30 November 2006

Shippers Unite

A few weeks ago I managed to waste an entire night on Youtube. Well, I wasted a few hours at least. It’s such a black hole of crap, it’s hard to find your way out. I did a few searches for characters/shows that I like and was appalled by the sheer number of tribute videos. “Tribute videos” may not be the actual term, but that’s what I call them: when people (teenage girls, really) piece together clips from their favourite shows and set them to music. Predictably, the subject of the tribute is usually male, or a couple (e.g., The Office’s Jim and Pam, Prison Break’s Michael and Sarah, and any other TV couple you could possibly imagine) and the music is the saddest, most angsty song they can find, usually something featuring a piano or acoustic guitar. They’re made by obsessed fans for obsessed fans. Now, I have been (and continue to be) a ‘shipper, and I have an obsessive personality, but even I never went this far. Of course, I never had the technology to go this far. My first real teenage obsession was Keanu Reeves (in 1994), followed a few months later by X Files. I didn’t have a colour monitor on my computer, let alone HDTV and whatever programs these kids use to make their ‘shipper videos. I had to be satisfied with cutting pictures out of magazines and watching appearances on talk shows. However, I think if I’d had the technology, I would be one of those girls piecing together scenes and setting them to music. I’m picturing some great Mulder & Scully moments set to an acoustic version of With or Without You. Sad, but true.

On the irrelevant front, I had a dream last night that trichopterans were growing in my stomach. It was really gross. It reminded me of another dream I had once where I had asparagus-like growths in my nose that were growing down through my palate and into my mouth. Ew. In another part of the trichoptera dream, I was attending Business School with my brother Mike. I was specializing in Environmental Business, and he was too cool to ride the bus with me.

28 November 2006

All we talk about is the weather

It's been remarkably cold in Edmonton for the last week. I use the word "remarkably" because people are remarking on it. A lot. On MSN my friends' have the following comments:
  • escaping the cold in 14 days...

  • -40 with the windchill???OK, this is ridiculous

  • -40*C and the city turns into a goddamn parking lot

  • Too cold for comfort

Sure, we complain a lot but secretly we love it. We love that if we were to go outside this moment we'd have 10 minutes before exposed skin started to freeze. We love that we already have over a foot of snow on the ground and it's not even December. We love that all those freaks in Ontario are walking around in t-shirts in their plus-16-degree weather. Why do we love it? Because we love to play the martyr. As long as it's really, really fucking cold here, we're automatically better than everyone else at a lower latitude and warmer temperature, and that's the majority of the Canadian public. Everyday life is hardest for us at the moment. Just walking to school or work could end tragically. I mean, who cares if Vancouver has to boil their water? In the time it takes them to boil water for a grande decaff whatever, my ears could have frozen solid.

Having said that, a friend pointed out the Environment Canada weather warning map to me earlier today. I sure hope no one is going to usurp Edmonton's throne. We really need this. Without nose-running, flesh-freezing, bone-aching deep freezes, we have nothing.

24 November 2006


It’s -31 degrees Celsius with the wind-chill this morning. Not really the best weather in which to walk 30 minutes to school. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the elevators are out in my building so I had to walk up to my 10th floor office in all my winter-clothing layers. Until the elevators are fixed, I’m not venturing more than 2 floors from my office. It’s just not worth it.

The Bunny Scale has been tested and proven true!!

Incident 1: Yesterday the people working on my research project (FIESTA) had to go down to Rocky Mountain House to give a presentation on our work this past summer. We had to leave the city around 7am to make it to RMH in time for our 10am meeting. We had agreed to meet at Cricket’s house and on the walk over, I saw two bunnies. I took it as an omen that the day would be good. And it was! The presentation went well. Cricket had the hardest task because she spoke first and had to do the introductory material as well as her own material. She handled it well and set the bar high for the rest of us. I went second, probably spoke too fast, and lowered that bar just enough so that Justin could have given a tirade to rival Michael Richards and the audience would have given a standing ovation. The rest of our meeting in RMH went really well, so over-all it was a good day, as predicted by the Bunny Scale.

Incident 2: Today, walking to school I saw one bunny and lo and behold, Cricket brought cookies to school today for our lab meeting. So, despite the fact that the elevators aren’t working, it’s still going to be a better than average day.

