June 30th, 2009
June 30th, 2009
If I hear one more person complain about their bad grade in the same breath they confess to having utterly shitty study habits, I am going to kill someone. Fuck, this gets right under my skin.
This is what I learned in school: if you want A’s then you have to work for them. And not just once, but every time, so you improve your skills over time. Trying hard is not in and of itself a guarantee of an A – maybe right now your best work just isn’t that great.
You can almost certainly get better, but you’re going to have to work at it. Which leads me to…
I don’t understand people who slack at school. What the hell are you doing there if you’re just going to skip the reading and skip the classes and bang out shitty papers the day they’re due? Fuck man, go get a job and at least stop sliding into debt with nothing to show for it. So many people seem to just plain not get the point of school: to learn things. You’re not there to see how little you can get away with and not be flunked out. This isn’t an exercise in defiance. If you want to learn things, which is the point of school, you have to actually carry out the activities of learning. Not coincidentally, learning and improving your school skills result in better grades.
I have seen a lot of entitled attitude in people who are lazy students. Surprise – your natural intelligence isn’t good enough any more. University is an ocean of intelligent people and a C represents an average achievement. It’s time to let go of the idea that you deserve an A the first time you try hard.
This is the secret of people who get fantastic grades: they work hard. I’m in that club and I know others who are in it too. It looks like we’re super bright when we always have the answer and smash tests out of the park, but guess what? That all came at a price. We didn’t pull that answer out of our asses. We didn’t suddenly learn how to write a devastating paper the first time we put pen to paper. Sustained hard work needs to be paired with accurate self reflection and insight, and incorporating feedback; it takes practice to make your hard work work hard for you. And this is what great students do. We don’t throw up our hands and blame anyone but ourselves when we get bad feedback – we fucking learn from that shit and do better next time.
And, almost anyone can do it. You just have to drop the entitled attitude and dig in to the work. There is no magic bullet, no brilliant talent. Just hours and hours of work, every day. For every hour I spent in class, I probably put in between three and four hours of work outside of class. Maybe more. Reading, researching, writing, getting help, finding extra sources, all of that. Working and practicing. I graduated from my master’s with a perfect 4.0 GPA and on more than one course grade sheet I got the feedback that if my school had offered A+’s, I would have gotten one.
So when someone complains that the one time they made an effort, it didn’t pay off so therefore the vague criteria or the markers or fucking space aliens are to blame… well, I just want to destroy stuff.
June 30th, 2009
The first tortillas gave a mixed result. I should have taken more pictures so you could have seen the progression of my skill from the very first utterly mangled mess to the final three, which look basically like they’re supposed to. I was not able to reliably attain the coveted “puff” during the second flip, but Rome was not built in a day. They smell great and taste great too. I think I will turn these experimental babies into tortilla chips by frying and salting them. Chips you make yourself are healthy, right?
They have uneven edges because I am pretty bad at peeling them off the press, but you get the idea:
June 30th, 2009
Why have I not been cooking traditional Mexican before? Like all peasant foods it is pretty much ready made for vegans, and also happens to be delicious. I love rice and beans, and after this weekend discovered I love properly made fresh corn tortillas too. Add salsa and guacamole and the potential for endless variations in saucing and spicing and you have one happy plant eater! I picked up a good cookbook and today am venturing forth in search of a tortilla press and some masa harina.
Last night I made steamed flour tortillas dipped in a seared tomato and jalapeno sauce, wrapped around some long simmered pinto beans, then covered in more sauce, chopped white onion, pickled jalapeno slivers and cilantro sprigs – Husband declared it “a knockout meal.” I agree!
Also, as part of a quick hash I made for lunch yesterday (hash is what I call any stewy dish with a tomato base plus whatever veggies I have kicking around), I used some corn on the cob. I boiled it briefly and then cut it off the cob (tip: cutting raw corn off the cob results in a horrific spray of corn milk everywhere, but if it’s been boiled a few minutes first this doesn’t happen), tossed it in the hash, and discovered – shock! – that fresh corn off the cob is vastly superior to the frozen stuff I’ve been using for years. It was sweet and firm/bursty. I am officially crossing frozen corn off my “okay to use” list whenever real corn is in season.
