Tuesday, November 30, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

The Weather Outside 

Seems like Winter's already here. Last night there was some snowfall in the parts of the Lower Mainland that were at a higher elevation. Thankfully I didn't have to drive through any of it. I have mixed feelings about snow. I think it's pretty, and I had fun last year making my 7ft snowman. On the other hand, I'd be just as happy if not more if I spent the whole year where the temperatures never dipped below 20°C and I never had to walk through the crunchy, slippery stuff.

I don't think I'm going to get any snow near where I live this year anyway. Unlike where I was living last year, my part of town is at such a low elevation that typically we're at least 1°C warmer than the rest of the Lower Mainland and it doesn't usually snow around here (apparently last year was some sort of anomaly). Which means that I'm looking forward to a winter of cold wet rain. Charming. Right now I'm wondering why I'm not in Mexico. Or Singapore, for that matter. I much prefer a monsoon to this undecisive slick.

On a completely different note, I went for Fish and Chips with Jim and his Dad on Saturday night. My favourite Fish and Chips shop has gone out of business (I cannot understand why, but my heart is broken nonetheless) but we found another one. The food is not as good, but it's still very palatable with a nicer environment then my favourite one. It was such a blast. It's nice to hang out with people with whom you don't have to guard yourself against. We had a very interesting conversation too, but I don't think the topic was of any import. Jim was getting progressively drunker throughout the night (I had to drive and Jim's dad doesn't drink anyway) so that was fun too. He kept bringing up hilarious tangents that just maintained the fun.

After that meal I thought that I would be doomed to craving Fish and Chips for several more weeks. I still wouldn't say no to another Fish and Chips meal, but my cravings were blasted out of the water by Nando's flame grilled chicken. Apparently there are Nando's in five different continents internationally. I had no idea that this joint was so huge when I brought in two coupons for a free half chicken with purchase of half a chicken and a regular side dish last night. Their chicken is oh so good. I sincerely doubt that I've ever had such good chicken from a restuarant (my grandad makes pretty good chicken, so does Jimmy and so do I) and I'm prepared to say that this chicken is certainly giving the homecooked varieties that I've had a run for my money. I'm actually gnawing on a few leftover pieces from last night as I type. I don't think much of their Peri-Peri sauce though. This stuff goes much better with sweet chilli sauce. Mmmmmm....chicken....

Speaking of things that I'm doing as I'm typing this entry. Right now I'm ploughing through a table that lists muscles and movements (and the innervation of said muscles) that are active for the production of the short sentence "Don spills.", with the stress on the second word. The silver lining to this assignment is that the professor has narrowed the scope to just 27 different muscles that are important for speech, otherwise this could become even more tedious than it already is. I'm surprised that an assigment of this magnitude is due this late in the term. This Friday would be the last day of classes for the term and my first exam lies in wait next Tuesday.

It's hard to believe how close I am to the end of term. I see it as a milestone of sorts, considering that this would mark the first time I'm working and going to school full time. I was just thinking the other day that completing this term will be knowing that I can do this. Although I never said anything to anyone I was worried that I would not be able to juggle school and work (and all the other responsibilities associated with living on my own).. I've fared alright so far, and since University is really only a series of school terms, well, looks like it's going to be alright. Phew.

Being this close to the end of term also means that Christmas is coming soon. I have to admit that this year I've really dropped the ball on Christmas. I haven't sent out a single Christmas card (and I'm seriously considering sending out "Welcome to 2005" cards instead) and quite apart from not having any Christmas shopping done, I don't even know what I'm going to get for the people I'm giving gifts to. To make everything worse, Jim already knows what he's going to get me. Guilt Trip! Then again, I have been rather explicit in asking for what I want this Christmas (see sidebar) so it's not like his job has been too difficult. I think Jimmy's Christmas this year will not contain a single original gift. Just stuff that I know he wants (new boxers, socks, the special edition Shawshank Redepmtion DVD, an electric razor). I'm just thinking that these gifts are so mundane and require so little thought on my part that it's almost like the proverbial food processor (you know that story about the husband who had to sleep in the dog house because he bought his wife a food processor for their anniversary).

