Friday, September 29, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

What the Hell Just Happened? 

So I get home, a post about how the word feminism has negative connotations despite it still being a relevant and important movement especially today slowly developing and I decide to visit Feministe for some materials and links to furnish my post with. In the background, I have the TV on, partly to watch Dr. Phil partly to glean the news headlines from the short "watch the news at 6" clips that are peppered throughout the various advertisements. I also have Google News open in another tab, scaning to see if there are any relevant news items I can pull into my post. There's nothing big and obvious in the headlines to suggest that anything exciting has happened. Certainly nothing to suggest that America has officially ceased to be a democracy as of today.

I'm going to give you some time to let that thought sink in.

If you think about it, it's not as if this was completely unforseen. A recent Daily Show with Jon Stewart has a short segment on who is not comparing Bush to Hitler:

Another video draws siginificant parallels between Bush and Hitler in a striking 5 minute piece:

How did this happen? If you're relying on the conventional news sources to tell you about it, you're shit out of luck. The main page on CNN.com doesn't even mention the bill. All I've managed to turn up are pieces on a new "Anti-Terrorism Bill" that passed today. According to ABC News, "[t]he overall bill would prohibit war crimes and define such atrocities as rape and torture but otherwise would allow the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions, the treaty that sets standards for the treatment of war prisoners." (I should mention that the story is hidden below a bevy of other stories on the main ABC news website. It is not featured in a position of prominence.) That's all the article says about the bill.

I had to look to an opinion piece in the New York Times for more specifics about this new bill. Basically in addition to allowing all sorts of human rights violations ("allow[ing] the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions" as ABC News so put it means that Bush is now officially allowed to ignore the Geneva Convention), the bill also makes it legal for the current president to act without the approval of Congress or the Courts.

Sorry what?

Blogger Tristero on Hullabaloo has written up a piece on the implications of this bill. I strongly encourage you to go read it. Meanwhile, welcome to the newest dictatorship this side of the Pacific.

Edit: more information -

More to do:
- Read the bill (Section 7, page 81).
-This blog post tracks the amendments made to the original bill with some commentary.


posted by Joie! at 3:27 PM

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

It's That Time of the Year Again! 

Every year, when the weather is giving us a preview of full-blown winter, I get the urge to take up knitting again. I crochet, which is great for hats and decorative, lacy scarves but not really for sweaters, garments and mittens. Not to mention you can't avoid bumping into all the great knitting patterns out there on the internet while looking through the paltry crochet resources. Plus, knitting is so much more complex, so much more versatile, so much more beautiful.

So every year I buy a new pair of knitting needles (because inevitably there's only one needle left of previous pairs I've bought - and the singles don't match each other), a ball of yarn and try to learn to knit. Every year I find knitting impossibly slow, finicky and Not Worth the Effort. I put away the needles and turn the yarn into a crochet hat. Which is stupid, because I don't wear hats.

For my birthday this year, I asked for knitting lessons because a particularly arresting project caught my attention. I really wanted it. I started to become obsessed with it. I knew that on my own, there was no way I would learn to knit. I mean the best way to predict the future is to look to the past right? Having painfully knit two incredibly ugly scarves it was clear that I had the basics right but that I was doing something wrong. That being the case, I wasn't easily classifiable into either a "beginner" or an "advanced" class. Private lessons were expensive. What if I just failed again? Finally, I decided to ask the person who runs my LYS what course of action she thinks I should take. She offers to show me how to knit up front and go from there.

So she picks up these GIANT needles and rope-like yarn and starts to knit really slowly. -Hey wait! I don't knit like that! What the hell?!- Turns out, I was knitting into the back loop, instead of doing a plain ol' knit stitch. Knitting into the back loop produces a very tight stitch, which explains why knitting was so frustrating for me. Tight stitches = hard to slide stitches off needles = non-fluid movement + occassionally pulling too hard and yanking more than one stitch off the needle dropping them all. I bought a pair of needles, three balls of yarn and kicked off my annual ritual. For extra insurance, I also picked up a copy of the The Knitter's Handbook (a Stitch 'n Bitch book by Debbie Stoller). I figured I could return it in the event of another failure. Besides, my employee discount made it a very reasonable purchase.

