pays well enough so that you can travel on holidays to other parts of the world) I can still deal in a casino on a cruise ship. That's Plan B though, because ESL (English as a Second Language) teaching will look really good on that grad school application.

Meanwhile, the concentration that I required to write this entry has left my head tender and throbbing. I'll just leave it off here then and apologies for typos/run on sentences. A herd of wild, stampeding bulls could not make me proofread this entry.

posted by Joie! at 6:17 p.m.


Saturday, September 25, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Joie's feeling Punk 

Hey Everybody!

Right now this is the only form of communication that doesn't really really really hurt. Oh wait. If this entry goes on too long the fact that I'm sitting upright might start to cause me mucho mucho pain.

That's right everyone! Joie's got the flu! On a weekend! The weekend with the best weather since the start of September. Isn't that nice.

Thanks to my anatomy of speech class I can tell you that my velum (down to my uvula) is inflammed, along with the wall of my pharynx. How do I know? I looked in a mirror! I suspect that my larynx is fine because the only times that it hurts to talk is when I make oral sounds -- that is, sounds that require my velum (very painful) to make contact with the wall of my pharynx (sore like hell) to close off my velarpharyngeal port, effectively stopping the pulmonic egressive airflow from entering my nasal cavity. So any sounds that are not Nasals (there's a row of nasals in the chart) aren't fun to make. If you examine the chart closely, you will also see that English speech doesn't really have all that many nasals (and no nasal vowels)

Since I've started talking about what hurts, it doesn't really benefit anyone out there who doesn't know what all these names refer to. So, here's my attempt at drawing a bmp file for the parts mentioned above:

Pretty good for a free-hand drawing, isn't it?

It's a good thing that Jimmy's taking care of me. He made a really nice soup that unfortunately because I've been drinking all day I can't really drink anymore. He's on the way back with good stuff for dinner (that will be easy to swallow). He also rented a whole bunch of movies for me so that I can veg and still be entertained. It's not all that great that I can't really concentrate on my course work right now, but I think in the long run I will be fine. I just hope that I won't have to miss any classes.

On a not entirely unrelated note: I now own the movie Clue. The VHS was in the Previously Viewed bin at Rogers Video for $5.99 ($3.99 after we used the coupon). I'm so elated. Thanks Jimmy!

posted by Joie! at 4:56 p.m.


Sunday, September 19, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

He Bully Me 

Upon arriving at work on Saturday I looked at the schedule for the next two weeks and see that my availability has once again been completely ignored by the person who prepares the schedule. This is particularly unacceptable because:

1. Before I stopped working at the PNE I called head office to let them know that I have confirmed my availability and would like to provide them with it. I was then advised to write up my availability in a letter and hand it to the management at the PNE. Specifically, I was asked to hand it to Donna. I wrote said letter and attached my school schedule to it for added convenience. Upon arriving for my shift that night at the PNE (early as usual) I put my letter on Donna's desk. I called the next day and spoke with Nick (another manager) who confirmed that the said documents were indeed forwarded to the Coquitlam office.

2. My first time on the job I saw that my availability had evidently been taken as a "loose guideline" rather than the rule that it was. So I dutifully filled out a request form detailing my availability (second time now!) and handed it in to the manager that was in the office at the time of my shift. Last night I learnt that his name is Dennis. He is not in charge of our schedules, a balding guy with salt and pepper hair and beard is. I was told his name last night, but I can't remember if it's Dale or Dave.

So you get the idea that I've fully furnished my employer with the times that I'm available for work. Imagine my astonishment to see that for the next two weeks not only do I have shifts that require me to get from UBC to the Casino (map below) in half an hour (sometimes less) I see that there are some shifts that start right in the middle of some classes!

According to Translink's website this trip will take me 80 minutes during off-peak hours with perfect connections. According to Mapquest, I can get there in 49 minutes (again assuming that traffic is agreeable) if I had access to a car.

Something's not right here is it?