Usually having completed all the relevant Christmas tasks by the time snow starts to threaten the Lower Mainland, I think I might be among the throngs of panicked shoppers begging mall proprieters to stay open for that one more minute in hopes that that elusive gift for that hard to buy person is just one more forage away this year.


posted by Joie! at 1:05 PM

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Thursday, November 25, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

There's a Christmas Gift Fair run by the Alma Mater Society at the Student Union Building. I have to walk through the concourse (where the fair is being held) to get to my buses. I just couldn't resist:


Good thing that they're leaving on Friday. Other things that caught my eye included handmade African instruments (one was a thumb instrument and the other was a flute that was only three inches long and looked like a turtle), handmade bages and purses (she had the most unusual fabrics, and the sizes of the bags were just so perfect!) and a stuffed yeti that was handmade by tibetan villagers and purchased through a fair trade organization. Can you blame me for wanting to return tomorrow with more cash?


posted by Joie! at 9:56 AM

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

3 Years and Counting 

Nov 23rd, 2001. That's when Jim kissed me outside his bathroom just before we were about to leave for some movie. Or dinner. I don't remember. Point was, he kissed me making the bold assumption that I would return the kiss. He was right.

So it's been three years, one and a half years of living together and having cats. Cats are really important. It's the measure either of us use to evaluate other people. Here's the theory see:

Dogs are easy to love. They love you back really obviously. They literally beg for your attention and are willing to do damn near anything to make you say "Good Dog". Dogs are easy to love so just because you ID yourself as a dog lover...well that really doesn't say much. Okay, well it says that you love relationships in which the other is desperate and clingy and needs you.

Cats on the other hand are much less personable. Most don't like strangers, have claws that they readily employ and can look evil in low light. (Sometimes Gato scares the hell out of me when she's sitting in the hallway and I meet her on my way to the bathroom at 3am) While they do display signs of affection they spend equal amounts of time being aloof and rather indifferent to your presence. If you are a cat lover, then you appreciate individual complexities. Makes you a good person. Also means that you're not overly enamoured with obvious signs of affection. When it comes down to it, you'll know whether a cat loves you, even though she doesn't slobber all over your face the second you step in the door.

I digress. So Jim and I have been together three years. I think that that's quite a big deal. Right now in the oven is a low-carb chocolate-raspberry cheesecake. Jim's on the diet not because he's fat, neccessarily, but because it's the only way for him to excercise self-control. For him junk food is all-or-nothing. If there's ice-cream in the fridge, it won't be there for long. If he's eating a chocolate bar, saving the rest for later is absolutely unheard of. Plus, we were going through 2L of soft drinks every 1-2 days. Now that he's on the diet, a 2L bottle of pop lasts over a week. There's been ice-cream in the freezer for more than a month and he's actually lost a little belly. I think I'll join him on the diet after Lisa and David leave. Given that we're going to have to go to Anducci's one or more times during their visit, I think it prudent that I start my diet after their departure.

You know, I never expected this to be a lasting relationship, let alone a co-habiting one. I figured he was just going to be the first guy to get me into the swing of things at UBC. Best laid plans of mice and men... Thank god most of my family likes him.

So here's to my Jimmy. Thanks for the last three years and thanks for everything still to come. Love You!


On a ocmpletely unrelated note, the Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich sold yesterday for $28 000 USD. The winning bid was placed by Golden Palace Online Casino. If I'm not wrong, these are the same guys who were advertised on the front of the tutu wearing, clown shoe sporting diver that caused quite a stir at the Athens Olympic games. The casino is now selling T-shirts with their logo on it and an image of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich for $19.99. Here's my question. Why was an online casino on Diana Dusyer's pre-approved bidder's list? If she really believed that the sandwich bore a divine apparition, wouldn't she only pre-approve bidders who too believed in the Blessed Virgin? I wonder how long it will be before she is smote.


posted by Joie! at 1:10 PM

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Thursday, November 18, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Patron Sandwich of Gamblers 

No doubt by now everyone has heard about the Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Pulled from eBay not too long ago as a result of eBay's no jokes policy and then returned after a conference with the seller who assured them that indeed, incredibly, she was not joking. This new auction ends Nov-22-04 17:22:07 PST.

