grad school advice

I just sent an email to a Cultural Studies list asking for Phd program recommendations and got an email asking about advice for grad school. I just wrote a long ass email so I figure I'd post it for all to benefit:

- know your program well and take just what you need to take or you will never graduate (like some of my peers who've been in the program 5 years +)
- go to office hours and get to know the personalities/academic specialties of your profs, and be quick to find a couple that will really know your work well. you need to start thinking about who you'll choose for your thesis/exam committee
- time flies FAST - do not leave things (like figuring out which profs you want as advisors, committee members etc)
- be sure to stand out. grad school is the time to form relationships with profs so they'll write you good letters for scholarships and doctoral programs -- this is really important
- participate a lot in class but dont take over dicussions no matter how smart you (think you) are -- participate too little and people think you're creepy, participate too much and the class will hate you
- go to the parties and be fun but behave - you'd be amazed the value of friendship and networking with your peers (this is not the time to be a hermit or "that creepy dude")
- try to start thinking about your thesis topic so you can work on the same topic in more than one class e.g. research methods, criticism, intro to grad study etc.... that way you have chipped away at your lit review so you have less work to do when thesis time comes around. (this saved my ass, trust me)
- even if you have a job already, try to TA because it gives you teaching experience and increases your exposure to profs, which then makes you more eligible for department awards and scholarships
- talk discretely with more senior students to get the scoop on the profs (and go to ratemyprofessor.com). You'll want to make sure you don't get too close to faculty who are known to be dishonest, tempermental, or just plain crazy
- make sure you are well equipped - computer, printer etc. I've seen a lot of students scramble because of technology failures/relying on campus resources

small world indeed

So I recently had my second "small world made smaller through blogging" incident. Let me retrace the first one that happened last year. Simon has a friend named Sheldon (York Univ friend) engaged to a gal named Natasha. Those two had been reading my blog for a while because it was linked from Ben's blog because Natasha knows Ben since, long ago, she dated his friend Mike. So anyways, Simon went to a wedding in Toronto that I did not attend. Shel and Natasha were also guests there. When Simon arrives there's a name card for me at the table with my name spelled right. He's thinking, how do they know who I'm dating and how did they figure out how to spell her name correctly. Well apparently Shel and Natasha told the married couple my name and the spelling of it because they had discovered my blog and saw pics of Simon in it and put 2 + 2 together.

Here's number two. I'm friends with Eva who has a sister, Celia who is dating Oliver. I've never met Celia or Oliver because I befriended Eva in the States and those two are back in Vancouver. But we all read each other's blogs apparently. Well recently, I posted pics from my cousin's wedding where my friend Jane is pulling a bottle of Crown out of her purse. Oliver recognizes Jane.....Jane is the former roomate of his brother's wife.

A non blog related incident also involved Jane. We were at Red Room club in Vancouver when we ran into her coworker Larry. Larry is from Toronto. He was with his friend Jason who was visiting from Toronto. Jason mentioned he was a DJ out there and I asked if he knew Simon's friend Nigel, also a DJ. Turned out he not only knew him, but Jason and Larry went to high school with Nigel and Simon and all the other folks you see in the wedding pics below.

There are theories that explain this kinda weird stuff http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_world_phenomenon

I actually learned about that in the communication networks section of my intro to communication course in undergrad. I have a feeling that with communication technology, that 6 degrees of separation will be cut down a degree or two.


photos from wedding #3 of the summer

The sign outside the movie-themed wedding held in, whatelse, a movie theatre

All of Simon's high school buddies and the groom Dan in the middle

Dan showing off his Austin Powers moves for Sarah

back to Cali

I'm back finally after 3.5 weeks in Vancouver and 4.5 days in Toronto. Toronto was so damn hot I think it was almost comparable to Houston in July. 38 degrees C with humidex, which is 100.4 degrees F. Yeah that's pretty damn hot. The Toronto wedding was particularly unique. It had a movie theme so it was held in a movie theatre turned event venue. The sign outside the theatre announced "Austin Powers starring Sarah and Dan" and there was all sorts of groovy Austin Powers-esque dancing such as when the wedding party was introduced before dinner. I have to say the departure from the standard ceremony/banquet made it really fun and memorable. The tables were given movie titles instead of numbers (I sat at Tombstone) and the staff did a wonderful job keeping up with all the thirsty guests.

