Thursday, July 28, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Beach Barbeque Party 

Two days after I have returned from the conference and I've almost repaid my sleep debt.

Auditory-Visual Speech Processing (AVSP) 2005 was held in Parksville, B.C. at the beautiful Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre. The first lesson I learnt was that if I ever wanted to organize a conference, I shouldn't organize it at a beachside resort on one of the best weekends in the Summer. I doubt I ever witnessed full attendance at any of the talks/presentations. To be fair though, the topics were so diverse (from Linguistics to Computer Science to Electrical Engineering...and pretty much everything in between) that it might have just been the case that not everyone present was interested in everything there was to be said.

I myself skipped out of that one poster session where everyone was talking about their various talking head models. I'm interested in the capabilities for obvious research reasons, but I'm really not all that turned on by how to make them work, and I really didn't have anything useful to suggest by way of improvements to the various systems. The beach is gorgeous. It was low tide when I walked out and the water was ankle deep for at least half a mile. The fine sand underfoot was squishy. Tiny crabs, pikes and very pretty mollusks scuttled and darted to avoid my gait. The horizon held overlapping mountains covered in lush evergreens. I could've stayed there forever. No wait, I couldn't have because I wasn't supposed to pontang any of the talks. From what I gather, that isn't even the best beach on the Island. The best beach is Long Beach in Tofino, a scant drive from where we were. I guess it is just as well that we held the conference in Parksville and not Tofino. At least the talks and presentations were decently attended.

Two out of the three nights culminated in a Barbeque in Eric's log cabin (I shared a log cabin with Jolien, Nicole and Victor). The meat was alternately charred on the outside and raw on the inside (and on occassion, simultaneously) but no one noticed because most everybody was at least a little drunk. Understandably the cost of the conference did not support the sometimes gratuitous drinking habits of the attendees, but that was solved when a call for liquor money was put out. Everyone was encouraged to chip in $10 (more if they felt that they drank much more than that, teetotalers were exempt) and people were surprisingly receptive to the idea. Not having a particularly high tolerance for alcohol (as documented by this) I only drank two cans of beer and two bottles of cider (hardly worth $10). Eric even bought some lamb that was cooked rather rarer than I appreciated, but was very good nonetheless. Pity I missed the banquet prepared by the resort on the last night. Apparently the lamb was unsurpassed, but Neuropsych was calling again. Seeing as how I need 96% for this, I figured that a well plated lamb was a price I had to pay.

Speaking of exams that I wouldn't mind doing well in, I have a developmental psych (infancy) final tomorrow. Ending the entry here seems like I price I have to pay for a ncie grade (I got 90% in the last exam).

posted by Joie! at 11:16 a.m.


Thursday, July 14, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

I woke up frustrated again, unable in my dreams to walk from Robson Street to Takashimaya. Confused by why there wasn't a wax diorama of the Japanese invasion and the British surrender at the Royal BC Museum. Craving kueh lapis, but unable to find a Bangawan Solo on Granville Island.

Then suddenly in East Coast Park, with the sun setting at 3pm and bicycle tracks in fresh fallen snow. Then running for shelter past the steam clock in Gastown as pregnant rain drops threaten to flood from a stormy sky.

Can't find Yusof Hall on the UBC campus. Carden can't tell me when Doreen Goh is going to be in. Chekgu Rosiyah is telling me that I'm late for assembly, but I don't know how to get to the amphitheatre from the Speech lab. I panic a little when I realise that I've forgotten to bring my P.E. uniform, but can't imagine why I would need it for LING 317.

Is the Wisma fishtank supposed to be in the Vancouver Aquarium? What do you mean I can't have breakfast with Ah Meng in the Tswassen zoo? That's weird, the talking birds in this cage don't swear in Hokkien. The Musqueam art in Changi airport must be new, probably acquired at the same time that Stanley Park got that statue of Raffles.

Shaken, I seek the only person who can console me. I look everywhere, but he cannot be where he's never been. Behind me Fort and Gato fight over a writhing gecko's tail.

The mind is not made to traverse space so abruptly.

posted by Joie! at 11:48 a.m.


