To Blog, or Not to Blog

My friend sent me this, and because I am a huge English geek I thought it was awesome:

If Shakespeare Had Written the Three Little Pigs

My favourite part is when he runs around squealing like a pig.

I took a Shakespeare class last semester and I’m currently taking a class on Medieval Literature, so I can definitely relate to how many freaking words they have. I laughed when he said that Shakespeare had a vocabulary of fifty-four thousand and we have a vocabulary of about three thousand, because I honestly believe it. (Does that make us less smart, like John Branyan says? Or have we simply become more concise? I like to believe the latter – therefore Internet speak, which is very short, should sound the smartest of all. My theory is rapidly disintegrating.) But even though Shakespeare made me bang my head against a wall last semester, I have to admit that he has a way with words. All the extra “ithers” and “thees” and “thous” make it sound so much fancier than “Hey dude, what’s up?” Wouldn’t we all sound so much cooler if we spoke like Shakespeare?

Me: Pray tell, whither are thee going, dear friend?

Friend: …

Okay, so maybe not. However, they did have some pretty awesome insults back in the day. I’m reading a work called Piers Plowman for my Medieval Literature class, and one lady calls the narrator a “doting dolt.” That is totally what I’m calling the next person I get into an argument with.

Someone asked me the other day why I like that “old crap”, as they so eloquently put it. It was a fair question, since I was complaining bitterly about how I didn’t understand a word of what I was reading. I’ll admit, I used to be convinced that my only literary boyfriend was Modern Literature, and that we were destined to have a beautiful life together. But then in 2010 I took a class on medieval literature with a professor at SFU named David Coley. Simply put, he made me fall in love with another man (Stop that thinking right now. We’re still going with the metaphor here.). I thought it was going to be extremely boring, but he brought it to life for me – hence why I am now taking the 300 level class with him. But in all honesty, I think it’s really interesting to study where our modern day works come from. I mean, everything we have now has been built on this foundation of hundreds of old writers, and even though they speak absolutely atrocious English it’s still fascinating to see how they used to think about things.

That being said, medieval literature can still cause me to put my cheek on my desk and quietly wonder why I am pursuing this crazy fancy of majoring/minoring/something-ing in English. Then I remember that I also have to finish my coding homework, and I sit back up and resume reading. Speaking of which, I really should get back to deciphering their gibberish. Away!


Year of the Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! Unfortunately, due to my complete lack of obvious Asian features, nobody outside of my family remembered that I was Chinese and wished me a happy new year. Nonetheless, it’s the year of the dragon, and I feel like that makes it a good year for travelling. Dragons are all adventurous and such, right? (Mind you, they also have the advantage of being able to torch anybody who pisses them off, so that probably helps with the bravery factor.)

I had a pretty busy weekend, which was probably a good thing, as it kept me from lying on the couch and devouring cookies. Speaking of which, though, I discovered the perfect cure for a bad day on Friday night:

My friend and I made some pretty spectacular ginger-ninjas, and they were delicious and the perfect cure for sadness. I tried a new recipe that had butterscotch pudding mix, and the cookies turned out only mildly gingery but very soft and just yummy in general. I prefer soft cookies anyways, so if anybody wants the recipe (from

Gingerbread Men

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the dry butterscotch pudding mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon then stir into the pudding mixture until dough forms. Cover bowl and chill dough until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
  3. Grease a baking sheet. On a floured board, roll dough out to around a 1/4 inch thickness and cut into man shapes using a cookie cutter (can also use Christmas trees, Santas, circles etc). Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks. Pipe royal icing to detail the men once cookies are cool. Can be stored in a container in the fridge for a week.

I think next time I make them I’ll put extra ginger in to spice them up a little. Also, if you want more than 15 or so, I’d double the recipe.

I may have eaten a few too many of them though, because I had an interesting experience Saturday morning. I had to volunteer at a leadership conference for school, so Saturday morning I duly got up, showered, put my contacts in, fed my bunny, and was standing in my bedroom when I happened to glance at the clock and discover the first clue of my insanity. It was 3:00 in the morning.

The second clue was when I suddenly realized it was still very dark outside. The third was when I thought a little more, and really couldn’t remember getting out of bed and into the shower. In fact, as I stood dazed and sleepy in the middle of the room, I could barely remember how I had gotten there. For a girl who hates getting up early, it is a very disorienting thing to have taken a shower in the wee hours of the morning. After standing there for about five minutes trying to force my sleep-drugged brain into figuring out what the hell I was doing, I took out my contacts, put my pjs back on, and crawled back into bed. My only theory is that I was sleepwalking, or something, which has never happened before. At least it makes a good story.

