Tuesday, January 25, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

I Need a Holiday 

This particular insight hit me today as I was sitting in the computer labs on the first floor of the B block of the Buchanan building. I was labouriously making measurements at three points of six sample tokens provided to us by a native female speaker of Cantonese. These tokens were in fact a minimal set, where the only contrast between them all was the tone of the speaker. Certain tokens were level and others were contoured. Some might argue that we could just open the sound file in the relevant program and have it spit out the F0. This might be true for some sophisticated program yet unknown to me. For our purposes at UBC, we are using the free program Praat available for download to a quite impressive range of platforms. While Praat does give you an F0 reading, it's sometimes rather far from accurate. Case in point, there was, at some point in the recording, a segment that Praat reported had an F0 of 76Hz. That's lower than a male speaker typically speaks and, like my partner pointed out: It's a chick!

It wasn't just the tedium of computing the fundamental frequency of Cantonese tones as presented by a single, female speaker (her name is Amy Yiu and she was a former UBC Speech Science student -- if anyone out there was really interested). It's also the fact that my first mid-term is coming up this Thursday accompanied by this particular Linguistics assignment (Cantonese F0 is only a fifth of this assignment). It's also that a major Intro to Stats (i.e. Pri 6 Math ad nauseaum) project and my Developmental Psych mid-term is coming up this Tuesday. It's also that it's very unlikely that I can breathe even after these two heavy-hitting days because there are obscenely time-consuming assignments and readings due every single week.

I thought that I would be able to get a holiday during that one and a half weeks between my last exam of last term (Syntax, remember?) and the start of this term. No such luck. Work required me to come in for extra shifts, making it a rather stressful time. Work is stressful enough when it's just on the weekends, I don't know how other people do it for full work weeks. I thought this term would start slow and give me some time to breathe before the deluge of everything. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Excuse me.

I can't even say that I'll hold out until the summer because I'm going to summer school. Summer school, which typically squeezes a three credit course (usually 13 weeks) into less than two months is just going to be worse than a regular term. Not to mention, it's not like I'm going to stop working for the summer either.

Concretely, all this means is that I look at the amount of schoolwork that I have to do and I don't want to touch it. When I eventually convince myself that it has to be done, I don't do as good a job as I'd like to, because my mind starts wandering and wondering why it's been doing this for so damn long. I'm a perfectionist but it's like there's suddenly two sides in my head. The perfectionist is rightly indignant at the quality of work I'm churning out and the slacker-wannabe is saying that the extra effort is only going to kill me. Which, counters the perfectionist, it well might, but at least the last piece of work that I leave on earth will be something that I can be proud of. Heh. It's not like the profs are noticing the drop in my standards but think about that Rolex magazine ad. They have this top ballerina and she says: If I miss a day of practice, I notice the difference. If I miss a week of practice, my audience notices the difference. So right now the corners I'm cutting are evident only to myself, but unless I do something about it, I might not be the only one who notices.

So here's the plan. I'm deliberately putting it in writing because it's more of a committment than just talking about it and speculating. The plan is that I will not allow work to schedule me for any shifts during spring break. I will take many pains to make sure that I have damn near nothing to do during spring break by working on readings and assignments before spring break. I'm going to try and go away for spring break (I'm going to see if I can convince Jimmy to take some time off). The agreement that I signed when I cashed in my student loan bound me to a promise to only spend my student loan money on tuition and academic supplies. I figure that a break constitutes "academic use" because unless my batteries are recharged...well, you know what cell phones are like when they are running on low battery. They will still turn on if you force them to, but they will shut off at inopportune moments and eventually refuse to come on altogether. Don't worry, I'm not going to spend all of it on an all inclusive to Mexico (and it's not like I have access to my passport anyway). Just a couple of hundred and hide for a week in Victoria. Jim suggested Tofino, which I assumed was just a summer destination but he's going to ask his dad about it.

So while there are no concrete destination plans, I've written down the things I will do to take time out. Believe you me, it's going to happen.

posted by Joie! at 6:18 p.m.


