Let's catch up a little on the last gazillion months, shall we?

I think it really was the crappy roommates from the last time you heard regularly from me that really put me off of writing in this blog anymore. Had I mentioned the one girl who smoked in her room until I told her it wasn't allowed so she moved to smoking on the balcony where there is a giant NO SMOKING sign on the wall (not mine, but from the housing office)? Or that by the end of term this year, two girls had double occupancy in their rooms (also a lease violation), and two girls hardly lived in their rooms?

Yeah, one of them was me. More on that in the next paragraph.

For May to November 2012, read this (11-pages of text - Has some relevant notes meant for a friend at the bottom). This is how everybody in FinnSoc betrayed me (the "Elysium" story a few posts below is catharsis for some of this pain) and tore CFJ and I apart. We broke up in August, but with the roommate situation at my place I still practically lived with him, dividing my time between his place and the work-desk I got in the linguistics department to work on my school stuff and thesis. After the last straw with being cut from the Christmas show, I decided to have nothing to do with those jerks anymore. But living with CFJ I still sometimes ran into Crazyfinn, though I tried to minimize that. (I'm not so impolite that I didn't go upstairs and say goodbye to them the night before I moved back to Calgary, though.)

From September to April I took up a part-time job at the university library discharging books (that's checking books in after they're returned, if you don't know the lingo). It was actually lots of fun and I always looked forward to it.

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This is just to say

I promise I'll try this summer to note down some of the things that have happened in the past 16 months or so, in between preparing my BA Honors thesis for publication and doing extended analysis on my data at the direction of my supervisor. But more importantly, and even though I've mostly moved over to twitter (and facebook, I wish to announce this here as well:

tree of life poster

I still pay for this LJ, so perhaps I shall write here a little more often...


I wrote this story a little while ago for a contest, which I obviously didn't win (there are far more experienced writers out there studying Creative Writing and the like). I haven't really written any extended prose fiction since high school so it was a real challenge. Even more so since I'd also abandoned my weird emo brushstroke descriptive style shortly after coming back from Finland.

Analogue Twitter transcript, 20-21.12

Takeoff from YYC was kinda terrible. But YVR landing and takeoff both I'd give 11/10, I didn't feel them at all!
The long straightaway before turning around leaving YVR probably helps a lot.
The luggage bin handles are so high up even the flight attendants have to tiptoe to reach them
Cathay Pacific can get away with giving out packs of peanuts because Asians don't get peanut allergies.
I don't always watch movies in-flight, but when I do, the entertainment system doesn't work </Dos Equis man>
Apparently people only ever notice my pinky ring when I'm flying and then they think I'm an engineer
The young man in the row in front of me is wearing a HK amateur hockey team jacket. They have ice there!?
The head attendant has totally normal Cantonese but fun RP English. Didn't catch his ethnicity though
Got upset and cried for like an hour in the dark thinking about FinnSoc epic stupid. Wrote page-long rant in dark.
Drowned the stupid in wine.
I'm convinced that they got the news animations people from Taiwan to do the safety video
Apple-eating party with the woman next to me!
I'd give this landing a 9. Just a little bumpy but quick
Lady with several large bags of ketchup chips
Where the word "alight" will be used a lot and a box on the floor has a sign saying "tripping hazard" taped to it

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So I became quite sick today drinking about half of a glass of beer and eating a veggie sandwich and a bowl of curried soup. And by sick I mean drunk. And by drunk I mean breaking into a sudden sweat and the feeling in my arms and legs became very very sensitive, that is, even the smallest pressure on them like resting my head on my arm or crossing my legs would make them numb. And feeling woozy. And a very scary disorientation when I got out of my chair to make a run for the washroom. Staggering, the world spinning around me.

Needless to say, I pretty much found myself needing to sit down for a while (not gonna lie down on a restaurant washroom floor. No. Just no.) and time speeds up and I try to drink water with a straw which is hard when you really want to just put your head down on the table. (I have come to expect at least some disorientation with drinking alcohol, which is why I try to remember to carry a walking stick if I go anywhere with the intent of possibly drinking.)

I messaged CFJ to ask him to please come carry me outside or walk me home or whatever and he just seemed so...resentful about it. He has a habit of hiding his feelings when he shouldn't, and speaking his mind when he shouldn't. (That's why we semi-amicably broke up at the end of the summer. I mean, I know I've been super-clingy since and still showing up at his place a lot when I ought to give him some space, but.. ) He was like "sigh I'm coming now" and he comes to get me and he says "You know, I was in the middle of a Magic tournament online" and it's just ... like he's BOTHERED by having to help out a buddy in need.