I go to the manager's office to bring this discrepancy to light. Who else should be at the desk other than the salt-and-pepper beardo who does the scheduling! Politely I inform him that I am unable to attend work for all but one of the shifts that I am scheduled for over the next fortnight. At this point he's starting to simmer a little. He then drags out this spreadsheet which has my availability on it listed as "No Restrictions". Whoa buddy, that information is at least a month old. Get with the program hey?! At this point I am rather puzzled (see above) given my repeated efforts to make sure that they know my availability. I talk to him about the letter I wrote and the form I filled out. At this point he is swelling visibly. I can see the cogs turning in his mind and I see the flicker of "You're a liar bitch" flash in his eyes behind his 80's glasses.

He then starts to get rather disrespectful and abrupt. He demands to know which shifts I am unable to attend. He then interrogates me for my real availability. The one thing that's going through my head right now is that this is not my fault. I have a chain of managers who have received my times. It is not my fault that this beardo was left out of the loop. I'm very unnerved by his apparent wrath and so I proceed to tell him that I'm really only available weekends, stammering a little because I can tell that such a narrow window of availability is certainly not music to his ears. I also mention that because he was not aware of this earlier that I am willing to work at such and such times this week, just so that it would be easier for him to move the schedule around. He then yells that I am not to pick and choose my own schedule and that I am off the schedule for the next two weeks.

Are you going what the fuck as well? Yeah. What. The. Fuck. No work for two weeks for some cock up that had nothing to do with me. On my second break I decide to talk to a pit boss that I trust about what transpired in the previous break. She agrees that it was rather unprofessional of him but adds that there really isn't anything I can do at this point without stepping on a great number of toes. Her suggestion is to call on the morning of the days on which I can work and tell the floor manager of my availability. If anyone calls in sick I would then be allowed to pick up the shift. That's the best I can do for now, and I don't think it's that bad because plenty of people call in sick on the weekends -- exactly when I want to work. What I am doing now though is spreading the word about this ungracious, viagra-dependent manager. Grass-roots campaigning works baby.

posted by Joie! at 10:07 p.m.


Friday, September 17, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

On Graveyards and Natural Light 

I was manning the Let It Ride table on my second ever graveyard shift when something really interesting occurred to me. My mind was wandering mainly because in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning there aren't all that many customers. Sometimes I wonder why they bother to keep the non-standard games open at off-peak times like 5am on a Tuesday.

Here's how it works. $5 Blackjack is without contest the most popular table(s) in the casino. You will always be able to find people at those tables. First of all, it's the cheapest table game you can indulge in. Secondly, it's really really really simple compared to the other games. Then there are always people at the slot machines. Now I never figured out slot machines so I can't explain its allure. Then there are the other table games that all-in-all require that you risk a little more money on average to play. It is those games that will undoubtedly have players during peak and near-peak hours, but empty out as the night wanes on.

Being that I was running one of these less popular games, my last customer left to catch his ferry to the island at around 6am. I was to get off work at 7:30am so I had a good one and a half hours to muse on various topics. According to most of my colleagues, one and a half hours on a graveyard on Let it Ride is pretty damn good. Usually customers desert the table at around three or four in the morning. I'll have to admit that it certainly wasn't my magnetic personality that kept the people at my table. Rather, it was the fact that this particular person liked Let it Ride and that he had a 6:30am ferry to catch. So I was lucky. Nonetheless, I still had a good 90 minutes of nothing doing.

There are no windows in a casino. Just thinking about it, one can appreciate that it eases the passage of time for the occupied. The other, undesirable effect of course would be that you are in a room with no windows. The strategy that the casino employs to counteract that is rather strange. I think people would for sure automatically notice being in a room with no windows and blank or relatively unadorned walls. They might not conciously notice the difference, but I'm sure that something will be triggered in their minds, making the room a less desirable place to spend time in. Simply put, the lack of windows will almost definitely result in less time spent in the room mainly because we are somehow attuned to being shut in. How many (and what dimension) windows do they have in a prison cell? What about solitary? An interrogation room? You get the idea.

