February 26, 2006

Vancouver 2010...
Today was the closing ceremonies of the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics. I watched part of the ceremony, which was pretty cool until it came to Vancouver's 10 minute bit. Since the next winter Olympics will be in Vancouver in 2010, they handed off the Olympic flag to the current Vancouver mayor. I must say that I was a bit disappointed by what they did during the 10 minute spotlight. Seriously, what's with the guy in snowshoes standing on his head on his snowmobile??? Hopefully the opening ceremonies in four years will be more interesting.

February 23, 2006

Last Bio Midterm Ever...
I had my last ever bio midterm today. It was both exciting (I'm almost done...), and scary (worth 40% of our mark, and it only had 3 questions). I think it went OK, except for one question about Neurospera asci. I shouldn't have included the parentals when figuring out the MI's to determine how far the gene was from the centromere. Oh well. If we don't do well, we can make the final worth 100% of the course.
Now I can get down to all those essays, and a Chinese midterm and presentation.

February 22, 2006

The Canadian men's hockey team lost today to Russia in the quarter finals, 2-0. We also lost 2-0 to the Fins, and 2-0 to the Swiss (to the Swiss!). We seem to be on a roll here.
At least the Canadian women's team did much better!

February 21, 2006

Visa free...
Here's an interesting article from the CBC about countries that have the most freedom to travel without visas. The top three countries are Finland, Denmark, and the US (130 countries visa free). Canada comes in at 16th, tied with Austria, Luxembourg and New Zealand (125 countries). At the bottom of the list, to be expected, is Afghanistan where their citizens can travel to only 12 countries without a visa (more than I expected actually). Iran (14) and Iraq (15) are also very low on the list.

February 18, 2006

Occitan, spoken in the south of France, is at the other end of the French spectrum from Chtimi (which I heard in Lille, and I presented in French linguistics last semester). France was originally divided between two languages, the Langues d'Oc (south) and the Langues d'Oïl (north). Modern standard French comes from the Langues d'Oïl (Oïl and Oc meaning Yes), as do other northern French regional languages such as Chti, Normand, Picard, etc. However, the Langues d'Oc can also be broke up into several languages/dialects, including Provençal, Auvernat, and Nissart.
Occitan in spoken in "Miègjorn de la França", or le Midi (de la France), and is quite similar to Catalan (spoken in Barcelona). Due to France's state policy of one official language (Parisian French), many of the regional languages have been suffering, and are close to extinction. It's interesting to point out though that most of these languages existed long before the "King's patois" was chosen to rule the country. Occitan has an amazing amount of poetry and songs written in it.
Here's a line of poetry in Occitan, about Occitan:
Où milan de toun pople
Car sarrian ourfèlin
Sè parties per de bon

In the midst of your people
We'd be orphaned
If you left for good

OccitaNet is a good site if you're interested in more info (including lessons) about Occitan.

February 16, 2006

Reading Break!!!
It's finally started, the much anticipated reading break. Now you must understand that at most universities it's a reading 'week', but seeing as how at my uni we only get two days off, it's only a reading 'break'. But hey, I'll take two days over nothing.
No big plans yet, except to study for my midterms next week, and get a bit ahead on a few big essays due in the next three weeks. But, Joana and her sister are up visiting from Brazil for a few days, and to go to a wedding (she went to high school with me). So we're planning on meeting up sometime to go into Vancouver, or at least out for coffee.

February 14, 2006

My Final Finals...
My final exam schedule was just published. My last final of my last undergrad semester is on the last possible day of exams, almost a full two weeks after my second to last exam!

February 13, 2006

'Kangooroo' is the word that James Cook originally recorded in his June 1770 diary, and it comes from the Guugu Yimidhir language in Northern Australia. Later when white people landed around present-day Sydney, the locals who spoke a completely different language naturally didn't understand them when they pointed to the large jumping creatures. English borrowed the words koala, dingo, billabong, kookaburra, and boomerang from the language of these aboriginals, but that language is now dead. Since the arrival of Captain Cook, many other Australian aboriginal languages have also gone extinct.

February 12, 2006

French Uni System...
Here's an interesting article about the French university system, and some of it's problems. What's interesting though is that the French students are opposing the reforms, which include harmonizing French degrees with the EU system of university degrees (basically to the Bachelor, Masters, PhD system in North America). Currently the French system has many more levels of degrees, including the Deug, DESS, DEA, Licence, Maîtrise, Doctorat.

