January 31, 2005

Iraqi Election...
(I did have more written, but then the window froze and I lost everything)
The Iraqi election was held over the weekend. There was about a 60% voter turnout, despite the threat of death from suicide bombers. In fact, 44 civilians were killed on election day. It's interesting that more Iraqis turned out to vote, than did Americans in their last federal election. Hmmmm...
Also of note, there were 7,761 candidates on the Iraqi ballot, vying for 275 seats. Imagine trying to find your one candidate, and then having to count all those ballots!

January 30, 2005

A Very Long Engagement...
I'm not talking about people I know who are getting married (although I found out that another girl I graduated with a few years back is engaged), instead I'm talking about the movie.
A Very Long Engagement (or Un Long Dimanche de Fiancailles in French), is a French film that is about a 19 year old lady who's fiancé has gone off to fight in the First World War. It's based on a book written by Sebastien Japriscot. I don't want to give too much away, because there are a lot of plots twists and turns.
It's quite frankly an amazing movie. It was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, and I can easily see why. It's a love story, an anti-war story, and a mystery. The scenes from the trenches were so incredibly realistic, it brought back memories of seeing some of the WWI sites in France.
It was filmed by Jeunet, who also filmed Amélie. Audrey Tautou is in it (also from Amélie, and who'll be in The DaVinci Code when it's filmed), and so is Jodie Foster. Jodie Foster speaks French in the movie, and without any accent. I've heard before that she's fluent in French.

January 26, 2005

Crazy Frenchman...
A 48-year old Frenchman went missing for 35 days, and he was just found barely alive a few days ago. On December 18th, he left his house, saying that he was depressed and wanting to be alone for a bit. He took a bottle of whisky with him, and left for a deserted mushroom farm that had a lot of underground tunnels. He evidently got lost in the tunnels, and couldn't find his way out! He survived by eating clay and wood, and by drinking water that was dripping off the walls.

January 25, 2005

Happy Robbie Burns Day...
In case you weren't aware, today is Robbie Burns Day. Robert Burns is the famous Scottish poet, and every 25th of January, people all around the world celebrate his life and poetry.
A typical Robbie Burns ceremony goes something like this:
-Pipe in the guests
-Chairmans welcome address (in English with a few words in Gaelic)
-Selkirk Grace
-Piping in of the haggis, and reading of 'Ode to a Haggis' by Robert Burns
-Toast to the haggis
-The meal -including bashed neeps and tatties, as well as haggis
-Entertainment -like a traditional caleigh, with live music, and dancing

And, for your reading pleasure, here's 'Ode to a Haggis' by Robert Burns:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

January 24, 2005

Mexican Food...
I went to the States yesterday for Mexican food, which was good as always (taco chips with fresh salsa, chicken enchiladas, refried beans, and rice). But the cool thing was that I tried fried ice cream for dessert! I know it sounds gross, but I actually thought it was pretty good. The coating was a bit chewy, and a bit crunchy. I don't actually know what it was made of, but I'd definitely try it again.

January 22, 2005

Thinkers Anonymous...
It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then -- to loosen up. Inevitably,though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker. I began to think alone -- "to relax," I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. That was when things began to sour at home. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's. I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself. I began to avoid friends at lunch time so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"
One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job." This gave me a lot to think about. I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking ..." "I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"
"But Honey, surely it's not that serious." "It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as college professors, and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking, we won't have any money!"
"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently. She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama.
"I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors... They
didn't open. The library was closed. To this day I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night.
As I sank to the ground, clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's Anonymous poster. Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting.
At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed ... easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking. I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me.
Today, I registered to vote Republican.

January 21, 2005

On The Amazing Race this week, the annoying couple (Jonathan and Victoria) finally lost! Jonathan was incredibly annoying, because he was always yelling at his wife, and blaming her for everything that he did wrong. It was a bit scary to see how abusive he was.
Yesterday was the start of The Apprentice with Donald Trump. This season is kind of interesting, because the one team all have University degrees, while the other team only has high school diplomas. What's interesting though is that collectively, the high school diploma group, which has an equivalent IQ and age to the University group, makes about three times more money. The high school grads beat the university grads in last night's challenge.