For this endeavour I decided to use the series of dishcloth patterns in this issue of Knitty. These 7 patterns are arranged in order starting with the easiest to the hardest - perfect for a learner!

Ladies and Gentlemen: I can knit - and I happen to be damn good at it.










Purty innit?


posted by Joie! at 7:50 PM

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Saturday, September 16, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

My Manifesto 

Today's Isaac's 14th birthday. Count it! This kid is taller than me now, and his voice has broken. I'm going over later to celebrate his birthday with him. It's probably going to be a Gamecube 4-player fest with his classmates, Jon, Jim and I. Mom's using this as an opportunity for her friends to throw her a "going away party" because she's scheduled to travel in luxury for the next little while. Just so we're clear, mom's throwing herself a going away party and inviting her friends. She says it's because her friends were talking about giving her one. Sure. Whatever.

This will be the last time I see mom before she leaves on Monday. This being the case, I'm supposed to come to this party with a gift for dad. His birthday was in August. The story surrounding this is kinda complicated so I'll do my best to relate it as succintly as possible.

I forgot dad's birthday - plain and simple. I was running around trying to get my application into the University of Melbourne, freaking out about whether I would be able to pay for it in the event that I don't receive an an adequate scholarship (or indeed a scholarship at all...). I was mired in a job search, simultaneously worrying about when I could get myself out of this apartment (read about my accepting the apartment here) because my dad finally revealed that the only reason I was offered the apartment is because he saw that Jim and I evidently are unable to support ourselves without resorting to living in dangerous hellholes and not (as I assumed) because he was accepting of our relationship and my status as a person unto myself. Oh and that we would continue living in dumps because Jim's a loser that I should dump because I could do better.

FYI, just so we're clear, Jim and I have made it a point to live in nice neighbourhoods, large apartments (the last place was twice as big as the one I'm living in now) and most importantly, we've been able to afford the luxuries that matter to us, like satellite TV, which we had to give up to move to this place. His argument for "Jim's a loser" goes something along the lines of: "Oh c'mon Jo! He can't even stand on his own two feet!" I suppose supporting me through the last three years of my post secondary education counts as being unable to stand on one's own two feet. Ah! Dad counters, "Yah, but he's working at a dead end job - I mean his dad is still working at that job like that right?" (1) Jim's job = steady income when we needed it. Now that he's free to go back to school, he's already registered to get out of there. (2) Brian's job is as a CNC machinist something you need to hold a degree to do. It's a highly skilled position that is incredibly in demand in N. America (and in most other parts of the world, as I understand it). See the problem with dad is that he isn't interested in listening to me, or even looking at situation I am in. He'd rather stick by his impressions which he has formed by being out of the country for most of the year (and not really interacting with me while I am around). So I don't want to live in his apartment, because it's just reinforcing his notion that I need him to get along, even though I thought I've proven that I'm already able to just fine. Oh and while he was busy forming opinions with no real basis, he has decided that he really hates Jim. As a result, his followers (i.e. mom and her parents) have also decided to dislike Jim on the grounds that he is a stupid loser.

I digress. So I forgot it was dad's birthday, mom was trying to get in touch with me because she was throwing a surprise party for him (mom on a subsequent guilt trip: "You know, he was really disappointed that you weren't there. He wanted to see you, and just you, you know what I mean." - In case you don't "know what she means" she meant that Jim wasn't invited.) but I didn't get her voicemail until two days later (which is not an excuse, it is something that happens with my service provider). y grandad calls me the next day and in a voice that you would use only with the extremely sick or dying says, "do you know yesterday's date?" Ahh fuck. So I call dad and pretend that I think I'm calling on his birthday and that it wasn't that I forgot but really that because I had just returned from a Trans-Pacific trip that I had my dates mixed up. I thought that was adequate. My grandparents however, seem to think that I owe my dad a birthday present.