I made up for my poor start by going for Dine Out on Saturday night at the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. on Main Street, where I had the best salad of my life: it was fig and goat cheese, and it was AMAZING. I’m going to try really hard to reproduce it. The pizza was delicious too – it wasn’t greasy and everything tasted really fresh. Om nom nom. I love good food. It was probably the highlight of my weekend, as I spent the rest of it fighting battles with Scheme for my AI assignment. (And like the dragon, I conquered! Take that, Scheme.)

Cold Weather Deserves Warm Food

There’s a reason I live in Van: I have this issue with cold weather. Specifically, I hate it. I am convinced that I have poor blood circulation (or something) because I am perpetually cold. But I must have angered the gods, because Vancouver has decided to test me by being extremely freaking cold. We rarely dip below 0, but for the last few days we’ve been sitting at a nice -5 to -7. Which to me means wearing a tanktop, sweater, hoodie, vest, hat, scarf, tights, jeans, legwarmers, socks and boots. Yes folks, I have become a walking marshmallow.

There is a benefit to wearing all of that clothing though. My arms have been sore from weights at the gym, and when I wear so many layers I have issues with arm mobility because of the sheer thickness of my clothing. Therefore, I keep my arms mostly still, reducing any pain caused by movement of sore muscles. There’s always a silver lining, right?

Speaking of silver linings, another one is that the cold weather deserves warm food. (Er, maybe not such a silver lining…) I have class downtown on Thursday evenings, so my friend and I usually go for lunch beforehand. Today we went to Nuba ( – Lebanese food! We had the most amazing cauliflower I’ve ever had. Normally I’m not really a fan of cauliflower, but this one was roasted and had all these spices and just general amazingness. I really should’ve taken a picture, but I was in too much of a hurry to eat it. I also had lamb kafta with delicious potatoes (I think I actually liked the potatoes more than the lamb) and really good baklava for dessert. Om nom. I also tried Turkish coffee, which was really interesting. (We’ll see if I sleep tonight.) I spent the entirety of lunch trying to figure out what it tasted like – it was really rich and smooth, but it had this aftertaste that I really couldn’t pin down.

Further inspired by the whole winter-needs-food idea, we went for hot chocolate at Leonidas Chocolate, down by the Convention Centre. Whoever thought of a hot chocolate festival was a genius. Dark chocolate and raspberry hot chocolate completely made up for the walk in the cold, though it did make me sleepy in class.

So, I don’t like to brag about my city, but I live in the most beautiful place in the world.

Emotional Emailing and other text-driven tragedies

Hi, my name is Shannon, and I am an Emotional Emailer.

(That wasn’t so hard. Good practice for my support group.)

I came to this realization last night as I was typing away on my computer. I was exchanging emails with someone that I’ve been upset with, and something about the tone of an email I received threw me off. Now, the important thing to note here is that what we were emailing about was completely separate from what I was upset by, and hence should not have set me off at all. But it did, and I was overcome by an overwhelming urge to fire back a diatribe listing exactly how I felt about absolutely everything in my life, from how the situation had affected my enjoyment of my morning cereal to its moral impact on my life goals.

As I began to type furiously, two little figures appeared on my shoulders. (Metaphorically. I’m not insane, yet.) “Go for it! Let it all out! You’re going to feel sooooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooooooood,” said the little devil-Shannon.

“Uh. This is probably a really bad idea. What exactly do you hope to get from this? It’s not like they’ll say anything that will make you feel better,” countered the little angel-Shannon.

These two figments of my imagination made me stop suddenly and come to this realization: I am an Emotional Emailer.

What is an Emotional Emailer, you ask? Let me back up a little. I have an intense fear and dread of confrontation. I’m not really sure why, but I will avoid fights and arguments like they are the plague. If anybody even slightly raises their voice – bam! I am a puddle of tears and my brain floats away to go visit its fellow brains in Hawaii, only to return when I am have been thoroughly beaten in the argument. I think it’s because I dislike upsetting people, so for some reason I’d rather upset myself and just not say anything. Alternately, I’m just a wimp, which is also plausible.

Regardless, I am extremely incoherent when upset, and this is where emotional emailing comes in. When some people are angry, they yell – I write. I naturally think much better on paper than when speaking, and so when I am upset I tend to spew my worries into emails. This leads to me sending long, angst-ridden, soul-searching messages that encompass my miseries and anxieties about absolutely everything. They usually happen when I really want to say something but I know that if I try to speak it all I’ll never make it through. So instead, I write out everything, rewrite it until I am convinced it is as perfect as I can make it, and send it off into cyberspace.