February 11, 2006

First Gold for Canada!
Canada got it's first gold of the Torino 2006 Olympics on the first day of competition with Jennifer Heil in the women's moguls. Never mind that Norway already has four medals (although none gold).

February 10, 2006

Spoken Here...
There are about 6000 languages spoken on earth right now, but they are vanishing with the rapid expansion of a few languages (notably English). I'm reading a book right now called "Spoken Here" by Mark Abley. It's basically about threatened and extinct languages around the world, written by a journalist so it's not full of linguistic jargon (which would actually be nice in some cases, especially if he would've used IPA to give phonetics for foreign words). He does a good job of weaving stories and linguistics together. I figured that I'd post some of the cool and weird things that are mentioned in the book.
The first interesting bit is about some of the languages found in the Caucasus Mountains. If you're not sure where they are, think of Armenia, southern Russia, and Georgia -not the state, but the country where Stalin was born. A language there called Ubykh contains 83 (that's right, eighty-three) consonants, and only two vowels! By contrast, English has 25, Mandarin 21, and French only 20 consonants. The last person to speak the language, Tevfik Esenc, died on October 7, 1992. Now all that remains of the language are a few recordings.
Another example in the book is a language called Mati Ke, an aboriginal language in Northern Australia, which was probably only ever spoken by about 1000 people. It's currently spoken by only 3 people on the planet. The problem is that one of the people speaks in a dialect, and the other two are forbidden to talk due to cultural taboos (brothers and sisters aren't allowed to talk after puberty). What happens when they die?

February 08, 2006

Pour faire un poème dadaïste
We read this poem by Tristan Tzara (of the Dada movement) in French lit class today. I think that I'll try making one of these poems tonight.
I attempted a translation into English at the bottom, but I don't know how to translate some of the subtilties.

Prenez un journal.
Prenez des ciseaux.
Choisissez dans ce journal un article ayant la
longuere que vous comptez donner à votre poeme.
Découpez l'article.
Découpez ensuite avec soin chacun des mots qui
forment cet article et mettez-les dans un sac.
Agitez doucement.
Sortez ensuite chaque coupure l'une après l'autre
dans l'ordre où elles ont quitté le sac.
Copiez consciencieusement.
Le poème vous ressemblera.
Et vous voilà "un écrivain infiniment original et
d'une sensibilité charmante encore qu'incomprise du

Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose in this newspaper an article having the
length that you plan on giving to your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next cut up carefully each word that
forms this article and put them into a bag.
Agitate carefully.
Next take each piece one after the other
in the order that they leave the bag.
Copy consciously.
The poem will be like you.
And voila "an infinitely original writer and
of a charming sensitiveness that's again misunderstood for

February 03, 2006

Happy Chinese New Year!
Last night at uni we had a Chinese New Year party. It was mainly the Mandarin students and some exchange students from China and Taiwan, but there were some other students as well. We had a great time, playing MaJiang, Chinese chess (which I never really figured out), and eating lots of food. There were mounds of fried rice, chow mein, and all sorts of chinese candies, and fortune cookies to boot. I had a great time, although I'm still not much better at MaJiang -it's a good thing we weren't betting.

February 01, 2006

Expensive Cities...
Here's a list of some of the most (Oslo, Norway) and least (Tehran, Iran) expensive cities in the world. You'll notice Vancouver and Montreal tied at 43.
1 Oslo, Norway
2 Tokyo
3 Reykjavik, Iceland
4 Osaka/Kobe, Japan
4 Paris
6 Copenhagen, Denmark
7 London
8 Zurich, Switzerland
9 Geneva
10 Helsinki, Finland
11 Vienna, Austria
12 Frankfurt, Germany
13 Seoul, South Korea
14 Hong Kong
16 Dublin, Ireland
16 Sydney, Australia
19 Berlin
27 New York
29 Moscow
35 Los Angeles
43 Montreal
43 Vancouver, Canada
48 Istanbul, Turkey
48 Taipei, Taiwan
51 Shanghai, China
52 Tel Aviv, Israel
58 Beijing
58 Prague, Czech Republic
107 Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro
128 Tehran, Iran