Monday, July 11, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Cats + Apartment - Fleas 


Jim and I have long decided that the flea situation in our apartment had to be dealt with. You're probably wondering how we have a flea problem seeing as how both our cats are strictly indoor cats. We noticed the problem start last summer (it abated in the winter so it's not like we put up with fleas for a full year or anything) and surmise that it could have been started with one of two things:

1. Fort's vist to the vet to get neutered (presumably the other animals being held at the vet's awaiting surgery passed the fleas on to him)

2. The mattress on our free futon (the lady that we got it from had a veritable menagerie which included an assortment of guinea pigs and three cats)

Unfortunately, a flea problem is not something that can be dealt with during a commercial break. For the uninitiated, dealing with a flea problem involves washing everything that can be placed in a washing machine, vacuuming all surfaces that lend themselves to be vacuumed and broadcast spraying of something that will most probably cause foetal defects.

Ahh. But that's just for the apartment. What about the cats? Well, after the apartment has been dealt with, just prior to the broadcast application of flea spray we have to flea spray the cats. (With a different spray, of course)

The instructions on the label made it seem easy enough: Covering your cat's eyes, apply spray to body and head until fur is damp (not wet) and use hands to rub spray into fur. So I ushered the cats into the bathroom while Jim was to take care of the broadcast spray. 10 minutes, a lot of blood (mine), two very angry cats and only two shots of flea spray dispensed on target later I was yelling at the bathroom door that it was most certainly a two person job.

15 minutes later, Jim and I conceded that it was probably a job for an experienced SWAT team, but seeing as how we didn't really have access to that, we bravely soldiered on.

See, cats really don't like to get wet. In fact, an effective deterrent to unwanted cat behaviour is a spray bottle filled with water. For example, if your cat is constantly jumping up onto your food prep surfaces and you think it's unsanitary, all you have to do is give them a few squirts from a spray bottle everytime you catch them and they'll stop jumping up on those surfaces when you're in the room. They'll still do it if they don't think you're in the room, but you get the idea. Adding to this mess of a situation is that the flea spray isn't exactly water-based. It's alcohol based, which means that the cats who have been scratching their bites are in for some stinging. Wow. Stinging wet action from a spray bottle. Whoever designed this stuff was NOT thinking about cats.

Oh, did I mention also that the spray was sticky after the alcohol evaporated?

Jim and I took turns restraining each cat while the other sprayed and rubbed. We each got a good idea of how sting-y this spray was because the cats were making damn sure that we had some raw areas too. Gato actually gave in after a brief fight and sulked in a corner, leaving us to deal with Fort. Based on yesterday's experiences, I'm prepared to say that Fort might just be the strongest cat in the world.

He broke two of his nails just clinging onto corners of cabinets and countertops. He managed to wriggle out of Jim's grips and grasps (not through clever manuvering but through brute force, mind) and his paw swipe was enough to knock the spray bottle out of my hand. Twice. Yesterday was also the first time Gato ever got to hear Fort growl. It was a long, low growl, pretty much the scariest thing I've heard all year (political speeches notwithstanding). In fact, it was so uncharacteristic of big-floppy-toy Fort that instead of cowering in her sulk corner she looked around and then approached Fort with a "Hey! No shit! Floppy toy boy can growl! Good for you buddy. Viva la resistance!". Great. Support for the rebellion.

Eventually we got the cats sprayed. We were so exhausted that neither of us thought to whip out the camera, which is a shame because they both looked like 80 punk rockers. It was the funniest thing in the world. Poor Fort was so traumatized by the experience that he hid under various bits of furniture for hours refusing to take treats from either Jim or I (he took some from Brian when he came over for dinner a little later). It was worth it though. Fort didn't scratch/groom himself all night. This stuff is working. I just hope that I'll never have to do it again.

posted by Joie! at 10:15 a.m.


Saturday, July 09, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Pissing Rain 

Piss rain sucks. Piss rain is what happens pretty much ALL WINTER LONG. And Fall. And Spring. So when Summer comes, please don't give me this piss rain bullshit.

But Vancouver weather is hardly ever obliging. For the past couple of weeks, despite the fact that it's officially summer, it's been piss rain in the mornings. Don't get me wrong guys. I love rain. REAL rain. The kind that comes down in large sloppy drops that splash into a high speed cameraman's wet dream. The kind where you count from when you see lightning so you know how far away it struck. The kind where if you're caught in it, umbrellas be damned, there's no running away from it. The kind that gives you a lame excuse to call in sick for work. The kind that you can smell before it arrives and again long after it's done, mmmm, that fresh, showered earth smell that cleans your insides if you take deep breaths. The kind which provides a nice backdrop that covers the noise of the city so that you can read and listen to nature nurturing itself. I miss monsoons in Singapore. Hell, I miss Singapore, but that's not really the point.