As I thought about it more, I realized that this happens with texts, too – or anything really that is written rather than spoken. It made me think about how easy it is for us to avoid face-to-face contact when handling issues…and it also made me think about how the written word is not always interpreted as it was meant to be interpreted. I’m sure I’ve sent emails or texts that somebody took entirely the wrong way because I never realized that I was coming across in a way that I didn’t mean. Tone is hard in an email – somebody who is actually sad may sound happy, somebody who is happy may sound sad, somebody may sound angry when they’re not – and so it can be difficult to read a person’s emotional state from their words on a computer screen, or in your phone inbox.

I’m not saying that writing things out can’t be good. Trust me, I am a huge fan of writing things out. I suppose I just thought about it a lot last night and realized that just as there is a time and a place to say things, there is a time and a place to write things, and writing when you are extremely sad or angry is probably not the best way to go. Just because it’s written, doesn’t mean that it’s any worse than calling up that person and screeching into their ear. Its status as an email or a text doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have the same impact as saying something in person – and it doesn’t mean that you should have more license to send out these rants whenever you want. Communication is communication, no matter what form.

So I finally listened to the little angel-Shannon and made a decision – that it was definitely not the right time to unleash my inner monster in an email to this person. Also, as you can see, I somehow transformed that Emotional Email that I was going to send into this long rant of a blog post. Um. I guess it had to come out somewhere.

Sun and Snow

It’s been an absolutely beautiful day today and what have I done all day? Stayed inside and worked on homework. Ah, such is the life of the university student.

It’s rare that we have days that are both snowy and sunny, but today was gorgeous. Absolutely freezing (and so it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t leave my house as I am cold-blooded to begin with), but gorgeous.

I went for dinner at Hapa Umi downtown yesterday ( I’ve been to the Hapa Izakaya on Robson, and I always love it, but Hapa Umi is definitely its upscale older sister. (Gee, I wish I could be the upscale older sister. Instead, my little sister usually out-glams me by a mile.) We had two sushi rolls (the salmon salsa battera and the umi roll), squid and sausage, kakuni and scallops, bacon and kimi ishiyaki and kani pasta. It sounds like we were pigs, but there was four of us and the dishes are pretty small. My favourite was definitely the kakuni and scallops – pork belly and scallops, how could you go wrong? It was so beautifully laid out too. Unfortunately, my picture sucks because my family was rushing me so that they could hurry up and eat it.

My only problem is that you only get two scallops. Who could be content with two scallops? (Or in my case, half a scallop, since it was split among four people.) Oh, for the days at Google when I had unlimited scallops for lunch…that was a glorious day. I think I ate ten. It was a bit disgusting, really.

While procrastinating tonight, I also watched the Golden Globes (though I taped it and skipped past the boring acceptance speeches). I don’t really watch them for the awards – it’s just an excuse to check out what the dresses look like (and in all honesty to drool over the good-looking men in tuxes). One day, once I’ve won the lottery three times and become a multi-bazillionaire, I’m going to throw a ball just to have an excuse to wear an extremely fancy dress. I would probably trip on the hem and promptly fall on my face, but for that one shining moment where I was leaning on something and therefore stable I would really enjoy myself. I’ll add it to my dreams of a house with a gigantic library and a permanent vacation home in the Caribbean.

Dreaming of Dine Out Vancouver

I have to admit that I have been engaged in a love affair for many years…with food. It may be the reason that I will never be skinny, but good food makes me extremely happy. If I had more time to cook, I would, but school and extracurriculars always seem to stand in my way with their arms crossed, shaking their heads. (In fact, they do that for a lot of things. They don’t like me having a life.)

Nevertheless, Dine Out Vancouver starts next week and I’m pretty excited about it. If you are a Vancouverite and don’t know about this – shame! If you’re not, then perhaps you can be forgiven. Dine Out Vancouver is an event where restaurants have fixed course menus (appy, dinner and dessert) for either $18, $28 or $38 dollars. It’s usually a good idea to look up the menus beforehand and figure out where you want to go, because when there’s over 200 different restaurants to pick from you need to be selective.

I know I will gain fifteen pounds and lose a lot of money from my bank account if I visit all of the ones I want to, but after clicking through some of them, I’ve found a few ones that definitely appeal:

Society – $18
Sweet Potato And Pulled Pork Croquette tarragon aioli, granny smith apple-green onion slaw
Spinach Salad shaved fennel, red onion, orange segments, candied pecans, brûlée “riopelle” cheese with orange vinaigrette
Veal Piccata thyme roasted polenta, roasted cherry tomatoes, garlic white wine reduction
Prawn Linguini lobster bisque sauce, garlic butter toast
Chocolate Smore “Flambe” Crème Brûlée (table side)

Refuel – $28
potato & leek soup croutons
warm mushroom & spinach salad grana padano, bacon
pork rillettes pickles, mustard, rye toast
crispy polenta kale, chanterelles, crème fraiche
wild bc salmon braised leeks, lentils, frisee
sloping hill farm pork shoulder terrine caramelized brussels sprouts, white bean puree
peanut & chocolate parfait honeycomb, vanilla ice cream
warm apple crisp maple sorbet