I am happy to be back though. Where the sun shines eveyday without turning the place into a damn oven, where I can sleep on my big bed with 400 thread count sheets and I can go out and see friends without trekking across town via city streets a la Vancouver.


Yesterday night I took Bunny out for a walk in the front yard (yes that's a leash)

but all he did was lay around in the grass and dug a small hole

and when we got back inside he was so tired he just sprawled out on the floor

I will miss Bunny and everyone else here in Vancouver. My 3.5 weeks are up already and it's time to go to Toronto for yet another wedding before heading back to SF.



Today was the first full day of beautiful sunshine and warm weather here in the Vancouver area in about a month but I didn't leave the house. Most of my friends have regular jobs and the one who works from home is about 45 min away so I had no one to call out for a hike or a walk through a park someplace. Actually, freakin everything is about 45 min away since my parents live out here in the sticks outside Vancouver proper and I am way too lazy to do 45 min of mostly stop and go city driving (our highway system runs diagonal to the city and gets you basically nowhere). The only thing that gets me down more than shitty rainy weather is nice weather and nothing to do (or, rather, no one to do stuff with). I think that not having ready access to friends to hang out with gets me into a funk, which really scares me because what if I go away for my Phd next year and get stuck someplace where everyday is like this? I think my emotional stability is far too fragile to withstand such a situation. Man, even thinking about the near future is freaking me out. Better hit the sack before this consumes me.


impressive weddings

Typically, talking about weddings is rather nauseating for me. My own is nowhere within the foreseeable future and formalities generally make me uncomfortable. But I have to say that there are some little things that people do with their weddings that stand out my mind and I have to admit I take a little mental note (even though I'd never be able to afford most of this). Here's my shortlist:

- a guy stationed at a table rolling cigars the whole night for guests and a blond chick there to help put the cigars in a zip lock bag for you (OK so I don't like having the chick there, just the Cuban cigar roller)
- a huge bar carved out of ice
- bride and groom riding to a beach wedding atop an elephant
- a big seafood BBQ on the beach after the ceremony
- a chocolate fondue fountain
- releasing monarch butterflies as the newly married couple leaves the altar
- invitations that look like this!!
- customized fortune cookies
- having a fun theme wedding for friends separate from the boring banquet for family and people you don't really even know

Bravo to couples who come up with such unique ideas and keep the guests from getting bored!


highlights from my cousin's wedding

Some of my favourite pics from my cousin Tim's wedding this weekend (not including the dull ones of all the formalities).

Semi-dry wedding? No problem

Spiking the punch

Troublemakers at table 7 (me in purple)

Groomsman's drinking injury from the stag (walked into a glass door)

Dan and I simulating Electric Circus with some shadow dancing

4 hours and the groom has lost track of the wife already

wedding 2

So wedding #2 of my trip home took place yesterday. It was my cousin's wedding. I don't know what it is about attending weddings that leaves me completely drained for at least 48 hours. It was a really efficient wedding too - no games, no speeches, no 3 hour delay between ceremony and dinner. None of that stuff. It's finally sunny outside, I have some homework to do and only less than a week to hang out with friends before I take off but I am too drained to do anything but lay around and watch TV and take naps. It's kinda depressing actually. Ah shit gotta go get ready now for wedding dinner part two. I'll update this entry tonight.


