Thursday, June 23, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Into Words 

Tomorrow I'm supposed to go to dinner with Jim and my parents to talk about the last two years. It's not really a sit-down and air our your issues session. In fact, we're having dinner at Las Margaritas which is one of Jim and I's favourite places to dine. My dad's even picking us up at our place (through their network of well placed informants they figured out where we were living long before I was telling people we moved) so that we can have a few drinks at dinner. I have a few qualms about going to dinner in one car, seeing as that limits my ability to walk out of dinner, but I still find it very difficult to say no to my dad.

Since I agreed to attending my Grandad's birthday party a while back, I've been invited for dinners and weekend parties. What I find disturbing about all of this is that I'm not cool with my parents. When I show up at their house, it has nothing to do with them. It's about my Grandad's birthday. My brother's birthday/graduation. Events that are around the people I love. They don't seem to get that. It seems like they think I'm cool with them, evidenced by their casual invitations to weeknight dinners that are not centred around anything in particular. The message I feel is being sent here (by me, if I accept these invitations and start hanging out at their house once or twice a week) is that I don't matter. That I can be treated any which way without anybody suffering any consequences. I don't want that to be the message. I want the message to be that I will no longer stand for any of that bullshit that made me move out and stop talking in the first place. Furthermore I want acknowledgement of said bullshit and ownership. We're not cool, we're not buddies. I want that clear.

With that in mind, I drafted a mini-speech that I was going to deliver over Friday's dinner. I've reproduced it here.

To my mother: I don't like the kind of person you are. You are not a genuine person. In fact, as I am saying these things, I can guarantee that you are marking choice phrases in your mind that you can repeat to your friends for sympathy and attention. I also don't like being near you because you like to deliver backhanded comments thinly veiled as jokes that are undermining. I value my free time very much and as such, I am not willing to spend my free time with you.

To my dad: You're cool. Right now. That's just the thing. Whether you're cool or not fluctuates dramatically and unpredictably. Not to mention, you're not around that much, so much of what I know about you comes from what mom tells me about you. What she tells me about you is completely dependent on what mood she's in. As we all know, her moods aren't exactly very stable. So I don't trust you because I still don't know who you are. Like I said, I value my free time, and I don't see any value in using any of that time to get to know you.

Note how the speeches are short and straightforward. Las Magaritas serves excellent alcoholic beverages so the speeches were crafted with the fact that we would all be slightly inebriated in mind. After my delivery, I was going to throw my napkin down on my plate and walk out. Short, simple, gets my point across. The only problem with this is that now our dinner plans include us not having our own car anyway. Plus, after I ran these speeches past Jim, he shut me down pretty quickly.

Don't get me wrong. Jim's really supportive of the fact that I want to establish my not coolness with my parents. He just doesn't think I should burn bridges in the process. Jim's also a huge advocate for postivity in resolution. He never thinks it's a good idea to make people suffer a little, regardless of whether they've made you suffer. He's a good guy, that kid, can be a little self-righteous, but alright.

So I'm not going to get to deliver my mini-speeches. Shame. I think they're quite well-crafted. All the same, Friday night's dinner isn't going to be all flowers and wine. I'm still going to let my not coolness be known and I'm currently working on a gentler angle with Jim. Alone, I doubt I can come up with anything nicer that the stuff I had already planned on saying. I just don't understand why there would be any benefit to cushioning the words I had planned on. The feelings that I have are still strong, I haven't forgottten and I'm not so sure I believe in acceptance. I think making my words less cutting will decrease their impact. Despite that, I also have to take into consideration respect for Jim, in that he didn't approve the speech and that he will be in a nasty position if I do deliver it over dinner.

posted by Joie! at 11:07 a.m.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Not Funny Yet 

This guide might be a hoax. I seriously hope it's for real, not because I wish this sort of attitudes on generations before me, but for the simple reason that it is never okay to poke fun at the fact that men and women are not equal. This will only be a funny joke the day there is gender equality. Fuck.

posted by Joie! at 5:23 p.m.