Beachside Forno – $18
Caramelized Onion and Chicken Soup onion flan, crispy cheese
Fraser Valley Pork Pate chilled sweet pea puree, vanilla raisin compote
Wild Greens and Baby Herb salad forno roasted pears, pickled shallots, sunflower seeds, onion and dill vinaigrette
House-made Parmesan Gnocchi rutabaga, brussel sprouts, arugula, truffle vinaigrette
Braised Peace Country Lamb Orechiette lamb bacon lardons, roasted onions, “cafe au lait” sauce
Salt Spring Island Mussels and Fries house-made chorizo sausage, tomato puttanesca broth, scallion
Strawberry Cheesecake Parfait strawberry ice cream, graham cracker
Orange Creme Brulee coconut macaroons

Goldfish Kitchen – $38 (bit of a stretch)
ARUGULA & WALNUT SALAD blue cheese, sundried blueberries, pear, herb vinaigrette
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP pressure cooked pine nuts, roasted squash
VODKA CURED SALMON arugula, creme fraiche, crispy potato
FISH & CHIPS Granville Island beer battered ling cod, triple cooked chips, tartar sauce, minted peas
SALTSPRING ISLAND LAMB SHANK saffron mash, green beans, roasted baby tomatoes, natural jus
SEAFOOD PAPPARDELLE local scallops, prawns, mussels, clams, arctic char, ling cod, cherry tomatoes, basil

So, if anyone wants to take me out for dinner….

And if that wasn’t enough – there’s a hot chocolate festival beginning now until sometime February. I love my city.

The Biological Reason for Tears

I was thinking about this the other day. Why do humans cry? There always seems to be a biological explanation for any type of odd human behaviour, so why the crying? What purpose does it really solve? I can understand things like yawning when you’re tired because it stretches your muscles and brings you more oxygen – or something along those lines, though there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive answer on why yawning is contagious. But why is it that when you’re sad, you begin to leak moisture from your eyes, your throat gets tight, and you begin to sniffle like a toddler?

To relieve my curiosity, I did what any normal  person would do – I googled it. According to the information god that is Wikipedia, there are several theories. We may cry to elicit helping behaviour from others, simply as a reflex to pain, or perhaps as a way of relieving stress and removing toxins (by eliminating hormones related to stress – don’t ask me about the details). From an evolutionary point of view, we may cry because (as states Wikipedia) our blurred vision may impair aggressive or defensive actions and elicit sympathy from an attacker. This one seems implausible to me. “I’m being attacked!” says the caveman, and bursts into tears so that he can do absolutely nothing about it. Hm. According to another article I read, tears indicate to somebody physically close to you that you are vulnerable, while not alerting enemies far away to that fact. That seems a little more reasonable to me – but still kind of silly. I also learned some other interesting things, such as that on average  men apparently cry once a month, while women cry five times a month. That sounds pretty accurate.

So why do I think we cry? Personally, I think it’s another one of the many inconvenient tricks Mother Nature decided to play on us. I can’t think of anything good crying does for a person, other than leave them with a beautiful splotchy red face. It reminds me of how Mother Nature also thought periods with a side of cramps would be a good idea.

Hello, 2012

As a good computer scientist, it seems only appropriate to begin a blog with “Hello, world.”

I’ve been thinking of beginning a blog for a while now – but something has always seemed to get in the way and so it’s been one of those ideas that sits idly in the back of your head collecting dust. However, it turns out that my technical writing class this semester requires a blog, which seemed like a nudge from the universe. So, here I am.

To be honest, I usually only write in a journal where I really don’t worry about grammar or who might read it, so writing a blog that other people might actually look at is an entirely different experience. But I will be travelling a lot this year – California for the summer and hopefully Italy and Europe in the fall – and I thought that this might be a good way to document that. As well, it’s a new year, and what are new years for but making resolutions that you (try to) keep? Besides, I know I’ll work on this particular resolution until April at least, since I have 5% of my grade riding on it :P That’s farther than I usually get with my new year resolutions. I think what happens – and what probably happens for most people – is that for some reason I believe that just because it’s a new year I can reinvent myself as a person. But really, what is the difference between December 31st, 2011, and January 1st, 2012? Why not reinvent yourself from January 31st, 2012 to February 1st, 2012? Or even January 6th to January 7th? It’s all only a change in number. I think it takes a lot more than a simple number change in order to be able to keep one of the huge resolutions that people tend to make. That’s not to say that I’m not going to try (as I always do) – only this time it’ll be easier, because I am morally unable to not do my homework. :P