I've stayed home for the last couple of days, but as evident from the time at which I'm posting this, I get all this ennui and don't want to go to bed until very very very late and my body just wants to shut down when I'm here; while if I spend the night at his place I usually go to bed between 10:30 and 12 because he does and I feel tired and I wouldn't want to keep playing Guild Wars 2 on his TV screen while he's trying to sleep (muting just won't do). On the other hand, I can better take care of my skin care needs here, but better my dental needs there. So I don't know. In the grand scheme of things I think maybe good rest is a little bit more important than good hygiene, though both are important.

He was struggling the other day with finding a nice way to tell me to go away, and it's obvious that I got the message and stayed home, yet he seemed very indifferent when I admitted that every day without seeing him still really really sucks.

I've asked him before how and why he still puts up with me, and his only answer is "I don't know". But I see now, that "I don't know" here really means "I know but there's no point telling you because it's not going to change your mind about whatever you have in mind". But sometimes you need to know, right?

As for the drunkenness - something similar happened earlier this year and I also wasn't able to finish one serving of alcohol before I got similarly sick but not quite as drastically. The only other thing in common? Eating curry. So I think alcohol and curry don't mix. Anyone know why, and maybe it's related to my sensitivity to spicy food and how that makes my hands numb?

(I suppose today I was also very famished; the server remarked that I finished eating my meal very quickly. It's likely that I drank too quickly while I was at it. I don't remember what the context was the other time.)

How not to sell a piano

jmaxsohmer posted this on his facebook a little while ago, and I'd asked if I could share it, but I didn't get to it until now:

Jonathan Max-Sohmer
Saturday, June 9 at 5:58pm ·
How not to sell a piano, real or imitation:

1) Approach the customer who immediately gravitated to the Yamaha upright.
2) Proceed to explain why said upright is a great piano.
3) Draw the customers attention to the more expensive "electric piano" with all the fancy bells and whistles.
4) When the customer expresses zero interest in the electric piano and would rather discuss the real one, say that a silly attachment to real pianos is like refusing to give up a typewriter.
5) Mention how only "those Asian families" ever buy regular pianos.
6) When the customer mentions playing trumpet, demonstrate the electric piano's "trumpet" settings and proclaim them superior to a real trumpet.
7) Ask the customer if they still have "one of those big box-like televisions", and wouldn't they be embarrassed if they did?
8) Watch customer walk away.

To be fair, I wasn't going to buy a piano today anyway. It's on my to-do-someday list, but it's just not in the cards right now. I would love to have one, but I have other priorities for that kind of money. However, I would have taken a business card, and I would have gotten in touch with her whenever I'm ready to buy a piano in the future.

I suspect the real reason she wanted to sell me the electric piano instead of the real one is a matter of markup. An electric piano can be assembled almost entirely from factory-machined parts, from the circuit boards to the fake wood frame. You can price it a bit higher for someone who doesn't appreciate the qualities of the real piano because yes, it does have a whole bunch of really nifty features, including some that would increase the overall versatility of the instrument—assuming you value that over sound. An electric piano never needs to be tuned, and humidity and temperature are only a concern in the sense of general operating range.

A real piano, on the other hand, is a hand-made individual work of art (Yamaha is very consistent on its instrument quality, but you can't get around the fact that no two spruce soundboards will ever be completely identical). Most of its components can't be made in a factory by robots, although its wooden components can be sometimes be shaped that way. You cannot remove the master artisan from the piano building process. A real piano must be tuned every time you move it, and moving it requires skilled labor due to the extreme weight and sensitivity of the instrument. If it is mishandled in shipping and the soundboard cracks, the entire piano is ruined and yields little in salvage value. Even if it never moves, a piano that doesn't sell quickly must be tuned periodically if you ever hope to sell it in the future—no customer will buy a piano from you if your pianos sound like crap. If the humidity and temperature change substantially, even briefly, the piano must be tuned again. A real piano that is not played at least occasionally will need more frequent servicing.

All of these factors make a real piano very expensive to craft, transport, and sell. Take those costs, and then add in the significant cost reduction for the substitute product assembled from factory-machined parts. Selling the electric piano becomes a lot more lucrative.

I get that—you want to make more money. That's fine, but I don't want an electric piano. *Maybe* as a supplement, but it will never replace a real piano for me. So if you want to sell me anything, you really ought to just accept that I'm not going to buy that electric piano for my starter unit. And I'm not a salesman, but I'm pretty sure insulting the customer is a losing strategy.

The worst part is that she was very good at playing the pianos, at least for the purpose of those little demonstrations. So this isn't just some stupid sales twit, but someone with at least moderate technical proficiency.

Inside the exam-marking machine

This summer I am working at the Alberta Education marking centre again.

Regardless of what your feelings are about the Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) and Diploma (Grade 12) exams, I think that teachers who are administering these exams should know a little about what happens to the students' papers BEFORE they get marked. Students might be interested, too.

I don't know how much information I'm actually allowed to divulge - obviously I'm bound by order to not say anything about the schools' or the students' papers that come through my hands, but I don't know what else - so I'll be as broad and brief as possible.