Seriously. Go look at the listing. Frankly I have nothing against the sale of faith. Regardless of whether the artefact is truly holy, anything that will help people believe in this tenuous time can't be all that bad. What I do have a problem with is Diana Duyser's revised description of her item in which she presents, as one of her blessings, cumulative winnings of $70,000 from the nearby casino.

Well, I knew that Jesus wasn't a big fan of gambling, but I didn't know that his mother appears in grilled cheese sandwiches and increased casino winnings. I should become catholic, quit my job and start gambling for tuition money. Perhaps I should try and be the highest bidder of this snadwich myself and then try and pawn it off on my blackjack players for a tidy profit. Afterall, some of the regulars drop between $20,000 and $50,000 a month at our tables and slot machines. I think this sandwich would be an awesome investment for them. Also, seeing as how it's already lasted 10 years with no mold or disintegration, I'm sure it's going to last much, much longer.

Bids for this artefact have been fluctuating wildly. Due to the nature of the auction, very special precautions are being taken by both the seller and eBay. Apparently you have to email the seller to first be placed on an "Approved Bidder's list" and eBay will be calling you on the telephone to confirm your bid after you've placed it. The bidding history page should give some idea of just how chaotic this system is. Many people are getting on the list, and bidding and then having their bids cancelled. My guess is that they just turned on their caller ID and snickered when eBay tried to call. In fact, last night bidding was up to $69,100+. Right now, it's only $18,750. With bids starting at $3000, the highest bid to date has been $99,999,999 (incidently this is the highest amount that eBay allows to be bid on a single auction) before eBay called bullshit.

Note that if there's something on eBay that you really really want, bidding $99,999,999 on it guarantees that no one can outbid you for it. Unless of course it's this sandwich and you don't return eBay's calls.

What makes this all the more interesting is all the media attention that this item has garnered. The last thing that came this close to being innovative was the Ghost in the Jar (followed I guess by the possessed toaster). None of those items received any press coverage although I'm pretty sure that each (an empty jar and an old toaster respectively) made their sellers (innovative marketers, no doubt) a tidy profit.

I wonder if this sandwich is going to spoil the market for all those other borderline bogus auctions on eBay. I really wish I had thought of something this genius in the first place. For one thing, my education would be paid for. For another, I just might help cement someone else's faith. Karmically, that's got to count for something.


posted by Joie! at 9:46 AM

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Sunday, November 14, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

18.9L=20 Quarts 

It's been a while since Jim and I have bulk cooked. Bulk cooking involves making up a giant batch of a one-dish meal that freezes well. The idea is that you end up with your own version of those TV dinners that you can buy in the freezer aisle of your local grocer's. If the dish is my idea, it usually ends up becoming some kind of hearty chowder, quiche, wraps, fried rice or mac'n'cheese. Maybe a stew, but I don't like the way stews freeze. When it's Jim's idea, it's always Chili. For the uninitiated who are wondering why the hell we would put our efforts into making bulk amounts of chili sauce, here, Chili refers to a tomato based dish with copious amounts of beef, beans, corn, mushrooms and Mexican spices (most notably, mexican ground chillies).

Deciding that if we were going to make chili that were going to make alot of it (the last time we made chili in our largest pot, Jim only got about two bowls of the sutff, after I brought some to lunch daily and he gave some away to his parents) so we went to Superstore to buy a stock pot. I know that stock pots are really meant jsut for making soup stock. They are usually made of brushed stainless steel (and are therefore non-reactive) that is of uniform thickness throughout the base and the sides. It's also usually really thin, so that the heat is conducted right up from the element into the food. When you're making stock, that's not a problem, because convection takes care of everything for you. When you're cooking something thicker, like chili, it means constant stirring to distribute the heat. Even with constant stirring, the bottom did get a little burnt and we had to pour the chili into our roasting pan (big enough for a 20lb turkey, in case you were wondering) and our next biggest pot (the one that we made chili in the last time). Both vessels were filled to the brim.

Ladies and Gentlemen, yesterday, Jim and I made about 18L (maybe more) of chili. It involved 12lbs (5+kg) of ground and stew beef, 2-3L of crushed and diced canned tomatoes, 6 cans of kidney, black and pinto beans, 6 heads of garlic, 1 kg of onions, three capsicums (2 green, 1 red) and about a pound of mushrooms. For the spices, we used three packets of ground mexican chili (secret combination) and more chipotle than you can shake a stick at. Oh and all the cumin in my spice rack. One last secret ingredient. It's the one thing that will help release all the flavour elements when cooking with tomatoes. Any guesses?