21 November 2006

A morbid ending

I think I’m going to start every workday from now on by listening to The Office (US) theme song. It’s only a 30-second mp3, but with it I can create the illusion that I live in a clever and funny sitcom and that nothing that happens really matters, or is even real. I would use the Arrested Development theme, but I couldn’t find it online, so Office it is.

Two stories on CBC.ca this morning stuck out for me. The first is that Calgary has passed a bylaw that makes it illegal to, among other things, spit, fight, urinate or defecate in public, or put your feet up on public property. It’s amazing that these things are such a problem that they need laws against them. Those opposed say that the law is unfair to homeless people, who have no choice but to do those things because they have no private place to do them. The article I read interviewed a high school kid who thought the law was discriminating against everyone. He was defending his right to sleep on public benches:

“That's unfair even to [people like] myself — that I can't sleep on my public bench.”

Because of all the rights you could possibly loose, being able to sleep on a public bench is probably the worst. And what does he mean by “my public bench?” Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calgary should really just pass a bylaw outlawing idiots.

The other article was about stab-happy Edmontonians. I’m not really bothered that Edmonton has the highest [per capita] murder rate in Canada. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I am bothered that Edmonton has the highest per capita murder rate in Canada, but I don’t fear for my life when I walk down the street. It seems that most of the murderers know their victims, or that it’s a drunken-bar-fight situation. No one has any motive to kill me (that I’m aware of) and I don’t get into drunken bar fights as a rule, so I don’t think I’ll be killed anytime soon. A shocking number of the murders are teens killing other teens. One recent murder was of a pregnant woman by her husband. Men who kill their pregnant wives have to know they’ll be caught, right? Do they honestly believe they can head up the search parties and throw suspicion off themselves? I heard once (on Oprah) that the leading cause of death among pregnant women is murder by their spouses. Alarming, isn’t it?

20 November 2006

Is it just me?

Has anyone else noticed this relationship?

This Time Last Week Monica and I were in Burnaby, at the mall there (Metrotown) hanging out with Julie (she of the previous post) and Chanty (she that was my field assistant this past summer). That was the last full day of my trip. It was a much funner [sic] trip than I make it sound. In fact, it was all sorts of 'tastic. It was funtastic, fishtastic, raintastic, foodtastic, and the most important one of all, nakedmantastic (eh, Monica?).

19 November 2006

Big Bird

I suppose I should write about the weekend portion of my trip. On Saturday we went to Granville Market. What struck me most about the market was the size of the sea gulls. I have never seen gulls that large in my life. They looked as though one more french fry or half-eaten spring roll would cause their skin to split and a whole new species of super-gull would emerge. You know how North America had a whole bunch of incredibly large animals that were wiped out by the first peoples? I bet the sea gulls at Granville are close to the sizes our Homo habilis friends encountered when they first crossed the land bridge.

Also at the market we saw one of the actors from the play we saw the previous night.

On Sunday we went to the Aquarium. Our friend Julie is an assistant trainer there and we got to see her do a beluga show, and feed the sea otters. The belugas are unbelievably lumpy. I didn’t take many pictures, the ones I took of Julie and the whales are really dark because of the downpour that day. I’ll post one anyway.

17 November 2006

Walking in his footsteps

Shout out to Annie for starting her own blog. Her geographic location alone guarantees that it’ll be more interesting than mine.

This Time Last Week I was doing work. Poor Monica had to suffer through 5 hours of classes, so I accompanied her to UBC and worked in her office while she partook of the learning. It was raining that day, real, heavy, fat drops of rain. What I saw of campus didn’t impress me as being majestically beautiful or anything. I’ve been told that spring is the best time to see the campus, that’s when it’s at its most beautiful. I saw a building (library, I think) that is used for establishing shots on Smallville. I also saw the clock tower that was on an episode of X Files where digital displays were telling people to kill. If I was 14, that would have been so awesome, and I would make some comment about treading the same ground as David Duchovny…but I’m over that. (Aside, after 6 days there I totally understand Duchovny’s wanting to leave Vancouver after 6 years).