Monday, January 24, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Everything Else 

One thing Lisa and David intentionally left behind was Prima's Chili Crab Mix. Coincidentally, Live Dungeness Crab was on sale at T&T (Chinese Supermarket) for less than half the usual price last weekend. The best thing about my particular T&T is that you get to pick your own crabs out of a tankful of other crabs. This is great for two reasons. 1. You get to make sure that your crab is not missing anything. There are a great many crabs with missing legs and/or claws. I'm not making any guesses as to the reason for this, all I know is that I want a crab with all its appendages. 2. You get to make sure that your crab feels heavy for its size. True, you are buying the crab by weight but according to Alton Brown crabs that are light for their weight are most likely to have just moulted. This means that (a)they are comparatively less healthy than their counterparts and (b)since they are skinnier, proportionally more of the money spent on that crab will have been spent on the weight of the shell and not the weight of the meat. Shell, unless you are some circus sideshow performer, is inedible (the last time I checked, anyway) so you really want to give your crab a good feel.

Actually, there is a third reason for choosing your own crabs. Everyone knows that the point to live crabs is that they are alive and not half dead. If you are allowed to pick the crabs up out of the tank yourself, you will find that some are alot livelier than others. Those are the ones you want to eat. So while I was picking out my dinner, one of the damn crabs got hold of my left index finger. Picture this scene. Half of Hong Kong turned up to swarm the crab tanks because the incredible sale ends the next day. There are people everywhere picking up and examining crabs and I'm the one who gets bit. I didn't even feel any pain in my finger because the embarassment stung too much. If you want details: the damn crab grabbed ahold right at the base and wouldn't let go. I looked up and called to one of the seafood counter guys for help but they ignored me and started yelling for the next customer. I know at least one of them heard me because he looked like he was trying not to laugh. The only reason the crab is no longer on my finger is that his pincer was slowly slipping off my wet finger, which resulted in him holding on to progressively less and less finger, which also means that toward the end he was just pinching a bit of my skin, which was really, really uncomfortable

Joke's on the crab though. He might've given me a swollen finger (and I know it's a he because it is illegal to harvest female Dungies) but I ATE him and he tasted damn fine. So there.

Jim and I left with four fat, feisty Dungies which together weighed more than 7lbs (just under 4kg). You had better believe there are leftovers. Just barely though. I had to excercise all the self-control I posssessed to leave some for Jim and not finish the lot when I came home for lunch today. In doing so, I have officially used up my self-control for the day, which explains why I'm blogging instead of tackling (a)the obscene amount of homework which has arrived in conjunction with mid-term season (yes, it's already mid-term season, can you believe it?) and (b)the requisite amount of housework.

If you were paying attention to Lisa's and my blog over the past month or so, you could probably make a good guess at the size of my bottle recycling pile. All that on top of our existing recycling meant that Jim and I were forced to do recycling on the weekend for fear that the bottles would rise up and take over the world. Don't laugh, it's entirely possible. We left the bottle return depot with enough money for a night out. Notice that I'm being deliberately vague here: a night out could mean dinner at a fast food joint and a rental movie after or a night about town with dinner at a four-star restaurant followed by prime seats at an opera. I think some things are better left to the imagination.

I've made an appointment for this Wednesday with a lady from my local Curves. I'm rather excited about it because now that I've made some changes to my medication (heh, another deliberately vague comment) I've stopped steadily gaining weight and am actually spontaneously shedding weight. I figure that this is the best time to start an excercise program. I mean, if I'm going to lose weight anyway I might as well add some muscle tone. I've never had muscle tone before. I wonder what that would be like. Still though, regardless of how strong I get, I'm still going to pretend that I can't lift heavy objects. Not that I need to pretend right now, per se, but you get the general idea.

Now that I've run out of things to write about, I've also run out of excuses to avoid either of the two tasks I have to tackle. With regrets, I'm going to go measure the pitches in Cantonese tones so that I am able to put them on a graph and say "hey! look at the pretty picture Joie drew!".

posted by Joie! at 8:01 p.m.