Just so you know, Jim makes DAMN GOOD chili.

So far our entire vegetable crisper is filled literally to the brim with 24 Ziploc containers (the 1¾ cup size, if anyone's keeping track). There's a lone container that was unable to fit in the crisper on one of the shelves. In addition there's my biggest mixing bowl filled ¾ of the way up covered in plastic wrap because we didn't buy enough Ziploc containers to put all the stuff in. That's on today's todo list.

Can you visualize this yet? In case you're still having trouble, the dimensions of the pot are: height-2ft, diameter-112ft. We filled it to about 5inches from the brim (1ft=12in). We stirred it with a 212ft wooden spoon. Constantly (i.e. for about two hours).

Mmmm enough chili to last through any war G.W.Bush is ready to engage in.

On a completely separate note, I have a new theory. I believe that my IQ is really quite average despite the fact that I'm a card-carrying member of Mensa. You see, if my IQ is really higher than average (apparently I'm in the 99th percentile), then it should be easier for me than it is for the average person to grasp onto various concepts. Concepts such as context-free phrase structure rules, sentence trees, syntax in general. With less effort than the average person, I should be able to get better marks in class.

Yet that's not true. If it were, I doubt I would be experiencing the level of apathy that I expressed in my previous post. So here's why I think I got accepted into Mensa. I read really quickly. Reading quickly (and I read really freakishly fast) means that I have more time to think about the question. This means that I have a natural advantage on timed tests. Since admission to Mensa was based on a timed test, my freaskishly fast reading gave me ample time to figure out answers to the questions. So depressingly enough, maybe I'm not that smart.

I was thinking this only because when Jim and I watch Jeopardy, I always get the answers first. Jim then points out that the only reason I managed to give the answer first is because I can read the question in less time than it takes Trebek to read three words of it. So I have the rest of the question to think about the answer. Sometimes I even answer before he's done reading. The thing is that Jim would have arrived at the same answer, given the same amount of time that I had to think about it. We discovered this the time when there was a blind contestant on Jeopardy. What happened then was that the written version of the question was not provided until Trebek had finished first reading the question out loud. Jim and I answered at the same time. Jim answered several questions faster.

I sure hope no one from Mensa is reading this right now. *shifty look*


posted by Joie! at 9:44 AM

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Saturday, November 13, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Burn Out 

My exam schedule has been out for nearly a month now and I've just checked it. Bearing in mind that the exam period is from Dec 7-21, here is my exam schedule:

Dec 7th: Anatomy of Speech
Dec 17th: Psychology-Research Methods
Dec 20th: Psych 100
Dec 20th: Phonology
Dec 21st: Syntax

Notice how the start of my exams is less than a month away. Notice how I managed not only to score two exams in one day, but also to score exams on the first and last day of the exam period. Notice how I don't really care.

That's the scary part. With most courses still plugging me with essays and assignments that will count toward my final grade, and the exam countdown getting more urgent with each calandar day, I find myself really unfazed. Unfazed is the wrong word. I think apathetic is more accurate. I'm putting less effort into my assignments (usually I finish them days ahead of time, take them to office hours, talk to the prof and TA about them and pretty them up in MS word), I'm skipping classes and not really worrying about them, and I haven't yet drawn up a study schedule for the exams. I'm not voraciously doing the readings (in fact, I'm really behind on course readings), I'm putting my hand up less in class. I need a break.