And, annoyance: I went to the fancy upscale grocery store downtown (Urban Fare) in search of vegan cheese, and while they had a few soy cheeses, all of them contain casein. Casein is a dairy protein and comes from cows, making soy cheese ethically/dietary-restrictionally equivalent to regular cheese. Except it tastes much worse and doesn’t melt. If you’re going to eat soy cheese with casein you might as well just eat the good (real) stuff. I don’t even know why they make that stupid soy-casein stuff. Anyway, there is a good brand of vegan cheese (it even melts!) called Follow Your Heart, but Urban Fare doesn’t carry it. Fuck!
June 28th, 2009
I just spent the weekend with old friends of Husband’s in the Excited States of America. We had a really amazing time – our hosts were just fabulous, they have a wicked cat, and we gorged on rice and beans with avocado and fresh salsa. (Turns out Mexican is very good for vegans.)
In any case, after a long drive home we decided drinks were in order, so I have had a shocking FIVE drinks tonight and am feeling rather silly as a result. Husband is of course playing poker while I internet drunk. Observations from the weekend:
1. America is HUGE on the military. I gather my sample is skewed because Washington, and specifically the I-5, is the territory of several bases, national guard training centres, and some place where the bulk of the US subs with ICBMs live. Anyway, the place is lousy with American flags, patriotic bumper stickers (“Proud Army Dad”), shamelessly manipulative radio ads about proving your loyalty to the motherland, and stores with America in the title or stars and bars in the logo. As a Canadian, where the military is largely invisible (even in my home town, which boasted a base while I was growing up), and nationalism is tepid at best, it was shocking to see so much freakin’ jingo on display. It’s freaky, man. I can’t be comfortable with anyone who puts so much energy into killing/annihilating shit for a flag. In bed with an elephant indeed.
2. Imperial measures are stupid, stupid, stupid. America, please join the rest of the civilised world and switch to metric. We’d love to have you.
3. The Michael Jackson song “Bad” is SO not bad. I have formulated what will now be known of as Vex’s Law, which states that any song which contains a chorus is by definition not badass. As a former metalhead I speak with authority. “Really, really bad!” is everything but.
4. Crossing the border is easy when I’m at the wheel. Husband is white with a very anglo name but he comes from Acadian stock and I believe this is why he always gets hassled at airports and the border. (Acadians may be better known to you by their American name, Cajuns. It’s a complicated history including a forced exodus from the Maritimes – which is why they are in the States – but clearly at some point some non-white people got in the mix, and they tend to be a little browner than your usual Canadian. Plus he wears a beard and you know that means Muslim extremist.) Anyway, I am easily intimidated by authority figures and I think that works just fine with the personality of your usual border guard. Have I told you my hypothesis that they are power hungry petty tyrants who couldn’t make it as real cops? Yeah. That type would love a deferential female and I think this is why I am always waved through checkpoints with barely a glance. I would probably be a great smuggler if I had the stomach for it, which I don’t. I am not built for subterfuge.
5. Good gravy, it is after midnight and I’m still up! Horsepoop! I am going to bed.
June 24th, 2009
Someone asked me why I don’t write about psychology here more often. I have a few reasons:
1. No one seems interested. The few times I’ve gone this route I am greeted with the cricket chirps of uninterested readers not leaving comments. Whereas if I say anything at all about God, y’all come pouring out of the woodwork and it’s good times! I take your silence as indifference.
2. I am have affectionate feelings about this field and hate writing little snippets that will just utterly fail to get across the whole coolness of the idea/concept/whatever. To borrow a term, it’s like irreducible complexity (except it’s not irreducible, of course, just complex) – it has taken me years of study to get to where I am, which is by no means expert, yet even so it seems to me that any bit of knowledge I have is so bound up in other knowledge that you can’t really “get” that one bit if you don’t have the other bits.
Which I guess means I don’t have a career as a science writer ahead of me. It probably also means people more expert than me just shake their heads at the wonder of trying to tell me stuff that is much beyond my current level.