This would obviously be detrimental to a casino seeing as how the best profits are made when customers linger for a long time. So what do they do? They paint the walls so that it looks like the outdoors. This solution seems incredibly simplistic given that the lights in the casino are orange and very removed from the spectrum of natural light. However, it does remove the feeling of being enclosed. The murals are rather crude upon close inspection, but I'm willing to wager (and I bet this is exactly what the casino has done) that no one in a casino will be paying too much attention to the walls. The idea is that your peripheral vision glimpses bits of sky, clouds and a few ill-defined Douglas Firs. That, my friend, has the effect of tricking you into believing that you are not being confined in a box. So basically the idea is that because no one would be looking at the walls head-on anyway, all they have to do is to make sure that everyone's lateral vision registers images that the brain will associate with being outdoors. Tricky, tricky.

That being said, it is the most unnerving thing to enter a casino while it is dark and exit it when the sun is shining. I don't reccommend that anyone try it anytime soon unless, of course, they are assigned to work a graveyard shift at the casino.

On a completely unrelated note, school is great! I've just turned in my first assignment of the year. I attended review classes and office hours, did my research and several drafts and I'm loving it. I have two assingments due next week and I'm positively glowing just thinking about it. The best part about all of this is that I don't even have to try and suck up to the professors. My natural enthusiasm seems to be obvious to even the most ambivalent. This will certainly come in useful when the time comes for letters of reccommendation.

posted by Joie! at 4:43 p.m.


Thursday, September 09, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________


The past week has been a week of Firsts, which have occupied me to no end but have also made it a rather interesting time.

To kick it off, Saturday was the first time Jonathan watched a movie at my house. If this doesn't seem like such a big deal to any of you out there then you might need to know that Jonathan is not supposed to know anything about me. He's not supposed to know what I do, where I live, what my phone number is nothing. Yet when Mom took Auntie Shirley and Uncle Peter up to Kelowna (with a complaining Isaac) last week to vacation in their vacation home (more on this later) Jonathan came over and watched The Girl Next Door. I thought that it would be a comedy along the lines of Eurotrip which is riotously funny and which I strongly recommend. It wasn't, it was more a chick flick than anything else with not very many exposed boobs. I counted two, I think there might've been only one though. A lame chick flick with too many plot holes and a handful of attempted jokes. It didn't matter, the important thing was the company. Jon was very disappointed about the lack of nipples, but I'm sure that he enjoyed the time here.

So. I can't believe that my parents have a vacation home in Kelowna. Kelowna is like this little resort town that people like to retire in. It's beautiful and apparently this piece of property that they own has a view of the water and mountains. This wouldn't be such a big deal if not for the fact that for the past while (since we moved here at least) my dad keeps telling me how money is tight and my mother keeps cautioning me to save money. I've always been sensible with money. You will never catch me wearing/sporting/carrying/toting/etc. anything designer. I do not buy new things for myself every other day (more like every six months or so, if I think whatever I'm getting is worth the price). I do not eat out at expensive restaurants. In fact, I don't engage in any activities that even come close to justifying the cautions that my parents ply on me with regards to how I manage money. Even so, I get into trouble when my dad imagines what I do with my money as he secretly monitors my activities through the online banking system (quick guess why I moved out). You know, if he only asked me where my money was going I would have told him the truth considering that most major purchases involved school textbooks or prescription sunglasses that helped me deal with my headaches. I digress. The point that I'm trying to make is that I'm royally pissed off that I have been getting so much shit for not being sensible with my money when they've been switching cars and buying vacation homes. They've got frigging money to burn. My dad's a frigging senior partner in a frigging successful law firm for crying out loud. I wouldn't be this miffed if I wasn't getting loads of grief for my non-existent money wasting.

