Tuesday, October 30, 2007

your essay would be improved by a stronger thesis

i have been binge-marking all day, cos i kinda left about fifty essays to mark in three days. i have a new red pen and am totally in the zone.

autumn is beautiful. it's hardly been raining at all. squee!
(those are my toes peeking in at the bottom. leaves from the tree in the photo above.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

halloween is fun! the GRE is not!

phew! since i saw you last i did the GRE, rode round the city for three hours dressed like a raccoon, went to a slam poetry performance (and that was just friday!), went to the parade of lost souls and a pumpkin carving, and marked about twenty essays. now i'm back with the flashcards and have time to catch my breath.

i like halloween. it's fun!

the GRE was not fun, but it's over now and i never have to do it again. even though i allowed something like an hour extra to get there i was very nearly too late cos i couldn't find the testing place. get this - the testing service, ran by an institute calling itself "cambridge college of technology," was IN THE MALL. exhibit A, the mall map, with an "education" section:
i don't know why this sort of thing surprises me, honestly. when you enrol at X university you put subjects in your "shopping cart" until you're ready to finalise the enrolment. but the north american commercialisation of education is another rant. actually, no, it's not. this is the paraphernalia from my study for these two exams:
that's some $400 worth of books, there, and i've done this on the cheap. you can spend several thousand dollars on training courses for it. not to mention the $185 it costs to take each test! luckily i'm part of a hippie-sharing-grad-community and only had to buy one of those books new. keeping in mind that the GRE is mandatory for anyone wanting to get into grad school in america.

anyway, all the flashcards and the study guides paid off. you may call me Mr. White American. i did very well in the verbal section and not too badly in the maths, which i'm very happy about. however stupid and pointless the exam is, those marks will help me get into a good university for my phd.

now i'm studying for the subject exam, which is where they give you a snippet of poetry (or prose or a play or criticism or whatever) from any piece of the canon and ask me questions about who wrote it, when, who their mates were, what else they wrote, what play they're referencing in the third line and what you call that verb they're using. essentially, see that fat reddish book in the left pile called "the norton anthology of english literature"? i need to memorise that.

i have plenty of opinions on the point of this exam too, but i'll save them for another post, cos there's exciting halloween stuff i'm missing out on here.

okay, so i stumbled out of the mall, exhausted and caffeine deprived and made my way to my beloved commercial drive, where i holed up in an italian cake shop til i felt human again. then i did critical mass! oh, so pretty! lots of people dressed up in such cool halloween costumes! there was a woman dressed up a diary, with a real communal diary on a clipboard (i made an entry), a mummy all wrapped up in bandages, lots of people in furry animal costumes, a guy on a huge tall bike with a huge stuffed chook attached, noah pulling a cardboard ark and elliot, with ET in his front basket. it was great fun. i love my raccoon costume, too:
it was dark for most of the ride, with a gorgeous full moon (people howled). here's the view from one of the bridges we took:

then i cycled off to see shane koyczan and the short story long. he's a slam poet. it was a good event.

the next night was the parade of lost souls - i went last year and raved, remember? people playing with fire? it was so much fun, and so scary! this year i marched in the parade with some mates who were dressed as a pirate, serafina from the pullman "his dark materials" books, the TA from hell (devil horns and a "reading is fun!" badge) and a unicycle, and we saw all the good costumes. some highlights:

a pile of ninjas perched in a doorway, all in black except for their eyes. they were all piled up together and were stroking each other in a really creepy way.

a guy pushing a sculpture trolley with a gruesome and realistic beheading scene on it, guts everywhere and an angel of death triumphant above. a pack of people dressed like crows descended on it, cawing, and tried to eat the gore.

two older ladies dressed like elves, carrying huge lollipops. we asked if they were oompa-loompas and they burst out singing "we are the lollipop twins!" in squeaky voices, then hit us on the head with the lollipops.

a family of skunks - mummy skunk, daddy skunk and baby skunk in one of those backpack things.