Seriously, what the fuck do you get for a guy who has everything? On a month where you just dropped $900 on strata council fees for an apartment he owns? FYI, I only got $60 from him for -my- birthday. In case anyone's counting, 60 x 15 = 900. Apparently though, I should still get him something "yi si, yi si only", because that's what a "good daughter" would do. I think my grandma's exact words (translated from Hokkien) is that "like that then is a good daughter" - implying that I wouldn't be one otherwise. Needless to say, despite the fact that today is the last day I can hand mom a gift for dad's birthday, I haven't bought anything. Nor do I intend to. He's a big enough bastard on his own without my approval.

So my manifesto:

My actions and behaviour are held only to my own standards and no one else's. I will be the sole determining entity when it comes to value judgements such as being a "good daughter" and a "good person". Contrary to the popular belief that is floating around, blood ties do not obligate me to anything. Even dogs can fuck. If parents or anybody else for that matter wants to invoke an arbitrary relationship as reason for me to treat them better than I would others who have treated me as they have, they can go fuck themselves. Or some dogs, their choice. Nobody who doesn't treat me nice gets treated nice by me. All of you (you know who you are) who treat me nice, you are welcome to use my newfound employee discount on books. So there.


posted by Joie! at 1:08 PM

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Thursday, September 14, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

"Really? You have NO accent!" 

I was in a discussion group recently where we were talking about speech production and the body's involvement. So you know, it's easy to walk and talk, but not run and talk and it's difficult to walk and yell and damn near impossible to run and yell. Try it if you don't believe me. And if you have to try it to know this is true, you are a very, very strange person. I'd like to meet you. Email me.

To supplement the discussion I decided to bring up the fact I would routinely have to do body loosening excercises alongside vocal warm-up excercises at choir and that I had a conductor who wouldn't allow us to sit and sing. I added, "I had a fascist conductor." To which Eric replied, "Of course you did, you're from Singapore."

After class I was milling around, talking to the new Linguistics Ph.D candidate Eric's supervising and he said, "So are you really from Singapore? When did you move here?"

Me: "When I was 16."
Him: "9-10 years ago?"
Me: "Closer to 5."
Him: "WOW, but...but like, but you have no accent."

I replied with my usual "it depends on who I'm talking to, how sober I am, my mother was an ardent supporter of 'proper' (and by her standards, proper=non-Singaporean) English, yadda yadda yadda". Let's just recall my thoughts on a Proper English Accent from a previous post (here I'm talking about why my original ambition to be an accent coach doesn't align with my morals anymore):

The problem now though, was that I didn't believe in accent coaching anymore. Accent coaching comes out of a very eurocentric view that the only proper varieties of English are the ones that are spoken by people who are vaguely identified as "white". I remember my mother trying to push "British" English on us, making annoyed clucking sounds when we spoke like Singaporeans, which is frankly ridiculous because having a Singaporean accent and being extremely fluent in English are not mutually exclusive. Besides, what is "British" English? The Beatles' English? The English that is parlayed by the Samoan barkeep (or indeed any of the other characters) in Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels? How about the mumble-grumblings that Brad Pitt so effectively spouts in Snatch? Worst of all, could she want us to sound like various characters in Frasier? Maybe she would've just settled for the cheap, working class drawl of the ladies in Absolutely Fabulous (which is an absolutely horrible show, IMHO). Accent coaches just play into the public masturbatory idea that white is ideal, no matter how poorly defined "white" is.

"Look at me! I don't speak like I'm from where I was born and raised! Aren't I so smart?" - Look buddy, you won't even make it on Letterman's Stupid Pet Trick segment.

This time though, his comments really bothered me. As a Ph.D Linguistics I don't doubt for a second that he is extremely sensitive to the varieties of English out there. I also don't think that there was an explicit value judgement when he said those words. However, I couldn't help but feel that he was impressed that I sounded like a "Native English Speaker" or at least the variety that we allow as subjects on our experiments (i.e. Standard N. American English, which if you think about it is a hard definition to pin down, but as speech perception researchers you just have to make do - I mean our stimuli was recorded by a Japanese-English billingual for crying out loud...as in she has American parents but spent most of her life in Japan. Eric's daughter, in case you're wondering). Having said that I don't think there was an explicit value judgement though, I'm willing to put good money on that there certainly was an implicit value judgement. One that is so subtle that even the most politically correct person would make it before their social conscience had the opportunity to stop them.