Saturday, June 11, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Gearing up for the GRE 

The Graduate Record Examination is ironically best taken right after you've exited high school. Not during your last year of your undergrad degree. The main reason for this is that the Math section contains all the math that you encountered in high school and that was left to rot while you were taking Psych 100. In my years at UBC I've only taken one math course (because it was easier than 'O' level A math...I didn't study and got an A in a class whose average was 54%) and even that was calculus, a subject that doesn't feature heavily on the GRE anyway.

I'm cautiously optimistic about how I'm going to perform on the GRE. For one thing, I'm not scheduled to take it until Sept 10th. Oh gosh. I just realised that I signed up for the GRE on the day after my birthday. Oh fan-fucking-tastic. I didn't think twice about it until I typed the date right now. For the first time in years my birthday (21st at that!) is falling on a Friday. What do I do about it? Schedule a major test for the next day. Bye bye party plans. Stupid. I digress.

I scheduled it for the first weekend after school starts because that's when there isn't much mayhem and it gives me all summer to study for it. Especially that little bit at the end of August where I'm done all my summer classes and have nothing else to study for. I've already ordered two prep books from and an online prep course from I don't expect preparations for the GRE to be painful, mainly because I did pretty good at E math in sec school. Not to mention this is something I'm really psyched about because I've done well on standardized tests in the past (qualifying for GEP and Mensa) and a good score opens up more possibilities than my current average will afford. Right now I'm salivating over the Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences Dept. in Brown University and if all goes well, I might have a good shot.

If anyone wants to share my login for (it's valid for 365 days starting today) email me and we'll talk. I'm still not sure if the system is condusive for sharing, but if it is, I would like to. I say take it even if you're not considering grad school because the scores are good for 5 years and I think your age is considered (the younger the better) when you take the test. I could be wrong, but then again, I might be dead right. :P

The scariest thing about the GRE is how much strategy is a factor in test taking. Yes Ladies and Gentlemen, strategy. For one thing it's a 4 hour ordeal. Can you remember the last time you had to take a 4 hour exam? How about NEVER! Despite all that time spent taking the test, all your given answers are final (you cannot look back at a question after you've given an answer), you cannot skip questions (same reason as the above paranthesis), blank answers incur a double penalty (so it's better to give a wrong answer than leave it blank, and it's crucial that you don't run out of time) and the test is customized based on whether or not you answer questions correctly. The last point is a little complicated so I'm going to explain it further. If you answer the first question right, you will be directed to a harder question, if not, an easier one. If you answer the second question right, you will be directed to a harder question, if not, an easier one. So on and so forth. In this way, the first few questions you answer determine how difficult a test you are administered and the bulk of your score (like the SATs, the GRE is out of 800). This graph, taken from illustrates the point:

Get those first questions right! The blue graph shows a student who got the first 8 questions right and the remainder wrong and the red graph show a student who got the first 8 questions wrong and the remainder right. The blue student scores much higher, despite answering fewer questions correctly.

There you have it folks, this is what I'm going to be doing with my summer. Please get in touch with me if you're wrestling with the GRE too. I would love to have someone to talk to along the way.

posted by Joie! at 7:11 p.m.


Sunday, June 05, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Back in the U.S.S.R. 

It has been a while since I've been able to visit the States. The border might only be an hour's drive away from where I live but without my passport and papers I haven't exactly been able to cross it. This lack of documentation caused me to miss Jim's Mom's wedding, deprived me of cross-border factory outlet shopping and limited our vacation options. Not that there was anything wrong with our trip to Victoria but all the same, it would have been nice to have more options.

The second I consented to talking to my parents again I asked for my legal documents. Yesterday I was able to use them for the first time in a couple years.

It wasn't a day trip, we really just went to visit Jim's mom in the late afternoon and stay for dinner. It was my first time to her new place and it was so awesome. The house is located in a gated community with strictly enforced 30kmph (20mph for those Yankees) speed limits. Is the US the last place that has yet to switch to metric? Seriously! I mean petrol is bought in gallons, speed limits are in miles I don't understand the resistance. Metric makes so much more sense. I guess this isn't the first things about Americans that is rather stupid.