lots of really realistic deaths heads and zombies. one creepy masked death caught me staring at him and hit his mask with his axe, causing sheets of fake blood to roll down his face. ew.

a drive-by shooting costume - the guy had a car door and a fake gun he pointed out the window.

this bride puppet was tickling a man in an elmo costume who squealed "elmo scared!"

great fire twirlers
a creepy and realistic zombie with a creepy child vampire sitting on his shoulders.

a spock and kirk couple with greyed hair and a portable drip.

this roaming folk band. i got to dance with them - it was ace.

i could go on and on, it was so cool, but it's hard to describe it. the atmosphere is half of it - any time you turn around you see something cool, and it's all dark, with lots of fairy lights and flaming torches. mmmm, so that was fun.

yesterday i went pumpkin carving at a community garden under the skytrain. i like pumpkin carving! it's fun!
yes, it rained the whole time, but only lightly, plus i am Hard Core. i got pumpkin guts everywhere and made three fabulous pumpkins to light up on the front verandah on wednesday. then i may make them into pumpkin pie. yum!
happy halloween, y'all!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

from home

ddd, who i shall be seeing in the flesh in a few short months:

the star i picked up on work experience glowing in the rays from the new sky light (pic from grot):

you can just see the edge of the "welcome to our piggery" sign on my bedroom door. ah, memories. . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

autumn leaves

cos it's so pretty when it's not raining! i rode home last night in normal clothes instead of my snowman outfit - all very relaxing. i was also able to teach in my new tshirt:
new tshirt from grotty and bbb - thankyou! stylish and political! also new card from my vortex. furry card from my vortex! you guys rock.

i realised that i'm never blogging about my teaching, though i am surely doing a lot of it. we're at _the faerie queen_ at the moment, which i'm enjoying. who knew that it's actually a good read? so _ the faerie queen_ is this huge epic poem written in 1590-1596 by edmund spenser. he made up his own stanza form for it and also kinda made up his own language, which is a cruel mixture of contemporary english and middle english (like chaucer, who he was fond of). cruel to the students, i mean. i've read enough of both sorts of english to get by, but they haven't, so we spend a lot of time in class figuring out what the hell is going on. last week we went through the first 20 or so stanzas of it reading out loud and figuring out a translation (and if there's one thing that'll really made you familiar with a piece, it's hearing it read aloud five times in one day). this was my favourite bit:

Therewith she spewd out of her filthy maw
A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,
Full of great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw,
Which stunck so vildly, that it forst him slacke
His grasping hold, and from her turne him backe:
Her vomit full of bookes and papers was,
With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke,
And creeping sought way in the weedy gras:
Her filthy parbreake all the place defiled has.

that's after the Red Cross Knight, the hero, has semi-strangled Error, the filthy monster, and she pukes everywhere. the whole poem is a complicated allegory for queen elizabeth and the court, and the contemporary struggles between catholicism and protestantism. if you look closely you'll see that it is highly symbolic vomit. brownie points for any reader who can pick the indications that Error is actually a foul catholic!

so we spent a lot of time pulling out the various allegories after we got a plot outline, and i think the students enjoyed that. it's always nice to help someone realise that what seems horrible boring mush is actually an action-packed story which is open to being deconstructed in a very satisfactory way.

i'm still studying for the stupid GRE, but feeling much more confident about it. i did a whole practise exam on cdrom the other night (all three hours of it) and did very well on the verbal section and very badly on the maths section, which is fine. i'm still revising the verbal stuff (still more flashcards and practise questions) and scrabbling for what little maths i can pick up in the next two days. i learnt how to solve simultaneous equations last night, which was very satisfying. my maths has improved in leaps and bounds. and after friday i can forget it all again!

but right now i should go practise circle geometry and revise the words in the "stubborn" category.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


it's not raining! in fact, it's sunny!