The thing that's been putting the fire on my behind lately is the promise of an NSERC (National Science and Engineering Research Comission) scholarship toward a Master's degree in Speech Sciences. It involves upward of $17 000 USD a year for two years. It's based on your average over the your last 60 credits (which means all the courses that I'm taking this year and next) as well as a research proposal. I've already come up with a possible research topic and I plan to use my Christmas break to catch up on some of the more recent articles on the topic and then possibly in January talk to the dept. head about acting on it. Maybe I'll do that course where you get to write a Master's thesis type paper for six credits under one of the profs in the faculty. I even know which prof because the dept. head has already put us in preliminary contact. You guys out there want to know my research topic? I'm sure as hell not going to post it here. It's too good a topic, and this blog is too public. For those of you not in my field, email me and I'll share my genius with you. *grin*

I digress. The NSERC scholarship comittee doesn't just look at your grade averages though. That wouldn't be a problem because I know I can get an A average even though I get high Bs in some of my courses. They look at your courses individually as well, which means that ideally I need As in all my courses. That's the fire under my butt. That's where I'm going with all this. That's where I'm starting to not really care. But I should, but I don't.

On the other hand, I cooked mussels for dinner last night. I bought them live from Superstore and steamed them in white wine that simmered with garlic, tomatoes and leeks. They were really, really good and surprisingly cheap. I steamed them for a little too long though, falling into the beginner's mistake of leaving them in the pot hoping that the ones that wouldn't open would yield. (Always discard mussels that don't open after steaming. It means they're bad. Like stabbing your cellmate with a shiv bad.) It resulted in the mussels being mushier than they should've, but they were still damn good for a first attempt, at any rate. I would post the recipe here, but it's not my recipe. It's Alton Brown's which means that you can find it at the Food Network website because they legally own all the recipes from his show. Specifically, you can find the recipe for mussels here. Of course it would be best if you actually watched the mussels episode of Good Eats because he provides priceless instruction that you will not be able to find just by reading the recipe. You can find a transcript of that episode here.

Interestingly enough, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, mussels are the most economical form of complete protein that you can get from an animal. So they're good for you too. Those of you on the Atkins diet don't rejoice yet though, 6 ounces of mussels hide 8.4g of net carbs.

Right now I'm supposed to be reading Psych articles about Social Dilemmas, you know, the ones that look at competition and cooperation. It's for an essay that was supposed to be due on Monday but the prof pushed the deadline back to Friday. Instead, I'm sipping my second cup of Tim Horton's coffee, brewed in my Starbucks Aroma Quattro machine. I love Tim Horton's coffee and I love my surprisingly cheap Quattro (after factoring in the two free pounds of coffee that you get after buying it, it only cost about $10). Mmmmm !)*Y*IU#BRUIJFDIY(*@U#*^%R&$#&&#$%!! Great. Did someone just pray to the god of irony or something? Gato just jumped up and knocked over my coffee. All over the carpet. Dammit, I'm never living in another place with carpeting. Hardwood, hardwood, hardwood. Forever and always. Bah.


posted by Joie! at 11:44 AM

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Saturday, November 06, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Bunged Bumper 

Every day as I drive Jim to and from work I have to cross the Alex Fraser Bridge. It's not too bad. Six wide lanes that funnel traffic that come off Highway 91 into Surrey and Delta. I cross this bridge daily, but I only have to cross it during rush hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

On TuTh, I only have one class from 3:30-5:00pm. So what I end up doing is driving from UBC directly to Jim's dad's place where he waits for me to pick him up. (Jim gets off work at 4:00pm) Five in the afternoon, right smack in the middle of rush hour when all the working schmoes get out of their offices in Vancouver and are bustling to get to their homes in the suburbs. Surprisingly, it's not that bad, at least, not until I get to the Alex Fraser Bridge. That's when the stop and go traffic begins. You see, the bridge not only funnels traffic from Highway 91, but from a bunch of other major routes as well. The stop and go is a result of 50 thousand lanes trying to merge into three and the cars in those lanes trying to get into the right lane (River Road Exit), the middle lane (Nordel Way Exit) or the left lane (straight ahead. I have no idea where this goes, actually...)

Then you have the requisite bastards who instead of waiting with everyone else to get to the bridge and over it will squeeze into the merge lane, speed past all the stopped cars and try and merge in about 30 cars further ahead. On principle, I don't let these guys in. After all, I just spent 20 minutes in a car with inconsistent radio(interesting story, really...), a heating system that's permanently set on high so that it's all or nothing (same interesting story as above) and sore legs from having to constantly alternate between clutch, gas and brake. I'm never about to let anyone cut the queue without giving them any grief for it. Often though, it's not as if I have a choice. Just this Thursday an Audi forced me to brake. It would have crashed into me otherwise. In retrospect, I should've let it hit me. He would have been at fault and in my beat-up 95 Honda Civic I really had nothing to lose. Insurance pay outs, injury claims, all would have been relatively entertaining. The Audi was not the worst thing that happened to me on the bridge on Thursday though. The big, black GMC truck was.