Two days ago was the first day of school for me. I was getting so excited about it in the weeks leading up to it. I love school especially now that I'm starting third year and finally getting into the more detailed, technical aspects of Speech Sciences. Not to mention I'm also taking some lower-level Psychology courses (which are always interesting) that happen to be degree requisites that I overlooked in previous years. It felt so good ot be back at school after taking a year off for co-op with BC Hydro. Not to mention I kinda missed all the guys down at the club. They're really a loveable bunch of geeks at the end of the day. Turns out that the Ubyssey (campus newspaper) wants to do an article on gamers. We're all really suspicious because we're pretty sure that they're going to make us out to be the stereotypical bespectacled, no-social-skills, tanned only by fluorescent lighting group of people. I'm considering making a "Don't talk to anyone from the Ubyssey" sign for the club room.

Today is another first. It'll be the first time I can tell people I'm 20. *grin* But because it's also the first time I'm working at my new permanent location (Coquitlam) I really don't have a birthday. Oh well, I was saving it to celebrate on the weekend anyway.

posted by Joie! at 1:00 a.m.


Friday, September 03, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Revenge of the Kitchen Table 

For the second time in a month I'm apologizing for a lack of posts. This time I have a better reason than I did the last time. I don't like to be on the computer when Jim's home because it's not a shared activity. Let me clarify that. When we're at home together, I really like to be doing things together. Like listening to audiobooks, playing cards, watching Good Eats hosted by Alton Brown, etc.

So why has Jim been home for most of the past week? That's a really really good question. Could it be that poor Jimmy caught some bug that requires him to drink plenty of fresh OJ and coupious amounts of chicken soup (see below for recipie)? No, that's not it. Really he's in such pink of health that he's still able to walk and talk despite having eaten 24 pop tarts in the last 48 hours. (Do the math, that's pretty scary stuff. In fact, I think he might be a medical miracle because of it). Perhaps he's home because he's been temporarily laid off from work -- or worse, fired? Nope, still got the money coming in, although not so much this week because he hasn't been going to work. There's still work for him to return to, however, once he is able to go back to it. So why the hell have I been able to spend so much time with Jim at home the past few days? (Keep in mind that I work evenings...) The story that Jim wants me to tell involves a heroic struggle between him and an armed intruder, who was reduced to a quivering pile of goo after Jim had managed to subdue him with nothing more than his fists and an angry cat while I was safely barricaded in the bedroom. In the interest of journalistic integrity, however, the real story is documented below.

The real story starts ten minutes into the Amazing Race 5 (it's the one where Colin gets really angry *haha*). We were having a good time, Tuesday being the one night that I was off this week. We had just finished dinner, and we were both in really really good moods. I had just cooked an amazing berry herbed butter rice with fresh shitake mushrooms (see below for recipie). Not to mention things were looking good because I am now so proficient in driving a standard (stick shift) car that I have been able to pilot myself to work, which means that he can just get in after work, chill and sleep at a decent hour while I'm out taking away people's money (pay attention to the point that I'm able to drive a stick shift. This is important later). I was looking forward to an extensive shoulder/back massage from Jim's magic fingers after the commercial break when I decided that I wanted some Country Time Lemonade. It's a delicious drink that doesn't taste at all like lemonade but I enjoy nonetheless.

Jim cavorts to the fridge and brings me the whole 2 litre bottle. Realising he's forgotten a glass, he capers back to the cupboard (I had just finished the dishes earlier that day) to get a clean glass. On his gambol back, his path is intercepted by the kitchen table. Now the kitchen table is made of solid IKEA wood. It was probably already a little pissed off because I had managed to tidy up almost everything around the house, but I neglected to clean and de-clutter its surface. I didn't think it was such a big deal, but obviously the table was harbouring some kind of negative sentiment. Jim hobbles back in front of me and goes "Joie, I think my toe is broken."