January 19, 2005

Rain, rain, rain...
After it being freezing cold here, and having snow on the ground for a whole week, it's finally started to rain again. And, along with the rain, comes the warmer weather! In fact, it's so warm that I could probably wear a t-shirt outside during the day, and not freeze to death. There's some tropical winds that are blowing up from the south, and over from Hawaii. They call it the Pineapple Express.
We've actually had so much rain and wind that there has been some flooding. Our power even went out at home for 2 hours this morning.

January 17, 2005

Passed Away...
I just got a letter from the Margaret's niece, an old family friend. It turns out that Margaret passed away in November. Margaret and my grandmother were best friends back in their early 20's (they were both Scottish and worked at Emerald Lake in the Rocky Mountains). My grandmother passed away of cancer before I was born, and so Margaret became my sister's godmother.
We used to visit her every Christmas, in Vancouver. All of us looked forward to the visits. She went blind at a very young age, and the doctors believe that it was a virus from unpasturized milk. I remember that she could recite the Lord's Prayer in Gaelic (the language in Scotland, before English).
I was quite shocked when I learned that she had passed on, and am sad that I wasn't able to attend her funeral.

January 15, 2005

The Homunculus...
We learned about a funky (now defunct) theory in Developmental Biology this week, called the Preformation Theory. Basically, in the 1800's people thought that we were preformed, meaning that we were fully formed in our fathers' sperm. This "mini-me" was called the "homunculus".

Scientists believe that the homunculus in the sperm just needed to be implanted in an egg, which acted like soil for the growth of the human. It's interesting to learn about some of the old theories, that people thought were true for many years. It makes you wonder about some of the things we believe now...

January 14, 2005

Thai Princess Visits Vancouver...
One of the Thai princesses, Chulabhorn, is in Vancouver at the moment on vacation. She's staying at an expensive hotel in Vancouver, and is planning on going skiing at Whistler.
I don't care if she decides to vacation here or not (although I'm glad that she likes this region of the world -she's been here several times before), but the timing of her vacation isn't the best. There's still finding bodies of people on the beaches in Thailand, and she's having mineral water steamed veggies after skiing.
On a related note, I found out yesterday that a friend of mine had family and friends of friends in Sri Lanka that got swept out to sea during the tsunami.

January 12, 2005

First Day of Classes...
One thing that's always worried me, but luckily that's never happened (yet).
But, on the first day of classes, in my Advanced French Conversation course, that happened to some poor guy. Before class started, about half the students were speaking to each other in English, and the other half in French. Knowing that there's a tiny (almost non-existent) Francophone population here, you think that might be your first clue that you're in a French class. Maybe.
Then the prof comes in, a bit late, and starts speaking to the class in French. He was introducing himself, and a bit about the course, when this guy walks up to the front of the class to leave. Keep in mind that this is about 5 minutes into class. The prof asked him, en francais, if he was in the right class. He just looked blankly at the prof. Then the prof repeated the question, and the guy said, "yah, I don't think this is history." Oh, that would be embarrassing. But all of us in the class got a good laugh out of it!

January 10, 2005

Snow on the Ground...
There's still snow on the ground here. It's been about five days now (the snow first appeared on Thursday). There hasn't been any new white stuff since Friday, but it's been so cold that nothing has really melted. Supposedly it might snow tomorrow. Or then again, it could rain.