the one

After stuffing ourselves with sushi at Sushi Garden, I headed to Starbucks Metropolis with my two closest friends for coffee. After reviewing last night's dramas and catastrophes for one of my friends (who was too drunk to remember the evening except for when he walked into a glass door and hurt his nose) we got onto our usual topic of relationships. I was telling them about some of my mini reunions with old girl friends from high school and stuff and how several of them have mentioned that when they first started dating their husbands, they knew within months or even days of dating that the guy was "the one." I keep hearing that from people and I find the whole idea kind of unbelievable, that there's some innate sense about us kind of like how babies can identify their birth mothers at a young age. They suggest that people can just know when they've found "the one" and figure it out right away. Well my friends disputed this today at Starbucks calling this a "white person's fantasy." I thought, hmmm, you're right all the people who keep telling me this are, indeed, white. They argue that Asians aren't idealistic like that and believe you have to make a relationship, not just magically discover it. There is no "the one." I even asked my engaged friend as he sipped his frappucinno if he just knew his fiance was "the one" and his answer was "hell no."

I think it goes back to our Confucian and Buddhist roots and philosophies that emphasize dealing with the fate you're dealt and accepting suffering. No, not as magical or idealistic as the idea of finding your soulmate but finding someone and creating a solid relationship makes more sense to me. The real test according to my friends was not getting that magical feeling about the person being "the one" but rather whether or not you can picture your life without your significant other. If that life you picture seems empty or boring or unappealing, you might be onto something.



I had predicted that getting approval to start my thesis would be a total pain in the ass so when I first got into Vancouver I headed straight to the textile liquidation place by my house to get an armload of fabrics and patterns. Good thing I did because, as predicted, I have not yet gotten approval to start because of miscellaneous stupid things out of my control. Anyways, so far I've made two tops, a skirt, and a dress. It has been a huge test of my patience but I like to sew when I'm back home because I have ready tech support at my side (mom). Stuff I make on my own is often a huge disaster. The thing about sewing is that you really never know what the hell you're going to end up with. It's like buying clothes without first trying it on. You don't know if the pattern will really fit your body or look flattering on you and you don't get to find out until you've spent hours and hours making it. So far everything has turned out OK (though not great) with some adjustments. But there's a certain satisfaction you get from sewing that you don't get from just purchasing clothes. There's the satisfaction of saving a few bucks and turning a piece of fabric into something wearable. There's also the fact that I made it with my own hands instead of giving away what little money I have to big corporations that use sweatshops to make the clothes and then jack up the price by slapping some meaningless brand name on the label, or worse yet, on the clothes itself (yuck!)Call it my statement against consumerism.


little off

I was sitting in the recliner downstairs last night watching British home buying shows on HGTV Canada when I realized the room was spinning a bit. You know that slow spin, reset, spin, that happens after about 6 or 7 strong drinks. But I hadn't had anything to drink. Earlier yesterday I had started to cough a bit too. This was all kinda weird because when I get sick it's a predictable pattern of throat tickle and fatigue before other symptoms like congestion. I was thinking, shit, this might be my first ear infection. Luckily after 9 hours of sleep the room stopped spinning, but only after some crazy dreams about surfing (again). I'm one hell of a surfer in my dreams even though I've never done it. It's a recurring thing though. Anyways, I seem to be battling a bit of a cold, but nothing horrible. Someone once told me that oregano oil is a great anti-everything bad like fungus and bacteria and viruses. 3 drops of pure stuff under the tongue fixes colds better than echinacea. Unfortunately I dont have any on hand and I'm too lazy to make yet another trip to the mall. Apparently, dropped on things like infections of the toe nails (that nasty stuff they show on the commercials about toe nail thickening due to fungus), oregano oil makes it all go away. It's about $20 CAD for a small bottle. I think I'm going to fight this cold off though. One more night of good long sleep starting now. Nighty night.


bait cars

It's been raining/drizzling for a week straight now and not expected to let up for at least another 10 days (except for just a cloudy day tomorrow supposedly). It's hard not to laugh out loud when you check out the weather forecast http://weather.yahoo.com/forecast/CAXX0518_c.html.