Relax. I'm fine. My bumper got pretty bunged up though.

A stick shift it not easy to pilot in stop and go traffic. Who out can say that they don't stall in stop and go (who don't drive an automatic)? Show of hands? Liars. Anyway. The bridge was particularly nasty. With Daylight savings time on Oct 30th and the plain and simple fact that the days are getting shorter it was nighttime dark on the bridge by the time I reached it. It was also drizzling slightly. Incidently, I was in my pjs, but that's beside the point. (No, I didn't wear my pjs to class, I missed class because I was taking a nap. Oh shuddup. I would have picked Jim up earlier seeing as how I was missing class anyway, but he had something to do at his dad's. So there.) Somewhere around the mid-point of the bridge, the inevitable happens and I stall the car. Not a big deal but before I had the chance to restart it this big, black GMC truck mows into my bumper.

Granted, it's not like he plowed into my bumper going 70mph or anything. He was stopped, just like I was, and thought that he could go because my brake lights went off. He might not have hit me hard enough to give me whiplash, but he certianly hit me hard enough to give me a damn good scare. (I almost ruined my pjs, which my grandma made for me and which I really, really like.) You can't stop on the bridge and we were both in the right lane so I figured that he would follow me off the bridge and pull over on the shoulder just before the River Road exit. What does he do instead? He stops and lets 3-4 other cars cut in front of him so that I lose track of him. Then he disappears. With his headlights on high in the dark and rain, I couldn't even get his licence plate number. Plus, being seated so much higher up in a truck than in a sedan I don't have the faintest clue what the driver looks like. I never saw the driver (so I apologize for assuming that he's male).

My bumper's now pretty bunged up. Okay, it's scratched to shit. You would be too if you got kissed by a big, black GMC truck. It's plastic so it can't really be repainted. It would have to be replaced, something that would cost upwards of $600 to do. Since there's no structural damage, the only reason to replace the bumper would be cosmetic, waste of money as I see it. I might've gotten it replaced on the other guy's insurance, but seeing as how I was unable to obtain his information, that's not really an option.

Hey GMC truck driver. If you just happen to come across my blog by pressing the "Next Blog" button, just know that you gave a little Chinese girl in her pjs a nasty scare, caused pricey damage to her car and was too spineless to face up to the possible consequences. Poo on you.


posted by Joie! at 10:11 PM

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Thursday, November 04, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Wasting My Time 

I have two assignments due tomorrow. Both are going to take me a substantial amount of time. Both have been started, neither are close to being finished. One is weighted for 3% of my course mark and the other is 10%. Both are rather important. In fact, I really should be working on them right now.

Yet, I'm not.

Just in case anyone was having any doubts about my academic chi, let me turn your collective attention to my midterm grades. So far, I've received three out of my four midterms back. For Psych 100, I scored 87.5%; class average 59.2%. For Linguisitics 311 (Phonology) I scored 90%; class average 77%. For Ling 300 (Syntax) -a class in which almost no one knows what's going on- I'm 0.5 of a mark (out of 45) from a A after scaling. If you think my explaination of my Ling 300 mid-term mark is confusing, you should've been in class while Carden was trying to explain the distribution, curve and what he was going to do about it. (Considering that he is so confusing when explaining a simple concept like distribution and scaling, just imagine what he's like expounding on complex syntactic concepts!) I'm still waiting on my mid-term score for Psych 217 (Research Methods) but I think I'm going to score way above the class average. That mid-term was so brutal. There were so many trick questions (e.g.: Does causation imply correlation?) that I suspect many did not catch.

So. I'm doing alright in school. Doesn't mean that I can ignore my pending assignments. In fact, there's a good third of the semester left before I can recycle my notes. I take incredible notes, I usually get strangers sitting next to me telling me so. Despite this, however, I didn't get a single one of the three notetaking jobs that I applied for.

