Friday, March 31, 2006

Moving on

Well, I hope this post is a little less ranty than Monday's. And why shouldn't it:

  • the weather has been gorgeous all week - I'm out and about with no jacket or sweater again;
  • I finished one of my four modules today! The GIS course has been consistently the least well organised (an accolade for which it has stiff competition) and the most bizarre of the four I take. Both the lecturer and teaching assistant are Chinese and not entirely fluent in English. I'd expect to find Engrish in China, but it's not ideal when it turns up on your final exam paper... what, for example, is a "non-treed area outside park"?;
  • Reading are still promoted :)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quality stuff

Unlike Josh, I'm not taking a furlough at this time of year. In fact, I'm not really working as hard as I should...

Anyway, I just finished listening to a great sermon preached by my friend Simon from our home church. He's talking about the love of Epaphroditus in Philippians, and how he sacrificed so much for the sake of Christ - and Paul and the church. Have a listen. It's only half an hour :)

Edit: I suppose I should tell you how to get it... click on the home church link above, click on "Sermons" on the top bar, and the one I'm talking about was preached on 26 March 2006 in the evening by Simon Pethick. Click on "sermon" and you can download the file. Sweet.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


What is it good for? Relatively nothing!

Today was the last straw. YorkU is a very liberal university, and although I didn't know that before I came here, I haven't minded too much. Challenging your beliefs is an important part of learning, but you have to draw the line somewhere: and I draw that line at idiocy.

Now that we're in the last week of class, most courses are winding down to exams and having reviews. Today's postcolonial geographies class was no exception: the professor (who I shall not name) took the time to explain her own research and why she came to lecture the course. Her research area is "South Asians in Canada: a postcolonial identity" - she is Indian herself, thus fulfilling the criteria for her study! She made some good points: for example how South Asians group together to lobby politically and so on.

Where my views started to diverge from hers was when she began disputing the term "South Asian". In Canada that is the common term; in the UK the term is simply "Asian" (other regions of Asia are referred to separately). Apparently it is a "social construction", because the people of that region "have nothing in common except suffering under colonial rule" and South is used to 'other' people and make them seem inferior.

To prove this point, she asked the class "which countries lie to the south of Asia?" Most of us were a little bemused, so she answered mostly herself - apparently Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines (!) and Papua New Guinea are South Asia.

[Never mind that that region already has a name: South-East Asia (gasp). Similarly, what we call the Middle East used to bear the name South-West Asia; and the -stans are called Central Asia. Brilliant, eh?]

Interesting point... but why stop there? Australia is to the south of Asia. So is Antarctica. The point is, you need to regionalise identities so that census forms don't have a list as long as your arm of ethnicities. She was also rather put out at the discrimination in census forms: apparently Canada lists "South Asians" as "visible minority" (ie. you is black) and in the UK "Asians" are listed as "black". What?!? There are about 50 ethnicities on the British census form: there are so many people from that region that just lumping them as "South Asian" would be ridiculous, let alone calling them all darkies. Just because you're subaltern and postcolonial doesn't give you the right to make facts up to support your already thin argument!

Aargh, I'm ranting. Patrick and I were seriously angry after that class, especially as she moved on so quickly that we didn't have time to call her out on her mistakes. Maybe I will bring it up on Wednesday in our last class...

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I'm so happy I could explode. Or at least go dancing in the hallways! No wait, I AM dancing in the hallways!

I've never been so proud to be a Reading fan. 135 years of mediocrity and here come the glory days! I've never been so proud of my MSN address. I've never been so annoyed to be in flipping CANADA for this of all seasons!!

It's party time. If I can find some other Reading fans in Toronto anyway!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I've been fiddling "under the hood" of the blog to try and make it look a bit more like my website. It wasn't quite as easy as I thought! - but I've bodged it for now. Any comments on the new look?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Summer approaching?

You might think it a bit premature to be throwing around such rash ideas, especially in a place so famed for its winters. But I think that Canadians hate winter much more than most people, and with good reason. I've been incredibly lucky to be here during the warmest winter on record, but even I am getting a little sick of cold weather. It's been very nice, therefore (the preamble of this blog is finally over!) to see the sun in the past two days.
The temperature has not just been positive, but up to +10 - in the shade! The last time I felt my body warmed by the sun was late October, if I remember rightly. To celebrate such weather, I went to get my hair cut yesterday, and walked there and back in nothing but a t-shirt and fleece. And trousers, shoes and underwear, of course.
Today was a spring-like day, as I went to the Warkworth maple syrup festival, about 2 hours from Toronto, the wrong side of Oshawa. They hold this slightly monocentric festival every year during the maple syrup season. Here are a few fascinating factoids I learned today; but one of them is incorrect. Can you work out which one...?
  • The season for maple syrup lasts for 15 days per year, at most.
  • They poke little holes in the tree bark and tap into the sap streams, whether the sap is going up (towards the buds) in the day or down to the roots at night.
  • The sap that comes out of the trees is 97% water. You can drink this stuff and it will clean your insides out (in a good way!).
  • They have several kilometres of piping to transport the sap into the factory. These days, the whole extraction is vacuum-powered.
  • Canadian law dictates that syrup must have at least 66% sugar content. Furthermore, there are several different grades of syrup according to how concentrated they are.
  • The people who make maple syrup are known as tree-huggers, due to the process of surrounding many trees with piping and one or two taps.
  • There's not a great deal to do at a maple syrup festival.
Another reason I see summer approaching is that my first, last and only end-of-term exam takes place in a month's time! That's right, my summer holiday starts on the 11th April, and will run until about the 11th October. Sweet.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Multiculturalism (part trois)