Anyways, back to the house. It's in a gated community by a beach that opens out into the Pacific. While her house is not on the ocean, there is a pond in the backyard that hosts families of ducks, a beaver or two and alot of cute fish. Visitors to her backyard also include bunnies (apparently the community have dozens of bunnies) and really interesting birds. Interesting to me at least, I'm still not used to the birds that you can find here. The best part about the house is that Lynne's offered to let Jim and I stay on weekends whenever we want to get away. I'm definitely planning a weekend around that. The place is about a two hours drive from Seattle and just a stone's throw from Bellingham (factory outlet!) so it will be well appreciated. I just love the freedom my passport is affording me!

I'll just take this moment to answer a question Puja posed to me. Considering that my final answer was for her to call the American Consulate, she might already know this, provided that the Americans that staff the consulate near where she is are more competent than the ones that staff the Vancouver branch. See when I called the consulate all they could tell me that because I had Permanent Resident (PR) status I needed a visa to get into the States. However, if I were just a Singaporean on holiday, I wouldn't. A visa costs $100USD which was way more than I was willing to bear just to cross the border.

Then I asked me dad (more recently, of course). Due to the fact that Singapore is a participating country in the Visa Waiver Program all I need to do at the border is present my passport and fill out a Visa Waiver form. They take the prints off both my index fingers, my photograph and $6USD of my money. Now I'm free to cross the border for 90 days. For vists longer than 90 days, then you will need a visa. After the 90 days has expired, all you have to do is fill out another Visa Waiver form and shell out another $6USD. So the Americans on my side couldn't tell me this, but there you go. For any of you who are wanting to visit the States now you know what to do. No $100USD. Just $6USD.

Once we got to Lynne's we took a walk to the beach. It was one of those rocky beaches, not sandy, with alot of seaweed and kelp. The Pacific was very cold but it felt good against my feet in their sandals. Always one to make the most out of every situation, I started looking for nice rocks. I have this thing for nice rocks. They have to be a nice smooth shape and an interesting colour. I have a white rock speckled with black-grey (dalmatian looking rock) that's a nice spheroid (I learnt what a "spheroid" was from Jeopardy) that sits satisfyingly in your palm. I also have a yellow one with dark purple dots. No really. I was surprised to find it. All in all I must've brought back at least 5lbs (~2kg) of rocks. I'm soaking them right now and changing the water every day. After a week they will be safe to introduce into a fresh water fish tank. Although I don't have fish in my fish tank right now, it doesn't mean I can't have a rock garden. I just want the rocks to be safe so that when I eventually do want to add fish I will be able to with minimal trouble. (Right now my fish tank is clean with gravel in it, a filter and a heater. No water.)

For dinner I whipped up a really good "Greek" salad. I have the word Greek in quotations because the only thing Greek about it was the feta cheese that I added right at the end. For the recipe, see below. Jim grilled New York strip steaks with fresh oregano from the garden. We enjoyed the whole meal with some really good red wine that, interestly enough, was available for purchase at a gas station. Ah...those wacky Yankees. After dinner we played Chinese checkers (man, haven't played that in a damn long time) and Scrabble (which was an excruciating game). Exhausted and satisfied we finally left Lynne's at about 8:30pm.

So that was my first sojourn into the States in almost three years. I had fun, and I can't wait to go back. Afterall, my Visa Wavier does last all Summer.

Joie's "Greek" Salad
Red Capsicum (Pepper)
English Cucumber
Sweet Onion (White or Red)
Feta Cheese
Salt & Pepper

1. Chop all the veggies into chunks. The size of the chunks depends completely on (a) how much work you are willing to put in and (b) how chunky you want your salad.

2. Melt the butter in a pan over high heat. It's a good thing if some of the butter solids burn a little and turn brown. It's a bad thing if this happens to all the butter. Toss in the chopped garlic (the more the merrier I say) and sauté over medium until most of (90%) the garlic is browned. If using an electric stove, turn off the element but leave the pan on for another minute or two to let the rest of the garlic brown. If using gas stove, just brown garlic and remove from heat.

3. Toss the veggies with the butter, garlic and feta cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Voilá!

posted by Joie! at 9:19 a.m.


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