The Disability Resource Centre at UBC has a program in which students with disabilities can request a notetaker for the courses they are taking. It invovles having someone else CC or photocopy their notes for them after every class. I think I didn't get the position because the transcript that I provided them with was printed off the student serivce centre and not a photocopy of an official transcript. I wasn't going to pay $5 to get a copy of my transcript at that point in the year just to apply for this. In retrospect, however (considering that the positions pay you $300-500/term just to attend class and take notes) I should've paid to get a copy of my official transcript. Oh well. I know what I'm going to do next term.

I think it's starting to get evident that I really have nothing to say in this entry, and that I'm blogging just to put off tackling my assignments. So I'm going to start talking about the US presidential elections, just so that there's some substance to this entry.

There isn't anything that I can say that hasn't already been said about the results of the election. Also, I don't think I can say it as succintly and eloquently in this article by Zafar Sobhan for the Daily Star. I'm surprised, frankly, and I know quite a number of other people who are as well. I had Jim's mom over for dinner last night. She has recently moved to the States (her new husband is American) and the circles that they move in are very distressed by the results. Four more years with a president that runs the country to line his pockets. Walter (who incidently ate 6 slices of pie at UChicago's Culinary Club's pie eating competition) mentioned that it's not really my problem seeing as how I don't live there.

He's right you know.

It's not my problem, it's not my president, it's not my country. What I can tell you though is that I will no longer have any sympathy for the American people when Dubya's antics continue to take them downhill. No more sympathy. If you're stupid enough to think that abortion and gay marriages take precedence over the slaughter of innocents to boost the Bushes' bank account(s) then you deserve a president like that. Granted, some are saying that if Kerry wasn't the walking corpse that he is he might've been able to garner more support, but seriously, this isn't (well, this shouldn't be) a personality contest. Oh well, majority rules (apparently in this election, Bush has received more votes than any other president in American history) but don't come crying to Canada for medicine and vaccines (oh wait you guys already are) and don't bitch about the economy and don't bitch about the war in Iraq.

Bah. Stupid Americans.


posted by Joie! at 10:42 AM

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Monday, November 01, 2004 ______________________________________________________________________________

Empowerment 

The one thing that all religions in the world have in common is the promise of retribution. Many have theorized that the reason for this is to establish stable theocracies. It's easy to keep a congregation in line with the fear of God. It's a time-tested method that hasn't failed. Think of any of today's theocracies. Think of the trouble the most powerful nation in the world is having trying to tear one down.

I tend to disagree. I will concede that theocracies are so effective because they utilize existing fundamental fears. However, I do not think that those fears were established by the party in power in order to exert control. The problem here is that of directionality. I purport that the fear was there to begin with and some politically minded people thought to exploit it, not that the fear was put into place for the purposes of exploitation. This entry has got nothing to do with how people's beliefs are twisted against them. It's about why those beliefs are in place and why I, too, believe in them.

Conventional wisdom (which is usually the starting point for the establishment of most knowledge) is rife with assurances that the bad will be punished. My favourite example (least of all because I'm Chinese) is the 18 levels of hell. Not only will you be punished for your deeds on earth, but that the punishment will fit the crime, in a horribly twisted, damn near eternal sense. It's gratifying and way more so than the Christian concept of hell, where everyone is boiled in brimstone for eternity, thief and paedophile alike. The only problem with this is that it's not very swift. You have to wait for the person in question to die. You can't exactly go and kill said offender, because that would make you a murderer and regardless of your motivation, it puts you in a very undesirable karmic position. Plus, you don't get to watch this in action, because the deserving asshole would not be in the same dimension as you are. This is both a pro and a con. Pro: If you see the guy point-blank getting away with his/her actions to his/her dying day, you can rest assured that he/she will not get away with it for eternity. Quite the opposite, really. Con: No one has ever been able to prove that any of this actually happens on account of our current inability to travel between planes of existence. It's not a very significant con though, because the belief that it's happening is usually enough to tide you over. At least until you die too and discover whether or not you were right.