Maybe I'm being unfair to Mark. Maybe the reason this is such a sore spot is because on my recent trip back to Singapore, the government wanted to employ people from "English speaking nations" to teach English in our schools, clearly valuing "non-Singaporean" English over Singaporean and making the assumption that non-Singaporean instruction is better than the local variety. Let me make this clear. When I moved here, I was allowed into the second half of their final year of secondary education (think entering JC2 in July). That week I made the debate team and went on to represent the Lower Mainland (the most populous area in the province) at the provincial debates. The first English lesson I attended was on "How To Write an Essay". The first English Literature lesson I attended was stil discussing things like "alliteration". By the end of the month, my English teacher was asking permission to read my essays and short stories aloud to the class. The drama teacher was asking me to give a short talk on playwriting.

You want these clowns to come teach us? It looks like we should be sending teachers over there to learn them a thing or two. Here I am, a Singaporean, kicking these Native English Speakers' asses in English. By all measures, my English was better than theirs. Let me remind you that I was 16 and they were 18. Not that anyone's counting.

I was gearing up to write a letter to the Straits Times about the issue. I felt that we were making ourselves look stupid by valuing overseas English and English instruction while neglecting the excellent teachers we already have here on our own soil. Perhaps we should be looking to the English teachers in Singapore who are doing things right, and have them share their methods with the teachers who are prompting politicians to seek ang mohs who at the age of 18 were barely able to scrape together a 500 word essay on a topic of their choice. But if you think about it, letters to the ST are futile. If they do end up printing it, all I'm going to get in return is citizen apathy and a possible black mark next to my name. It turns out, however that someone has already said everything that I wanted to say in my letter succintly and humourously. I present to you Ruby Pan (whose name is really familiar - someone help me out, why would I know her?):



On a completely different note, here's another recipe:

Red Clam Rotini
1 can baby clams (drained, reserve the liquid)
1 can (5oz) tomato paste
300g fresh tomatoes (chopped)
Garlic (chopped)
~100g dried Rotini (cooked)
~1 tbsp Dried Basil
~2 tbsp Chilli Flakes (optional)
~2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese

1. Saute the Garlic (I would use as much as you like, I used as much as I had in the kitchen). When slightly browned, add the chopped tomatoes and clams.
2. When mixture is fragrant and tomatoes are out of their skins add the reserved clam juice, tomato paste, chilli flakes and basil.
3. Cook over medium heat until the consistency is where you want it. Add rotini. Serve with parmesan cheese.


posted by Joie! at 11:09 AM

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

Why No Easy Money?! 

This disclaimer before I launch into this post: I realise that this time I've been really lucky w.r.t. my job search. Two jobs in as many weeks in places where I want to work.

BUT

Dear God, why can't I earn easy money?! Seriously. I'm currently employed as a TA with UBC for a 100 level course. Should be a piece of cake right? Wrong! Just so happens it's a 100 level course as conceived by Eric. For reference, he initially wanted to make it a 400 level course, but decided against it because by the upper levels there aren't that many people who need general credits.

It's been one day since the first assignment was posted. It's due on Friday (assignments due this close to the start of term are unheard of in a first year course, btw) and the emails from students have been POURING in. All of the emails are along the lines of "Can you help pls? I did not understand the article. P.S. How do you do the assignment?" *mutter* Jesus tit-fucking Christ *mutter* The kicker is that I agree that the assignment is rather tough and that frankly, if it were presented to me, I would not have a clear idea on how to complete it. Not that I can say that in response to the flood of emails asking for help that cannot easily be provided in written correspondence. The ideal solution to this would be to have the student attend our office hours to ask us clarification questions in person. The only problem with that is that in order to deter last-minute assignment work (which, let's face it, everyone completes their assignments as late as humanly possible) TA office hours are scheduled for early in the week (meaning there are no more office hours left this week between now and when the assignment is due). ohmygodohmygodohmygod The last thing you want now is disgruntled students yelling about how they are dropped into the deep end with no swimming instructions.

The hope is that the truly hopeless will drop the course while they are able to so we don't have to deal with them for the rest of the course.

Goddamn, why couldn't I TA something retarded like Psychology 100 (read: the only assignment is a 5 page essay through which the students' hands are held, the exams/mid-terms are all multiple-choice/fill-in-the-blank)?!