Administrative Issues 

Lost and Found

1. White towel with thin dark stripes
2. Contact lens case
3. Kosher Santa
4. Johnson & Johnson's Clean and Clear face wash
5. Body Shop coconut bath and shower gel
6. Body Shop papaya bath and shower gel
7. Tape of The Apprentice (first epsiode, taped for Lisa)
8. Fifty fucking thousand little green tissue packets


1. Photographs of Lisa and David's stay here
2. Photographs of Jim and I while Lisa and David were here
3. Photographs of my cats

posted by Joie! at 5:43 p.m.


Sunday, January 16, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Guests and Fish 

Before I make the requisite apologies for having neglected this blog for an undue amount of time, I would like to point out that the diminishing frequency with which I attend to this page is nothing compared to that of some other peoples' blogs. Yes, make no mistake, I know where to put my apostrophes, 'people' in this case is in the plural. Having established that, I am sorry that I haven't posted in a while, considering that there are things to post about just very little time to do so.

An old Polish Proverb states that "Guests and fish stink after three days". Well, I've had guests for three weeks and I guess that in these times of advanced food preservation technology only one of them, really, has started to stink. Heh. Today I'm planning to have a "girls' day" with Lisa. Tragically, although she has been here for three weeks, the presence of other people, school and work has kept me from spending any connect time with her. Not that I mind the presence of everyone else in the house, it's just that hey, a girl's got to reconnect. We don't really have a solid itinerary, we just know that we have to get cat food eventually and perhaps catch National Treasure. I know it got rather sketchy reviews, but hey, we both like Nicholas Cage so the movie really is moot.

Jim's making a spectacular pair of chopsticks for my grandparents. He's making them out of Bird's Eye Maple and Snakewood. My grandfather's pair is mostly Snakewood (which is darker with really rich bands of colour running through the wood) capped with the Maple at a 45º angle. My grandmother's is the same except the woods are reversed so that she has more of the lighter, pretty wood. The best part about all this is that at the tops of each chopsitck he's going to inlay a small round of mother of pearl with either the Chinese character for "Zhou1" (obviously their surname) or, failing that, their initials. Initially Jim didn't want me to see any of the chopsticks' progress -- he just wanted me to see the completed project. But enough sulking meant that I got a glimpse of an unfinished piece and even in that rough state, it loooks gorgeous. Now I really can't wait to see both pairs when they're absolutely done. Considering that Lisa's going back this Thursday, the heat is on for him to complete it. He says he's completely on schedule though, which is fantastic.

School so far has been pretty good. First assignments are due next week and while I still have 5 hours of Carden every week he's not so bad. I like Carden, it's just that he really, really can't teach. On a more distressing note, however, it seems as though I'm unable to find a lab partner. I sure hope that the profs allow me to do this first assignment alone. I've been putting it off hoping that someone will turn up and volunteer to be my lab buddy, but I guess everyone already determined who their buddy would be before labs began. So did I, actually, but time changes et al meant that my lab buddy had to transfer to a different section, leaving me rather stranded. I think that there are an odd number of people in my lab, which would explain my dubious situation.

On a note that is not completely unrelated to the paragraph above, I was wondering if anybody out there knows of a good detox program. Since David and Lisa don't really have anything important to do on their "next days" (they are on holiday, afterall) we've been drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Copious is probably an understatment here. In fact, it's not even ten in the morning yet and I'm staring at a bottle of sherry next to me (there are precious few places in my house right now that you can sit and not be next to alcohol in some form or another) that is barely a fifth full and we only bought it two nights ago. It's not a big bottle mind, but in light of the other "barely full" bottles that are lying around...well...

Hmmmmmm...I want a cookie.

I really hate all these "diary" like posts. What I did blah blah blah, what I'm doing blah blah blah. I think they're boring and self indulgent. But seriously people! Cut me some slack. After all, I did work till really late last night and am waking up early just so that I can post a little. Not to mention, some post is better than no post. C'mon, I think you know who you guys are.

posted by Joie! at 9:20 a.m.