3. I am really not an expert. I surely know more about this field than your average person off the street, but mainly what I know is the rough outline of the bounds of the field and where I could get information I need. Relatively speaking, there’s not much up in my head about psychology yet. I am but an egg.
That about does it.
June 22nd, 2009
There is a refugee spider in my apartment right now. He stowed away in my camping blanket and, when I was shaking it out and sniffing to determine whether it needed washing (of course it did; I wash everything), out dropped this big forest spider who promptly dashed under the nearest chair and froze; freezing of course being a time honoured tactic for outwitting your opponent. While I am clever enough to spot a frozen spider when it is as big and black as that one was, I am also wishy-washy enough about squishing spiders that I decided not to (squish I mean), and after a few moments it raced off to hide behind the pile of books in the corner near my computer.
Now I am nervously wondering when the spider will make its appearance again. I am not opposed to spiders in principle, only in practice.
I have recently had occasion to relate my most horrible spider incident to friends and since the arrival of the refugee I have spiders on the brain, so I will tell it again here for my internet audience. This is what happened:
I used to live in a damp little basement apartment with a lady-killer roommate who was forever bringing different young women home from the bar for (I assume) sex. I can only assume because if they were doing it they were all very discreet and I never heard anything, but they also never came out of the bedroom, so I lived this surreal existence where there were always different ladies’ shoes at the door and much furtive scurrying between my roommate’s bedroom and the bathroom by half dressed women whom I never got a proper look at. In any case he was a complicated roommate for reasons other than the constant parade of strangers in my living space but that is beside the point. The point is, I often hid in my room to avoid having too many awkward interactions with the scurryers.
We were both poor and couldn’t afford to heat the whole apartment, which is truly pathetic when you consider how small it was, so the other good thing about staying in my room was I could just turn on my own baseboard electric heater, close the door, and live like it was the Bahamas for under ten dollars a month. To maximize my proximity to the heat source, I had placed my bed – a futon mattress right on the floor – up against the heater by the head end.
And one night I had a terrible dream that something, possibly a spider, was crawling around on my head. I woke from this dream to a strange noise – a sort of scritch scratching, scritch scratching, whose origin I could not determine. I sat up to get a better bead on the source of the noise and that’s when I realized that I wasn’t hearing anything, I was feeling it – there was something crawling around inside my ear!
I frantically jammed a finger into my ear and mashed it around, which surely killed whatever was in there. I then spent some time feeling for and removing little bits of bug body, feeling very anxious that it might have been a spider (horror!), but relieved that it was all over. Of course, after an incident like this it should come as no surprise that I suffered terrible nightmares for the rest of the night, in which dozens of little spiders were crawling all over my head. I woke over and over, convinced I could feel them.
And then morning came, and the room got light, and I sat up and saw that my pillow was covered in dozens of baby spiders! And I could feel them on my face and in my hair! You never saw someone leap out of bed so fast – I slapped at myself trying to brush off the spiders and shake them out of my hair, sprinting to the bathroom to get in the shower which for some reason seemed a good way to get the spiders off. Strangely, I wondered what I would do if one of the mystery women was already in the bathroom. Burst in on her, I decided.
Later I discovered that there was an egg sack tucked under my baseboard heater, about four inches from my pillow, and I guess it hatched open that night. Probably it was the mother spider I killed in my ear earlier in the night, and then the babies flooded the pillow!
Yeeaugh, I still get the willies thinking about this!
June 22nd, 2009
Five minutes ago – The scene: I am seated at the breakfast bar, reading a novel and eating leftover pasta for dinner. Husband walks over and leans on me, arms slack at his sides, not really doing anything except pressing my side.
BV: What is it? What’s happening? Something’s happening.
(silence, non-amorous pressing)
BV: Are you smelling me? Are you being a zombie? What are you doing?
Husband: I am the felt presence of God!
Ho ho ho! Endlessly delightful, that Husband.