Part A exams (written answer)

  1. Receiving - Boxes of exams shipped in from schools are picked up at the loading dock. The coloured shipping labels are scanned to register that packages have been received by us.
  2. Breakout - The boxes are opened, and the exam materials (exam papers, teacher marking guides, audio CD recordings of the questions for the vision-impaired, etc.) - and the accompanying school paperwork (registration/attendance lists, packing slips, etc.) - are separated into bundles.
  3. Pre-sorting - Staples are removed from the paperwork. Marking guides, the question CDs, and any obviously unused exam booklets (i.e. with no student labels on them) are removed from the bundles.
  4. Sorting - Each student label has an index number printed on it. Every bundle of papers is sorted numerically by index number, student label -side up. Using the attendance list as a guide, any further blank papers (eg. labels were applied but student was absent) are removed. Papers with misapplied labels or student information but no label are flagged for review by the next department.  (4b. All papers, blank or not, have their serial numbers (printed on the front cover) scanned in to register their return to AB Ed.)
  5. Registration - This department registers papers with no labels (usually means the student arrived at the school part-way through the school year, or wrote elsewhere other than at their own school) and makes labels and marking sheets for them. They also print replacement labels.
  6. Scanning - The student-label-with-no-name labels are scanned in to mark that an exam has been received from the student. Attendance data is also keyed into the database. A list is printed off for each school+subject that says how many papers were received, and names/indexes of students whose papers were not received for whatever reason.
  7. Verification - The scanner's list is checked against the registration/attendance list information for accuracy. The books are counted to make sure they're all there. They remove the school paperwork (some supervisors deal with it, I'm not sure what they do, though).
  8. Inserting - Marking sheets with index numbers are collated with and tucked into their matching booklets. ONLY AT THIS POINT is the tear-off flap on the back with the student's name removed to make the exams anonymous to the markers. Some schools think they're making our lives easier by preemptively ripping the flap off. Please don't do that. The pre-sort people have to tape them back on. I can't stress this enough. TEACHERS: PLEASE DON'T RIP OFF THE TABS FOR US. THANK YOU. Something happens to the tabs. I don't know what.
  9. Bundling - Exams are combined into packets, each of 5 papers from 5 different schools.
  10. Marking - It's not as simple as just putting the packets into the hands of teachers, but it's at this point that teachers actually get to look at the papers.
  11. ???!

Part B exams (multiple-choice / numerical answer - machine scored)

  1. As above.
  2. As above.
  3. As above, but readings and/or question booklets are also separated, leaving only the paperwork and bubble sheets in the bundles.
  4. As Steps 4-7 above.
  5. The bubble sheets are, well, machine scanned.
  6. ???!

So that's a peek inside the standardized test marking machine. Any questions?

FML *sigh*

Between messy roommates who don't seem to heed messages left on notes for any more than a week (cases in point: turning lights off when leaving the apartment; disposing of garbage promptly; rinsing empty drink cartons; taking out recycling; wiping off stove after cooking; washing and putting away dishes after cooking; proper disposal of sanitary napkins; refilling the stash of toilet rolls under the washroom sink); roommates who decided that our cable Internet subscription was being too flaky or something and so got her own cable Internet subscription, hooking it up to the same jack with a splitter*; roommates who buy way too many shoes online; roommates who talk late into the night on the phone/Skype but whose calls seem to entail either giggling or cryface whining; and finally the bullsh*t endless apartment inspections (see comments) - one today and one less than a week from today - for which roommates don't seem to care enough to prepare the place for and thus I will be charged money for non-"cleaning" for messes I have absolutely nothing to do with (since I always clean up after myself and haven't been spending too much time here lately anyway); I think I am justified to say, V*TTU TÄTÄ P*SKAA.

When you go out during the day and by the end of it you really, just really don't want to go back to your own bed because of this BS, you know it's time to move on. I can't afford it or I'd move into the House of Crazyfinn, after all, I think I spend more time at CFJ's place than I do at my own right now.

So schoolwork is progressing at a snail's pace, because I need my (desktop) computer for some of it.

Last week I had a sudden urge to learn and record all eight parts for this song that my choir is working on. But lo and behold, eventually my next door roommate came home and decided she needed to study, so she pounded on my wall to make me stop. I mean, really? I get a rare burst of inspiration to do something that will relieve my stress (or at least to distract myself from it) and BAM! SHUT DOWN. Sigh. It's like with Mrs CF and going to the cabin at the lake. FML.

* Incidentally, neither modem is getting any internet connection at the moment, so I am typing this on my computer via USB tethering to my mobile phone, which happens to have a nice data plan.
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I was on the bus yesterday afternoon - the route which passes by the schools I "taught" at - and I saw a few familiar faces. Overhearing them being addressed by their friends only confirmed that I had known these people before. Fortunately, it's been more than a year and kids don't remember briefly-seen visages for very long. But that doesn't mean that it made me feel kind of creeped out.