That being said, having to TA the course I am (I'm not including the name of the course here in case some kid googles it and finds my contraband opinions) is really really cool. I wouldn't attend the course otherwise, and it's one of those courses that I think everyone should have to take as part of their post-secondary education. My only complaint would be that you can't really count on it for an easy A but then again, if you think about it, that's a really, really, really lame complaint.

My other job starts tomorrow. A minimum wage excercise in customer service. The reason I applied there is that I'm hired on a contractual basis (I can bail if U of Melbourne decides that they want to fund me as a student) and that the employee discount will more than make up for the minimum-wage-iness of the job. That being said, I have no idea what the employee discount is like. I expect odd hours and weekend shifts, but I'm sure that this will not be worse than any other customer service positions. Think about it, in a bookstore there are no messes to clean up (unlike in a grocery store), there are no customers who are upset that they are patrons but are unable to remove themselves from the establishment (ala casino) and no crazies telling you why you work for the devil (ok, I'm not sure that I can avoid unpredicatable crazies...but I know that unlike my previous positions, no one can give me a lecture on why I shouldn't work for a company that (a)sells meat products or (b)relishes in promoting a serious addiction). Yes, I did get a lecture about the GROCERY STORE carrying MEAT and DAIRY. Go figure. Maybe that person was just lonely and needed someone - anyone - to talk to.

On a completely different note, I made an AMAZING soup tonight (if I may say so myself). Recipe follows.

Sweet, Sweet Soup

Pork marinated in cumin, mexican chilli powder, cinnamon, salt and maple syrup
Butternut squash - skinned and cubed
Apples - skinned and cubed
Onion - diced
Carrots - diced
Chicken stock (diluted with equal parts water)
Dried parsley

1. Saute the onions and carrots in 2tbsp oil.
2. When the onions are fragrant, add pork and all the marinade. (Note on the marinade: when prepared, the syrup should just coat the pork. The pork should not be swimming in syrup.) Cook the pork on all sides.
3. Add the squash and the apples. Pour in diluted chicken stock. Bring to boil and simmer until squash and apples are soft.
4. With a potato masher mash everything you can. It's good if it's a little chunky. Add the parsley.

Because I didn't measure anything, I can't provide quantities. Although I can say that there should be equal parts apple and squash and that there should be as much pork as there is apple and squash combined (by volume). Spices in the marinade should be used so that you can smell them after mixing, but the smell should not be strong. There should be enough stock and water to cover the ingredients in the pot.

Goddamn the soup is good. :)


posted by Joie! at 8:18 PM

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Saturday, September 09, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

Not for Another 11 Years... 

...will my age have two identical digits in it. Hello everyone! It's my birthday! And because it is, I'm going to blog about whatever the hell I want. I know, I really should post all about the two month vacation that I had and I promise, those entries, complete with pictures will be published (eventually) and backdated for your convenience. To help everyone keep track, I've got a little sidebar thing that links to all the relevant holiday posts. There's only one right now, but hey, it's a start, right?

Birthdays are all about having fun and not having to act your age. With that in mind, may I present for your perusal the Dildo song!

But every girl needs something to think about when using a dildo - it's not just about the physical sensations. How about some practically naked (they're wearing fig leaves) dancing guys? I think that'd do.

Wasn't that just great? Songs like that make me happy. But why limit ourselves to the dancing Japanese? Ze Germans dance too - happy happy dance. (This next one made me giggle so hard that had I been drinking milk, it would've come out my nose. *hee hee hee*)

It would not be fair to showcase all this musical talent without acknowledging the talents of the brave and courageous men over in Iraq. With that, I present to you the British troops in their very own music video:

Gotta love those Brits. To wrap things up, I'm going to leave you with another video made by those resilient British (who at one point in history damn near controlled the known world, and then realised that they couldn't quite handle the responsibility, but that's beside the point...). This video makes me smile. I'd like to have tea and scones with this guy.

Doesn't that leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling? :)

If none of these made you smile, you might want to stop using so much Botox. Love you all, will blog properly eventually.


posted by Joie! at 11:56 PM

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