*runs in circles gibbering*

Sunday, October 21, 2007

a nice piece of smoked trout

the great rains have begun. that is to say, we've had a top of 12 and pelting rain every day for the last week, and it will probably stay this way til, well, march. unless we get some snow, which would be very exciting. and i know it's cruel to complain about rain to australians, but, honestly, you forget how wet rain can be, and every time i step out the door i spend ten minutes wrapping myself in wool and goretex. for instance, check out my new cycling outfit:
isn't it great? i scared a toddler with this outfit. the plastic pants and waterproof shoe covers c/o a friend who used to cycle a lot but doesn't atm. i love that i own plastic pants now. it makes me feel very canadian. i thought the balaclava might be overkill til i started whizzing down the mountain and realised i could still feel my chin for the first time ever on that piece of road. i love the cycling outfit. warm and dry, hello!

also in that theme, i finally finally got a crocheted nose warmer! this is something i've been muttering about for years and years (the gauroxen will attest). very exciting! i'm thinking of attaching ears to the top of the hat to really play on the mouse look. it's so warm, it's fabulous!

also on the weather theme, remember that leafy green corridor of trees i showed you a couple of months back? this is what it looks like now:
all the brown on the road is fallen leaves, rotting. they're quite slippery to ride on. here's a vid about rain and those leaves:

just after i filmed this there was a huge thunder and lightening crash - the walls actually shook (a vase danced to the edge of the mantelpiece) and the room lit up like day. i'd never seen such a thing. then all the street lights went out. very dramatic. there was only one clap of thunder, though we were all bracing ourselves for more.

i am still big with the study of boring things, and the phd apps. i went to a yoga workshop with ziggy yesterday, though, and spent two and half hours on inversions: hand stands, head stands, shoulder stands and forearm balances. it was great! then today we went swimming in the local pool that's open (oh yes), to work out the the pain in our arms. . .

we may have gone via an army disposal store, not that my life is one big dressup party. . .
(thus concludes the post with the most self-portraits ever)

Friday, October 19, 2007


Sorry I haven't been around so much. Between the two GREs, PhD apps and the HUGE pile of marking I was recently blessed with, I'm finding life a little messy at the moment. Figuratively and literally. You should see my room. And the loungeroom. Poor Ziggy.

Some bits of life are getting tidier, but:

A garbage truck! And lots of garbos in shiny orange vests, bless their hearts. See how they're scooping up all the rubbish bags with a little dump-truck thingy and tipping it into the big truck? So much garbage. They also spent the better part of a day trimming the trees up and down the street, chopping off branches and making sure the pavements are clear. Recycling is next week. Bring it on!

Off to practise analogies and statistics. See below for Grot and BBB's adventures round Vic and NSW. So pretty!

grot and bbb's latest big adventure

BBB at the Hay Shearer's Museum

boating with the family - AK on shore, grot and MK in boat

AK and BBB in boat, OK on shore

grot and AK on the front step

in the Warrumbungle NP

4 ft lace monitor that we saw gulping something big - Warrumbungles NP

probably the mother bird who had been sitting on these eggs earlier in the day, and didn't come back

dancing Green-combed Spider Orchid  - Warrumbungles NP

red (?) kangaroo at Warrumbungles NP

The Breadknife Warrumbungles NP

another view of the Breadknife

old friends

bbb listening to the AFL Grand Final at the New England NP

under a waterfall at the New England NP

the prow of the mighty Folbot surges down the Camden Haven River

Monday, October 15, 2007


one of the problems with this level of poverty is having to make lots of weird decisions. I'm saving for phd application fees and stupid GRE fees, so i budgeted for one or two bigger expenses per fortnight. this means i end up choosing between getting my hoodie dry cleaned which i haven't been able to wear since i accidentally sat in a puddle of chocolate milk on the bus or getting stuff for my halloween costume. should i get a haircut or a voltage converter for my stereo system so i can play nina simone at the volume nature intended?

this week i chose to get my bike checked out, cos i was having trouble hitting top gear and the break cables were a bit stretched. these sorts of things become important when barrelling down a mountain in light rain. i've been riding back from uni two or three times a week. i ride to the bus stop in the morning, put my bike in the rack on the front of the bus and travel up the mountain that way, then ride down. the cycling takes 45-60 mins and is rather good fun. it does get nippy though. here's me one foggy morning last week:
i have proper gloves now. next pay check is plastic overpants.