OK, I promise this will be the last entry with such an unimaginiative title. I went to the Ab(sinthe) pub last night with people from my corridor in Founders. Sat around the table were people from:


Not bad eh? Fun times anyway, as the pub was showing Champions League highlights. After the pub closed at 1.30 some of us headed back to Bai's room (the Thai guy) for a while longer. I left soon after, but some of the others stayed drinking until 5am. Great...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Travel Plans

You might want to sit down: my summer holiday starts on April 11th! I only have one final exam in the exam period, so I'm free to leave after that. I don't fly home until the 22nd May though, so I have a fair amount of time to fill. Thankfully, I have lots of people to visit who'll help me fill that time! At first, I was planning on buying an old car and driving it around the States, but I've been effectively persuaded against that: it's pretty unreliable and actually buying/insuring a car could be tricky in Canada given my status.

So at the moment my plans are to visit New York for a few days first, fly over to sunny California for two weeks, rent a car there to drive with, then buy a railpass for the US and catch the train all the way from San Francisco to Chicago - 51 hours! I have plenty of friends dotted around the Midwest from Minneapolis to Ohio who I can spend about 2 weeks visiting, and then I'll come back to Toronto for the last weekend and fly home! (sniff)

Alternatively, I could do it the other way around, with the Midwest first and California last. It's all up in the air: especially if I fly.

Multiculturalism (part deux)

I'm getting to know my way around York pretty well these days. As I commented here before, it's a multicultural university, and this is reflected in lots of ways. The food is a good example: every week I usually eat Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Greek, Turkish and American food. None of it is healthy, but there is at least a bit of variety. Incidentally, Sakura (the Japanese restaurant) is the only place on campus where one can use a meal card to buy beer. Interesting, eh? Falafel Hut (the Turkish restaurant) is also a good place to score some sweet weed. Apparently.

Some of the courses are a bit special, too. My "post-colonial geographies" course is a good case in point. The professor, an Indian lady, is quick to point out she's "not anti-British, but anti-colonial." In her honour I have decided to rename the course "anti-colonial geographies", especially as we've spent 8 weeks looking at how terrible colonisation's been for the world, and haven't even acknowledged that it may have a positive aspect. Hmm.

I popped into the Vanier College Booksale this evening after getting lashed on meal-card beer and pork-bone soup at Sakura. I picked up four books for $10, despite the fact that I won't have room to take them home. Oops! I've read one so far: it's a geopololitics book written for the British public in 1976 and sold at the York Bookstore in 1980 (the receipt is still inside!) entitled "Europe since 1945" (Fraser Cameron) and it's a cracking read. A couple of examples:

"The decisive majority in favour of Britain remaining in the Community [after the 1970s referendum] was warmly welcomed in other Common Market countries and has settled finally - after fifteen years of debate - Britain's relations with Europe." (p.49)

30 years later, this comment seems a little optimistic...!

"With the success of their own economic miracle, the East German government is now more firmly established than ever and has won a measure of acceptance from its own people. The possibility of reunification of the two German states is now most unlikely. It appears the world has come to accept that two German states are safer than one." (p.67)

Oops. I suppose the crystal ball wasn't working too well on that day!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Well, the results are in! I got an average of 60.5% in my first semester exams... not really what I was hoping for, I have to say; but I think that reflects the amount of work I put into the subjects. It was pretty hard to revise for them while attending classes - and writing assignments - for my courses here at York! Anyway, all is not lost. My target is 70% at the end of the third year: the second year counts for 1/3, (1/2 for each semester), and the third year for 2/3 (1/2 for each semester again). So because of the weighting, if I get 65% for the second year, I could get 73% in the third year and be home free. To get 65% in the second year, I'll need 70% this semester, which shouldn't be a problem given the more lenient marking system. Hooray!

Er... in other news, I'm officially a nerd. That is all.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Patience is a virtue, so give me more of it - now!

I'm waiting for exam results at the moment. These are the exams I took back at the end of January from Southampton, but I sat them here at York. They were released yesterday (Friday), but the student office didn't email them to me as promised. Grr. All was not lost, however: I sent my housemates on a mission to pick them up for me (they're just posted on a noticeboard in the Geography building). They went this morning, but the building was locked up. Grr! So I'll have to wait until Monday. I suppose after a month another 3 days won't make a difference, but I want to know now! Never mind. I'm reasonably confident that I did well, perhaps averaging 67% or so. That's a bad mark in Canada, but a pretty good one in the UK, by the way. The marking here is a lot more lenient, so I'm hopeful I can at least top 70% for this semester! That will contribute well to my new-found determination to get a First, or die trying.

This last week has been pretty hectic - an essay, assignment and midterm exam - so I was seeking some distraction and relaxation last night of the button-mashing variety. Unfortunately, the latop I brought with me (which excels in all other aspects) is no gaming machine, so I'm limited to somewhat older and less demanding titles. I brought some classics with me: Transport Tycoon, Civilisation 2 etc. which have served me well, but hey, novelty's good right? So after a bit of time on Google, I found some really classic games like Commander Keen, Duke Nukem etc. If you got your first computer after 1993, you should probably skip this paragraph... what a blast from the past! Fantastic fun, and not exactly a strain on the computer.

20MHz processor? Check.
640KB RAM? Just about.
EGA graphics? Yes!

Technology's certainly come on a long way in the last 15 years, eh? Who'd have imagined, back in 1991, downloading a whole game from the internet in 2 seconds flat? Or watching a DVD on a laptop computer? Madness.