Friday night we saw a play. I found out about this play while tripping around online. It’s last performances happened to coincide perfectly with my trip, and I emailed Monica all frantic and asked her to get tickets. The play was Life After God based on two of Douglas Coupland’s books: Life After God (short stories) and City of Glass (non-fic about Vancouver). It was essentially a series of monologues held together with a plot about a 15 year high-school reunion. I recognized the typical Coupland themes in the play, and there was one line that I remember specifically from the book. It was about how as children they “floated in swimming pools the temperature of blood and the colour of the earth seen from space.” That line has always stuck with me. Water was a recurring theme throughout the play (it is Vancouver, after all). I don’t think the play would work if performed in any other city; it’s too Vancouver-centric. They talk about the Grouse grind, the city-wide health-and-fitness obsession, the movie industry, living on the hill, the mountains. There was also a fair amount of nudity. I didn’t think it was gratuitous. In one of the scenes, I assumed they were at Wreck Beach (a nude beach), so that made sense. What really surprised me was the dancing. Monica asked beforehand if there was going to be dancing and I laughed and said, “No!” But there was dancing, and it was interpretive dance, which I really don’t care for. I felt that the dancing took away from the play, rather than added to it, but what do I know?

16 November 2006

Organ Donor

This Time Last Week, Monica and I were attending the Body Worlds exhibit at Science World. If you haven’t heard of this, it takes a while to fully appreciate it. The exhibit consists of 20 or so bodies and even more organs and bones on display. The bodies are frozen in various forms of movement (ballet, skateboard, track and field). The thing is, they aren’t recreations, they are actual human bodies. They’ve been preserved via a process called plastination that makes the tissue plastic-like, odourless, and apparently very pose-able. For most of the specimens, they have removed the skin and dissected the muscles and organs to display certain features of the human anatomy. The ostensible goal is educating the public about human anatomy. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to see all those humans with their skin removed, muscles flayed open, penises (peni?) sliced in half (in one case, at least). They still have eyes, teeth, eyebrows and the fine hairs on the skin (when they have skin). I was only really bothered when they left the skin on. This one specimen had strips of skin left on, and that bothered me. It was all very interesting, but I’m not sure it sits well with me. The bodies were all anonymous and from willing donors who, for whatever reason, wanted to be part of the process by which the public is educated about the human body. The main goal is education, but given the cost of exhibit I can’t help but think that someone is benefiting financially from all this. There was a display showing what the release forms look like, and the kinds of rights donors have to decide what their body is used for: public display, sale to educational facilities, etc. There was an example of a filled-in form (with the names scratched out) and the guy’s reason for donation was that he spent a lot of time in his life getting in shape and taking care of himself and when he dies he doesn’t want that to go to waste. So he had himself preserved as plastic for giggling schoolgirls and idiot schoolboys to gawk at before they run to the cafeteria or gift shop. I guess the question that sticks in my mind is Why don’t you donate your organs, if you’re so damn healthy? Granted, he might not be when he dies, and I’m sure not all the bodies in the exhibit were eligible for organ donation. But what about the ones that were? I can’t help but think about lives that could have been saved if it weren’t for the vanity of others.

Anyway. After the exhibit Monica and I went to Gas Town to see The Steam Clock. It’s a clock that runs on steam. I wish I could say it was more exciting than it sounds…but it’s not, really. It was pretty, though. We ended up in a bad part of town and walked quickly away to the polar opposite of the bad part: Robson St., which was all expensive shops and the like. We had gelato then went home.

15 November 2006

This time last week

I will get around to putting up details about my trip to Vancity. I was thinking of doing it in a week-long series of “This Time Last Week” pieces.

This Time Last Week I was at the airport, possibly even boarding my plane. I flew West Jet and had a plane without TV. I don’t mean that we didn’t have individual sets, but we didn’t even have those assy mini-screens that extend from the ceiling every 10 rows or so. Luckily I had a book to read (Brick Lane, which I have since finished), so I suffered little. Monica met me at the airport and we took public transit back to her place. I found the Vancouver public transit to be very stressful, but more on that later. We ate dinner at a great Mexican place called “Hola Churros” which translates roughly to “Hello Dessert Pastry.”

Back to the present, I finished a book last night called Night by Elie Wiesel. It was the saddest book I have ever read. I was reading it in the terminal waiting to board and I had to put it away because I started crying. I won’t be reviewing this book because I think to do so would be impossible and even wrong. How could you possibly critique a personal account of living in the concentration camps during WWII? I just wanted to mention it so that those of you who have never heard of it can seek it out and read it. It’s tragic, beautiful, heartbreaking, and unforgettable.

08 November 2006

[This is actually from yesterday]

It’s been a soul-crushingly boring day. I spent two hours finishing a sample I started Sunday, the highlight of which was a piece of chironimid pupa. Then I spent the rest of my day cutting-and-pasting. Grad school really is just kindergarten for adults, isn’t it? I was calibrating the catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) values on some of my lakes with their forage fish population estimates. It sounds boring because it is. Thankfully, I leave early today and tomorrow’s only a half-day because I’m going to Vancouver.