January 09, 2005

I finally watched the film Hero with Jet Li last night, and loved it. I first wanted to see it when I was in France last year, but missed it at the cinema by one day (they had just pulled it the night I finally went out to see it). Then it came out in North America this year, but I didn't get to see it until I rented it last night on DVD.
It's a Chinese film, about four assassins (I hope I didn't spoil the plot), and their plan to assassinate the king. The cinematography was absolutely stunning, and the fight scenes were reminiscent of those in Crouching Tiger. The colours were incredibly vivid (colour plays an important part in the film), as were the locations where it was all shot. I'll probably watch it again tonight before I have to return it tomorrow.
I also bought Run Lola Run with Franka Potente (also in Bourne Identity/Supremacy) on DVD yesterday for $7.99+tax (about 6 Euros or 6 USD total). It's probably my favourite German film, although Good Bye Lenin! is pretty good too. Run Lola is basically three vignettes, showing how changing one thing can dramatically alter the outcome of the overall event. As one guy from the National Post put it, "Run Lola Run is like Viagra for the eyeballs... The most thrilling and creative film I have ever seen!"

January 07, 2005

Bumming Around Vancouver...
I headed into Richmond on Tuesday, after a tutoring gig, to visit Jonathan. We were neighbours and best friends when we went to elementary school, and I still lived in Richmond. We went for dinner at Kisamos, a Greek restaurant in Steveston (which was excellent by the way), then headed into Vancouver for some bubble tea. I love BBT, and I don't know why. I wish there was one out this way (there was, but it shut down because there wasn't enough business).
On Wednesday morning I went into Vancouver to visit Sophia, who's back from U of Montreal for Christmas. She was an English assistant in Lille, and who happened to live on the same floor of the MAJT with me. (As a side note, she finally got her deposit money back, after requesting it when she left in late April. They cheque was dated early July, the letter mid-September, and the letter posted December 16th. A few more days, and the cheque would be invalid, because you can only cash them within 6 months of the date on the cheque.) We went for lunch, and had many cups of tea.
Later in the afternoon, I headed out to UBC (University of British Columbia) to visit Robin, who went to my uni for two years before transferring out. After chatting for a bit, we made a Dairy Queen run with several of her housemates, for blizzards (which is odd, considering how cold it was, and that it snowed the next day...).

January 06, 2005

It's Snowing!!!
It's snowing today (right now), and it's supposed to snow tomorrow as well. And possibly through the weekend (if it doesn't rain...). There's probably already one centimetre on the ground, and counting.
Canada beat Russia 6-1 in the World Junior Hockey Championships, winning the gold medal! The 2006 Championships, next year, are going to be held in Vancouver (and environs).

January 03, 2005

Undoing Christmas...
Yesterday was spent mainly taking down all the Christmas decorations that went up about 2 months ago. We finally took down the stupid Christmas tree. It was pretty much dead when we got it, and had hardly any needles left when we took it down yesterday. Pathetic, I know. Then today we took down all the Christmas lights. The house looks kind of bare at the moment.
Korean food for lunch today. Mmmmmmm...

January 02, 2005

A New Year
New Years has come and gone, finally. Not much has really happened. I've been a lazy ass these past two weeks.
I hung out with Marlin, a friend from high school, on Wednesday. Went for coffee with Sheila, another friend from high school that I haven't seen in ages, on Thursday. Work on Friday (New Years Eve) morning at the office where I worked in the summer. Yesterday I went to the big family (my dad's Scottish side) get-together. It's been two years since I've seen any of my 2nd cousins, or great-aunts and uncles, but no one has changed. Apart from my 2nd cousin Carl's little boy, and the fact that the mother walked away, leaving the kid. She didn't even call, write, or send a gift over Christmas. What a witch...
I watched "The Pianist" not too long ago. It's a great movie, but terribly sad and tragic. It's amazing that Wladyslaw Szpilman, the real-life pianist on which the movie is based, managed to survive the war. Especially when almost everyone else in the movie dies, including all his family, most of the Polish resistance that helped him when he escaped the Warsaw Ghetto, and a lot of the city itself. It certainly makes you appreciate your freedom, but it also shows that there is hope in times of trial. For example, the German officer who gave him food, after hearing him play piano.