(i'm not in any dire state, you understand. last night i saw a band and drank nice wine. just the more expensive things are an issue.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

big news day!

most importantly for me - the strike is over! well, kinda. there was a close vote and some renegotiating, and garbage collection will probably resume on monday! so exciting! just this morning we had a funky punky dude offering to collect our garbage for $5 a bag. three months without garbage collection. . . boggles the mind. here's an article on the end of the strike. the librarians are still striking, but i imagine this will make it harder for them to get a decent deal. i hope the pools will open again soon. so exciting!

and, as bbb put it, the lying rodent called the election! about bloody time! (image stolen from the interwebs) here's the age's take on the situation, and, for contrast, the globe and mail's (canadian newspaper). i'll have to get the paper tomorrow to see how much of an impact the australian situation makes in canadian media. watch this space for updates on the election, and do feel free to update me on the latest news or argue the finer points of campaigning or wotnot.

i have no personal news. i've spent all day with flashcards. i hate this style of learning. my scores are creeping up. hope it's worth it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

smelly felts make study FUN!

another exciting video post, this time featuring me demonstrating visually the extreme sexism of the GRE in literature and talking about the wonders of canadian stationary.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

GRE study

my brain hurts! stupid gre smells like cheese. i have been memorising things and doing vocab drills for days and days and i'm bored! plus prodding relentlessly at the weak points in my knowledge is disheartening.

i think i'm getting somewhere with my study though, slowly, slowly. my maths is improving more rapidly (which is good, cos it started at the Very Bad level). i realised it's eight years since i last did any mathematics - probably why i'm a bit rusty. i've been getting good tutoring. last night i went round to bethan's house, which has a glaciologist, a landscape gardener and a two year old living there. they all helped enthusiastically:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


big weekend! thanksgiving involved eating pumpkin pie and dahl, dress-ups, fabulous mountains, watching the salmon swimming upstream to spawn, scrabble and card games, swimming in a public pool (very exciting, as vancouver's pools have been closed for three months now) and a minor car accident (i'm unhurt). it was all very good fun, except the car accident bit.

miriam, her sister and i drove to the okanagan, which is about four hours east of vancouver. there were stunning, stunning mountains:

and we went above the snow line (and celebrated appropriately):

this is okanagan lake, which is huge and stunning. the far bank was wiped out by bushfire last year (i think), which is why it looks so bare:
it's actually quite a dry area, and gets very hot in summer. we went for a walk and found prickly pear cacti. we also went on a walk to see the salmon swimming upstream (pretty stinky from the dead fish, but cool, cos they have funny hooked noses) and a walk to show off our dress ups:
very entertaining! there was much good food and hilarious games of "demon" and "up and down the river", which is a kickarse game that involves sticking cards to your forehead.

on the drive back we stopped and went for a walk to a beautiful lake just below the snow line, called falls lake. it was incredibly cold, but miriam's sister went for a dip. she steamed gently afterwards. . .

that is snow up the top:
you just let me know when you're sick of photos of mountains. . .

such a beautiful lake.

and on the way back:

unfortunately on the way back we got involved in a five car rear-ending on the freeway. nobody was hurt and only one car was too damaged to drive, so it wasn't too bad, and within about five minutes of phoning 911 there were two fire engines, an ambulance and two cop cars on the scene. it was scary, but i'm fine. miriam and her sister have slight whiplash. drive responsibly, people! this accident was due to massive amounts of holiday traffic and, probably, the car that drove away from the accident at high speed. i got all of its license plate except for one letter, which is pretty useless, i think. bah.

now i'm back in vancouver and it's raining a lot. surprise, surprise. i love this city, but damn, it's wet!