When I was wronged as a teenager (having recently turned 20, I can use the phrase "as a teenager"...) I remember allowing the experience to turn my world upside down. I wanted revenge, I wanted it now. In the throes of hormonal flux, I would not allow myself to be appeased unless something happened right here, right now (I said nowwwwwww). Even though my hormones are no longer at puberty's whim I still find myself looking for instant gratification. (Hunt him down and cut off his balls! Then make it into curry and feed it to him while he's hungry, over rice that has been cooked too long! NOW!) Every time I find myself looking for something to happen right away in order to compensate for the fact that I too have been harmed in the here and now I think about what my maternal grandparents used to tell me to quell my tantrums. "It will be taken care of". Young and impudent, I challenged them. Refusing to merely accept, I demanded empirical truth. "Jo, we are much older than you. It means that we have seen more things. That is why we know." I took that to mean that because they have been on this earth five times longer than I have, they have thus been able to observe things over time: one of my obvious limitations at say...age 13. They then proceeded to tell me stories about people in their lives who purposefully and maliciously made life unneccessarily difficult for others (the best operational definition I have ever come across for "wrongdoing" btw) and what happens to them down the road.

The most dramatic story that my grandparents have ever related is the story of my grandad's step-mother. You couldn't find a nastier woman in all the fairy tales in the world. Her actions would qualify as extreme physical and mental abuse (of her husband's first wife's children) under even the loosest child protection laws. It left some significant scarring on my grandad too. The reason this story is so dramatic, however is that I had the chance to see this woman in her old age. That is, until she wandered off one day from her home and was never found again. When I knew her, she was suffering from acute dementia. I would go into detail but so much about her I have learnt second hand and my childish ruminations might have exaggerated the facts so I could be wrong on several counts. What I do know to be true however, paints a rather vivid picture of what hell on earth could be like for an individual. It does not stop with her, however. Her offspring are by no means the most successful bunch on earth. Some even have criminal records. (Think about the population of Singapore, then think about the low crime-rate. We don't have all that many criminals, her children are among the few). Had the people she wronged brought about all this misfortune? Of course not, no one is this powerful. (FYI her husband's first wife's children are doing pretty damn well for themselves) In fact, if they had tried to take revenge on her, their efforts would hardly have resulted in anything this potent.

My great-grandmother (recently deceased) had another wise saying to contribute: "If the money isn't yours, it will not stay with you". Implied is that if something is yours then it will be yours despite everything. I believe that this applies not just to money but to a range of things from the tangible to the intangible. The bottom line here is not to worry about your haves and have not because your own efforts alone will not allow you to retain anything. Your efforts will certainly allow you to acquire assests, the means through which you have acquired them might even translate into your ownership of said assests (i.e. they are yours in the cosmic sense because you have earned them in some cosmically acceptable way) but retention of those assests are beyond the realm of your influence. How does this translate into the big theory of retribution? Easy. If someone takes from you something that is yours, it is not theirs. Therefore, it will not bring them benefit, they will not be able to retain it in any way, shape or form. That is why I've always believed that if you are angry with someone, destruction of property is the way to go. That way you have hurt the person but you have not taken anything away from it that might constitute as personal gain. No karmic paper trail, in essence. If you steal from someone however, it's an entirely different story. To harm another for the sake of harming them is one thing. To harm another for the sake of personal gain is much, much worse. It is worse precisely because this principle can and often is compounded with the principle in the above paragraph resulting in this:

a) Your loss &ne his/her gain
b) His/her offensive actions = cosmic retribution

mmmmm....compounded retribution.....

The point here is that this belief that a higher power will even out the universe is so universal because it empowers those that have no recourse against bastards, assholes, cocksuckers, et al. It is empowering because it does not require that the victims of crimes have to alter their own karmic record to return the wrong that has been inflicted on them. It is empowering because it the result of having a higher power sort it out is beyond anything a mere mortal can accomplish through even the most extreme and focused effort. It is because it is empowering that I believe in it and I invite everyone out there to do the same. Some cultures even believe that focusing negative energies on their offender helps exacerbate and sometimes accelerate the work of the karmic police. I think that you waste your time and destroy bits of yourself when you dwell on negative thoughts. Then again, when it so happens that you are so angry about it that it will take some time to stop thinking about it, you might as well focus your thoughts while you have them. Like calling 911 on the cosmic touch-tone phone, perhaps.


posted by Joie! at 1:24 PM

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