The point is that it doesn't rain for real in Vancouver, even though it's always bloody raining. Piss rain is rain that can't commit to being rain. It falls in sparse, cold drops. It wets your feet even though a small, foldable umbrella can take it on. It can't decide if it's started or stopped. It sure as hell can't affect the feel of the place, except to make everything grey, but as it is, it's no excuse to take the day off to enjoy it, because there's nothing to enjoy. In its aftermath everything's just vaguely muddy, everybody's just vaguely moist. Discomforted. Nothing more. Like a housefly you keep hearing buzzing against a window pane, only you haven't spotted it yet so you can't let it out.

Summer is supposed to be our reprise, but it's just another one of the Lower Mainland's broken promises. I mean, it's already late July, the solstice came and went a month ago, if we're not getting summer weather now, we're probably not going to get it for all that long this year.

I can't wait to move away from here. I can't believe that finally, for real, in less than a year I could well be experiencing a monsoon. Preferably on a bike, in East Coast Park, laughing and trying to find a shelter, but with no real conviction because hey, I'd already be as wet as I'm ever going to be.

posted by Joie! at 9:47 a.m.


Saturday, July 02, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________


Joie is still alive. But she is very busy. She will do that thing on Josh's blog once she can think of answers to all the categories. She was tempted to use that thing as an excuse to not study neurobiology (like she did with that music meme) but resisted. This is because she needs to get upwards of 93% in her next two exams in order to maintain her A average. This is remotely possible therefore she has to try.

A quick summary of things to date:

Dinner with Parents
Dinner with parents went fine. No speeches were made and only a few boundaries vaguely declared. Mostly spent with everybody consuming a fair amount of alcohol. Being driven home later by dad was slightly scary. Dad claimed that he was fully sober. Suuuuuuuurrrrrrrre.

Father's Day Dinner with Brian
BEST. DINNER. EVER. Jim, Brian and I went to Stonegrill (1661 Granville St, Vancouver B.C. (604)637-0388) which serves your dinner on slabs of volcanic granite heated to 400 °C. Your meat arrives unseasoned except for a pinch of salt on the side on your stone and you then proceed to cook it to your desired doneness bite by bite so that your entire meal is hot from start to finish and there's no one in the kitchen to re-interpret "medium-rare". There's roasted veggies, roasted potatoes and dipping sauce on the side. Not only was the main course superb, Jim and Brian both got set meals (+$14 to your main course) and the soup, salad, intermediate sorbet and desert (with tea or coffee) was a perfect compliment (so was the bottle of Shiraz Jim and I shared). Good food, good company, good wine. It was as perfect as a dinner could get. It's been two weeks since I've been and I still can't stop thinking about it.

Brian's kittens
Some time ago, this stray cat up and adopted Brian. No, that's not a typo. She (her name is Anamika - Hindi for 'the one with no name') appeared one day and decided that she would stay at Brian's. Not too long after Brian noticed that she was pregnant. Not yet knowing whether she belonged to someone else as well, he didn't allow her to have her litter in his house. Turns out she truly was a stray and a month after she had her kittens, Brian's landlord brought him a box of five, four week old kittens that were found in his attic. This weekend they're all old enough to go out to their new homes, but the last month's been really fun, watching them being kittens. The best part was noting their incredibly fast development over the short four weeks that they've been known to us. Of course I've fallen hard for one (a cute peaches and cream male that I've nicknamed Momotaro - incidently the only kitten that isn't claimed at this time) but we can't possibly have three cats. Or can we?

The Neuropsych Fiasco
57%. Yes ladies and Gentlemen, this is an all-time-low. I just didn't feel like studying and when I forced myself to sit with the textbook, the lines swam into each other and my brain refused to retain anything (if anything) my eyes were recording. I always tend to lose focus and motivation whenever my parents are near (like how Frodo's sword glows blue when orcs are near) and they struck again. Like I mentioned earlier I need 93% in the next two exams (the course has four exams, each worth 25% of the final grade) in order to maintain my very respectable A average.

On that note, I'm going to end here because goddamit, I gotta go study. Meanwhile, you guys can entertain yourself with my favourite Asian guys. It's a big file, so I apologize, but it's so worth it. I just can't believe how much I used to like that song. Damn, I hate that I'm part of the boyband generation. *shudder* Better than being teenagers of the 80's though. :P

posted by Joie! at 5:56 p.m.


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