I’ve been wanting to write about the Bill Bryson talk I attended last week. I’ve been unable to come up with anything interesting to write about (not that that usually stops me: see above). His presence is not what you would expect and he has the weirdest accent that is a combination of British and New England. He talks a bit fast, but when he reads he has a really nice speech rhythm. He was very funny and knew how to work the crowd. And he handled the stupid questions from the audience very well.

02 November 2006

Shut up, Victor!

On my old site I did book reviews. These were generally pretty lame, but a few are (I think, at least) pretty fun. My best reviews were written for books I didn't like. I think I'll showcase some of my favourites on this site, for the benefit of those who missed them the first time around. Today I'll be reprinting my review of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, more-or-less in it's original form. This is probably my favourite review. I was so bitchy when I wrote it.

You know, I'm only halfway through this, but I think that I can write a review that will rival The Last Canadian in length and bitchiness. Translation: this book is not one that I find especially enjoyable.

Victor Frankenstein is the whiniest little bastard ever. Oh, woe is he! What a child. He works for years - years! - to give life to dead flesh, then gets all freaked out when it works. He sends his monster away because the sight of it pains him. I can't begin to express the irresponsibility of this, not to mention sheer lack of compassion or humanity. He just casts this monster out, and then gets all pissed off when the monster kills his little brother. Hello? What the fuck did you expect, Victor? That the monster would run off into the woods and quietly rot away? Did you think he would cease to exist once you severed yourself from him? Living things don't work that way, once they're alive they just keep on livin'.

I just can't get over this. If I dedicated years of my life to that sort of project, then saw the Monster's arm move for the first time, I'd be all, "Dude, I'm God." I would have liked Victor a whole hell of a lot more if he did have a God complex. As he is, he is the most spoiled, selfish, self-absorbed, irresponsible child since
Linton Heathcliff (about whom I wrote: "He whines over everything, complains about everything, and is no more a man than I."). Victor is just like Linton, completely girlie in every bad sense of the word.

Shall I go on? After making the Monster (I hate to call him that, but he has no name, unless I give him one...Mr. Monstér...it's french) he is bedridden for months. Bedridden! He’s, like, 24. Again, if this were me, I'd be in Geneva picking up my Nobel money. After Mr. Monstér kills little brother, Victor is mad as hell at him. He's also overcome with guilt which he goes on and on about. And on. Oh, and then he talks about his guilt. It's all about Victor. As guilt ridden as he is, I don't get the sense that he thinks that casting out his creation was wrong, just the actual creation. See? It was his fault that he created the thing, but everything after that instant is the fault of Mr. Monstér, not Victor. I guess the nurture over nature debate wasn't one to which Vic paid much attention.

So, after Mr. Monstér tracts him down and narrates his sad tale (a few chapters I didn't mind too much, except that Mr. Monstér seems to have Daddy's penchant for self-pity) Vic agrees to build him a bride. Then, what does he do? Vic goes on vacation. Again, if my creation demanded a mate and threatened the life of my family, I don't think I'd run off to the Hamptons for a few months before starting work. There is some justice, however: poor little Vic is unable to enjoy his trip.

I was formed for peaceful happiness... [Mr. Monstér] might remain in Switzerland and wreak his vengeance on my relatives. This idea pursued me and tormented me at every moment from which I might otherwise have snatched repose and peace.

Oh, I'm sorry Victor. Is the hideous creature you made while toying with the laws of nature wrecking your repose? Is the monster that you created and damned to an existence of exile and hatred bothering you? I bet your life is awful hard, eh? Poor, poor Victor. I'm sorry that your own thoughtlessness has come back to ruin your life of ease and fortune. How will you go on?

All I want in life is for Victor to take responsibility for his actions. I want him to say, “This all could have worked out if I had a) never made this thing or b) taken care of it and treated it like a living being and not a monster to be shunned.” But, like all little rich boys, I doubt Victor will ever really suffer the consequences of his actions.

Or maybe he will, I haven’t finished the book yet.

01 November 2006


I put my dog (technically my parent's dog, but I picked him out) on Puppywar and of the 7 battles he's had, he's lost 5! How cute is the puppy that beat out my Moby? I want to find those 5 people who thought Moby was the least cute and beat them up.