Sure enough, the fourth toe on his left foot is suddenly at a forty-five degree angle to the rest of his foot (and indeed to the neighbouring toes). Just to make sure that it's really broken though, he reaches down and manages to move it unnaturally from side to side. Good thing that he tried that when he did, because moments later the area was so swollen that nothing in that area was able to move at all. We decided to call 911. After describing his affliction to the operator, the operator advises Jim to get himself into an emergency room where they will be able to advise him on first aid and give him an x-ray. This is where I come in. Having so recently learnt how to drive a car with a stick shift, I was instrumental and bringing Jimmy to emergency. (Okay...since I'm not letting Jim tell his version of these events, I should also add that I spent about 5-10minutes in hysteria after I saw his toe. Good thing I couldn't see it while I was driving though, because it started to turn a corpse-y looking purple-green) We reached emergency (at Vancouver General Hospital after mistakenly pulling into the BC Women's and Children's Hospital where we were told that mental age doesn't count) at five to 11. We eventually made it home at about 12:30am.

Emergency confirmed that his toe was broken and that he should avoid putting too much weight on it for the next little while, at least until it starts to heal. Considering that he wears constrictive steel-toed boots at work and stands for eight hours a day, we decided that it would be better if he stayed home and only walked on it when we got around to doing more housework. Can you believe that even though I more or less took care of the place on Tuesday that there's more to be done already?! Damn, I really need to get in touch with some illegal aliens who would do these things cheap. So right now he's walking around with his fourth toe taped to his third toe to splint it. Emergency didn't even do it for him, they told him to do it himself. Bah.

So that's the real story. But the next time any of you see Jim, besure to mention how gallant you think he is for taking on that horrible intruder single-handedly.

Joie's Chicken Noodle Soup
10 sticks Celery
4-5 Carrots
1 medium Yellow Onion
3 Chicken Breasts
2 tbsp Cooking Oil (Preferably Olive)
1 tsp thyme/rosemary/basil (Preferably Fresh)
4 cups (1 L) chicken stock (Preferably Homemade, but who the hell has the time?)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Dice the celery, carrots and onion into 1cm cube pieces. Heat the cooking oil in a 2L pot over medium heat. Chop the chicken into 1" pieces.
2. Fry the Veggies until slightly softened and fragrant (you might want to cook covered for two minutes). The onions should start to look a little see-through. Turn heat up to high. Add the chicken pieces and the herbs. Sear the outside of the chicken.
3. Add all the stock. Bring to a boil, simmer until you are hungry. Add water as necessary. The longer it boils the better. Add macaroni if you want, hell, it's not like you're making it for me or anything.

Joie's Butter Herbed Berry Rice
1/2 cup Butter
2 cups uncooked rice (Preferably long grain)
1 tbsp dried herbs (whatever you have in your cooking cupboard, please stick to the green aromatic stuff, tumeric and cumin et al have no place in this recipie)
1/2 cup frozen, pureed berries
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup shittake mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (Preferably the real stuff, none of that balsamic flavoured red wine vinegar crap)

1. Melt the butter in a pan (woks are nice) reserving about 2 tbsp for later. Add the rice and the herbs. Toss on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
2. Bring heat up to high and toss constantly until rice/butter begins to brown. (I think it's the butter browning, but really, I couldn't quite tell). Add chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time, each time stirring briefly and then covering until all liquid is absorbed. (Use the cover of a large pot to achieve this)
3. After all the chicken stock has been added and absorbed add the berries and cream and stir. It should look a nice purple-pink. Set aside in a large bowl. Stir in balsamic vinegar.
4. In the same pan, melt remaining butter. Surely by now you have chopped your mushrooms into 1cm cubes right? Fry mushrooms until reduced. Add the white wine and simmer on medium until liquid has thicked up. (about 2-5 minutes) Stir cooked mushrooms into waiting rice. Serve with some chicken. Prawns maybe. Depends on what you remembered to defrost.

posted by Joie! at 2:28 p.m.


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