Friday, January 07, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Pretty Pretty Snowflakes 

It's snowing here. Not like the last time when I said it was snowing. Last time snow fell from the sky, but it was too warm out for the snow to stick to the ground. The day after the snow had turned right back into typical Vancouver piss-rain. Right now however, it's snowing. For real snowing. I don't have my camera on me but trust me, I will get snow pictures up on here ASAP.

It doesn't usually snow like this in Vancouver. At least that's what I was told when I first moved here. It's snowed like this for 3 out of the four years that I've been here. Either someone has bene lying or some scientific person had better be taking note of this consistently abnormal weather. The problem with this dump of snow being atypical is that no one around these parts knows how to react to it.

Case in point: I have seen more emergency vehicles on the road in the last two days than I have all year.

No one knows how to drive in the snow. This includes bus drivers. Just yesterday people at my usual bus stop were caught waiting over an hour for a bus that usually arrives every 15 minutes. I was lucky, I only waited for ten, but I was sympathetic to the other commuters around me and let them board the crowded bus first. There were other bus drivers at the bus stop too because this was the stop where the shift change takes place. You never see more than two drivers at a time waiting for their bus to arrive. Yesterday there were five drivers waiting in the falling snow. One of them mentioned that her bus was supposed to arrive 45 minutes ago and that control just radioed her to say that she might have another 45 minute wait ahead of her.

The snow made headline news last night too. I'll bet people in Toronto are laughing their asses off at us. Imagine that. 4 inches of snow not only making the headline news but also prompting "updates on the situation" every half hour. People are sequestering themselves in their homes. If this snow continues throughout the weekend then I wouldn't be surprised if Monday is declared a snowday. That's because at this rate, we might have 2 feet *gasp* of snow by then.

I really should have worn boots today instead of my progressively leakier sneakers. I don't like the way my feet feel in my boots though. My head, on the other hand, is very well taken care of under the circumstances. I decided to take up crocheting and after getting the hang of it by crocheting a 6x6 in square I made myself a hat and put the bright pink flower pin that Lisa made for me in it. It's very cosy and very pretty. I've already gotten several compliments on it and the day's barely half over. Again, once I get my hands on the camera, I'm going to share my hat with the world. I'm very proud of it, the pattern was labelled "Advanced" but because I liked the way it looked, I went ahead and attempted it anyway. Turned out alright. I really want to thank Dot for the easy to follow pattern and the mind-blowingly helpful tutorial for the tricky bit.

Class is starting. Soon Carden will notice that I'm not paying attention to the class material. Seeing as how that might raise a few awkward questions, I'll leave off here.

posted by Joie! at 1:45 p.m.


Saturday, January 01, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________


Welcome to the New Year.

In the past year I have lost two jobs and found one amazing one. I have grown up and discovered who I am and who I want to be, for now at least. I have also perfected my low-carb chocolate cheesecake. I have earned an A in syntax (yeah, I'm as surprised as the next person) and an A in all of my other Linguistic courses. I have see Fort grow from a kitten that barely weighed four pounds to a BIG cat.

I have finally tried Vodka and discovered that I like it. I have called my paternal grandparents and although I'm pretty sure that both they and I are not entirely sure what the other was saying, we both appreciated the call. I have listened to over 2000 hours of Harry Potter (books 1 through 5) on audiobook and watched the third movie. I have solved all the clues behind the door on JK Rowling's Official site and discovered the next book's release date.

I have resolved to learn how to sing and dance the Numa Numa Song as well as do better at housekeeping. I think I will be able to accomplish the former, but not neccessarily the latter. Still on the topic of New Year's resolutions, I hope that the membership I intend to obtain from Curves will help me with attaining a smaller dress size and more energy.

Since Jim's Christmas present was a Beer Machine that makes 10L of beer in 10 days I don't think it would be realistic to include a better diet as part of my New Year's Resolutions. I might still try. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. *ahem*

In the past year I have learned how to make biscuits (not cookies, scones) and have also ended up throwing a batch of them at Jim. I have made more friends this year that I have in all my time in Canada. I have not thrown anything at them. I have yet to throw out all the notes from last term. I really should do that soon.

2005 can only be better than 2004. Blessings to all and have a better year than you could ever have expected.

posted by Joie! at 2:21 a.m.


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