Rain all day means more time spent at home. It's kinda nice that we have a newspaper subscription so I can spend the morning pouring over the local news and flyers. One interesting program they've launched here has been really successful. It's called the Bait Car Program. The cops have cars out all over the place - underground garages, parkades (that's parking garage in Canadian), on streets, lanes, etc - with GPS devices , mics, and cameras hidden in them. They just sit out there waiting to get stolen and when they do, you get a recording of the whole ordeal, including conversations that the thieves have with each other (or themselves) about how they're not going to go to jail this time. Often they show the recordings on TV. Once the cars get stolen, they use the GPS to track down the thieves and off they go to jail. It's pretty damn entertaining to watch the recordings of these people frantically prying away at stereos or taking off with the cars. They've even upped the ante by putting out bait cars that are carrying ATVs, motorcycles, and jet skis which make them even hotter. Check out some of the videos here.


poutine part deux

My trip back home has been nice and relatively uneventful. I checked out a restaurant called Guu on Saturday night on Robson @ Bidwell. It was awesome. Basically it's authentic cooked Japanese food, served tapas-style and very tasty with a big bottle of Sapporo to share. Kinda like Oidon but way the hell cheaper at about $20 per person to stuff yourself silly. From there we headed out to a friend of a friend's house where the host's cat bit me (how weird is that?), then out to Tokyo Lounge (now a house club) and then to Red Room (formerly the Drink and Madison's before that). My weekdays have been spent sitting at home sewing and makin' some jewellry with my new skills passed on from Jenn. Traffic is getting really bad by my house with so many people moving to my area. Having the biggest IKEA in BC 5 minutes away doesn't seem to help. I haven't minded staying home and chilling. I have a little shadow that follows me everywhere (at least upstairs because he's unable to maneuver down stairs.) Meet Bunny. Bunny sits next to me whenever I get on the computer.

Bunny hanging out with me in the computer room right now...

Oh yeah, today I had poutine with chicken at the Zellers (think Canadian Kmart) cafeteria today. $4.25...add chicken for $2. It was awesome. Big huge plate with chunks of cheese curds that melted really nicely with the hot fries and gravy. Not all cold and chunky like Burger King. The added chicken was a nice touch. I think I have to end my poutine testing now though. I went out to the mall to try some stuff on after my poutine meal and it was rather disastrous.



Denny is in town so tonight, after I spend my day trying to sew my own shirt and make dinner, I'm gonna pick him up and we're gonna do Canadian things like eat poutine and drink beer like Kokanee, Shaftbury's, Granville Island or maybe some Labatt's. That is afterall how you celebrate Canadianess.

I spent yesterday lunching with friends and walking around downtown in the sun. It's back to rain again now though. Anyways, it was really strange to walk around Granville, Robson and the other main drags. Everything is different and renovated and, since I'm a person who gets around by recognizing landmarks - stores and such - I got a little disoriented. The jewelers is now London Drugs, Eatons is Sears, Winners/Futureshop is where my bank used to be, and holy cow Granville street is clean. Back in high school when I used to love wandering downtown, there used to be what we called Granville street family, a bunch of runaway teens and their dogs who lived on that street. There's no more kids in doorways on Granville and, in fact, very few homeless in the area. Just lots of newly renovated clothing stores leading to a string of new upscale bars and lounges. But on the news I learned that even though downtown is cleaned up a bit, Vancouver's dirty little secret, an area known as Main and Hastings (aka skid row aka the Downtown Eastside) has only gotten worse. Even since I can remember this corrider right next to Chinatown and Gastown is crammed with people openly dealing drugs and shooting heroine when they're not shooting each other in drug deals gone awry. It's a very very ugly mess and an area I even avoid driving through as drug addicts often stumble right into the middle of the street. While it's "nice" to have the city's ugliness contained to a couple square blocks, that also makes it easy for the government, politicians, and law enforcement to ignore. There was a little news piece by Mike McCardell on Global comparing the area to NYC. McCardell noted that NYC, his hometown, has cleaned up and crime has gone down dramatically while the Vancouver Eastside has spiraled out of control. I once heard that the small area has the highest per capita crime rate in North America - lots of drugs, homicide, and prostitution and very few people actually "living" there, i.e. who have an address.