June 21st, 2009
I camped. I got dirty. It rained. It was SO AWESOME. I haven’t stopped babbling about all the sleeping bags and Coleman stoves we’re going to buy since we left and I think it makes Husband nervous – he camped but only under duress. The fact that he had a blast has done nothing to encourage him to revise his (negative) stance on camping – I blame all the years he spent in the military where they made him dig snow caves and igloos and hunt forest rodents for his dinner and sleep with a rifle in his sleeping bag so he could be ready to roll into a firing position when his commander would raise the alarm, which was done at least eighteen times over the course of the night, every night. But that’s just a guess.
Some observations I made:
1. I think I made an ass of myself when I discovered some disgusting clot on the floor of the women’s outhouse and tried to explain to the menfolk that I was concerned there was a partial corpse in there. (I am not always very good at translating from brain to mouth.) So when I went back a little later and discovered the clot was entirely gone – as though eaten! – and became convinced that my first trip had interrupted some sort of disembowel-ingest process, no one took me seriously. As evidence by the fact that, later, when I requested an escort for yet another potty trip because clearly there was a man-eater in the vicinity, no one would walk with me, so I had to brave the toilet alone. It was harrowing. I am not too proud to admit being afraid of the woods at night BUT nonetheless I am still smitten with camping.
2. You know how when you have to poo and you’re out in public, you worry that someone will enter the stall right as you are leaving (after doing your business) and they will know by the smell what you have done? Which is embarrassing. So I hear. I personally do not poo but I know people who do. Anyway, when you are using an outhouse, it always smells like shit so you never have to worry about this! Unexpected benefit to crapping into a hole over a mountain of turds!
3. Food tastes better when prepared over a fire. And when supplied by someone else, which was a characteristic of all the food we ate this weekend. We nearly backed out of the trip due to threat of rain and then decided to go after all at the last minute, so we didn’t have anything prepared. If you know me you know I have a dread horror of not supplying everyone I encounter with mountains of food so arriving at the campsite with nothing but a bag of chips and some Oreos was a blow to my self image that may never recover. Our generous friends shared a variety of vegetarian foodstuffs with us and it was so much better for being shared, and eaten outdoors. Thanks to everyone who helped us out, not just with food but with the very basic camping supplies that we lack. It would have been a very hungry, cold, and wet trip without you.
4. SASQUATCH IS TOTALLY REAL. And not just based on the ontological argument for sasquatches, which states in summary that existence is a characteristic of a sasquatch greater than which no sasquatch can be conceived. Also, behold:
A three foot foot-print! In our very campsite! Explain THAT, skeptics!
June 19th, 2009
I am making a big pot of beans. Pinto beans. Jiminy they smell awesome! We’ll eat them with grilled tortillas and fresh made salsa and – if Husband gets my voicemail – Mexican beer. Tomorrow they live again as refried beans (did you know the “re” means “well” and not “repeated”? Well-fried, not fried again.) and I will probably make some kind of Mexican style red sauce for a baked tortilla/bean/veggie affair. Enchiladas I suppose that would be.
And I have a question. Some friends and I were discussing this the other night what the benefit of spreading information about Iran’s current crisis is. One point I thought was very good is that, in general, more information in a crisis is better than less, and on those grounds it’s good that Iran is being Twittered and FaceBooked and blogged about. Another point I thought was very good is that, so what if it’s popularly known, or that the advent of internet communication means we get this information without having to wait for the 6 o’clock news, what the fuck is anyone doing about it? Merely spreading information is erroneously conflated with helpful action, in other words.
I agree with both points. I have often thought that internet chatter gives only a false illusion of participation and dissipates real social energy that might otherwise be spent doing something like… I don’t know, but something more effective than Twittering about it. But there are probably things I haven’t thought of on this issue, so I wonder what you think. Is social media helping Iran? Does spreading information help people, or prompt people to act in such a way that others are truly helped? Or does it just makes us feel better, feel like we’re participating when really we’re just sitting on our duffs in our comfortable living rooms and offices not doing a fucking thing for Iranians? (Or Sudanese or etc etc.)
I will be honest, I haven’t done anything for Iran. I don’t count this blog post as “doing anything” as I truly cannot imagine how this will affect the life of a single Iranian person, for better or worse, in anything more than a hypothetical manner.