Sunday, December 7, 2008

I am the queen of multiple choice!

Around exam seasons, tutors and tutoring companies like to put up posters around all the academic buildings, from elementary schools to universities, featuing headlines like, "SECRETS OF TEST WRITING", or "HOW TO SCORE WELL ON A MULTIPLE CHOICE EXAM". I always figured that they were scams, or they were review sessions that would teach you the course material so you could score well on the exam. Having nothing better to do one afternoon, I stopped by a free session hosted by my high school. I was astounded to find that the instructors were handing out papers with gems like, "If you don't know the right answer to a multiple choice question, cross out the ones you know are wrong and use the process of elimination to find the most likely answer." In my mind, letting anyone pay you to tell them that amounts to highway robbery.

Then again, I guess I was never the typical student. I remember my mom coaching me with similar tips to the "secret strategies" before I wrote my provincial exams in the third grade. I've had many many years to improve on those strategies since then.

Against what I would consider to be better judgement on the part of the instructor/course administrator, the marks for one of my classes this term are entirely based off of several multiple choice tests. Hell yes, I am going to get my first A+ in university.

Update: Hell yes, I got my A+.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Oh, delightful

Apparently we have Wagner's operas to thank for the fact that one of our midterms was shorter (ie could actually be completed in 2 hours) than expected. The professor mentioned that he had been out at the opera the night before giving the exam, and had come home complaining about how Wagner just liked to torture people with extraordinarily long, painful operas. His friend told him that according to, the tests he gives are ridiculously long and designed to torture people, and he shouldn't complain about Wagner if he was going to torture his students that way. So, he took a question off the test in order to continue complaining about Wagner to his friend without being a hypocrite. He also mentioned that he doesn't typically read reviews of his teaching on-line because he figures that the only students that will post there are the ones that are really pissed off at him (mostly true).

Sadly, there are no more performances of any of Wagner's material for the rest of the season. I hope the final exam for this course doesn't end up being like the Ring trilogy to make up for it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An addition to the family

Well, the first pinball machine is a year old, which means biologically, it's time for me to have another one. It's been scientifically proven (*cough*). I've upped the ante and moved to something digital, ooh, ahh, shiny! It's so incredibly awesome that it even says WOW right on it, see:

Ok, maybe you can't read the WOW (or MOM, if you're my confused roomie), but you CAN see the awesome giant fireball bumper, right?

I am so. freeking. pumped.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy One-Year Birthday!

Mr. Pinball machine! After a year of staring at your innards, they almost sometimes make sense. Hooray! This is only a rough calculation of course, based on the fact that I brought you home during midterms, and afterwards I bought everyone pumpkin blizzards for hauling you around town...s... I hope you appreciate not being in a cold wet garage, although you sure have a funny way of showing it.

You are extra shiny in the darkness, tempting people with your bright lights.

And your guts are a glorious tribute to analog.

Thanks for being the best stupid evil pile of loveable junk in the house.

P.S: Shock me and I will burn you with the firewood.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Morning Routine

My classmates are jealous because I can still wake up 15 minutes before class and make it to a lecture roughly on time (if I jog just a little). Not like I make a habit of it, but you know... stuff happens. I recommend letting yourself go.
I attribute these factors to my overwhelming success:

1. Low-maintenance haircut
There's a reason why girls spend so much on haircuts, cause when you do it properly, all it take is a quick finger comb. Also: hats.

2. Forgo matching clothes
Some day I will have to grow out of jeans and T-shirts. But not yet.

3. Quick Breakfast
I recommend acquiring a taste for instant oatmeal. When I was little, I used to pretend I was on safari in the backyard, and had packed only dried food, to save space. I would then tear open a tiny corner of the instant oatmeal packet, fill it with water, shake, and eat it while I was on my safari. When your standards are that low it's hard not to find food in the house that can be consumed in seconds.

4. Leave everything in the same place
Routine! I like to put everything in my backpack (or at least near it) the night before, and I usually leave my lunch in the same place in the fridge. Then I just have to push autopilot when I wake up, zombie drag myself through a pattern in the house, and by the time I wake up, I'm already in class taking notes.

My personal record was waking up at 7:57 AM and making it to an 8 AM class before the instructor started lecturing (he started a few minutes late).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You know it's exam time when...

You play beyblades on a plastic caf plate and exclaim that this is the most fun you've had in ages.

then you realize you're playing beyblades on a plastic caf plate.

Get back to work!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Engineering and Shafts

Kids, there comes a time in your engineering degree where you have to talk about shafts. If you're not a mechanical or a civil engineer, this might only be a very short time, but otherwise, you could end up talking about shafts a lot. The kind that rotate and have stuff stuck to them that generally complicates your previously simple stress analysis questions.

When you should happen to arrive at that special time and place where you have to talk about shafts, the mature engineering student should refrain from giggling like a schoolgirl. Being the wise, mature student that I am, I have gained control over my inner urge to giggle every time someone says "shaft". However, I have discovered today that I am not beyond giggling when a professor pronounces shaft as "shit", then says, "We're going to talk about all kinds of shit today."

One of my more memorable days at work involved a lecture on shaft seals from an aged co-worker, who kept on using his hands to illustrate how the shaft slides through the hole. In, and out, and in, and out. I would have been able to contain myself if it hadn't have been for the repeated use of hand motions.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Is when you can't print off your assignments because you wasted all your printer ink printing off a life-sized poster of David Duchovny (why won't he love me?).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

If you give a mouse a cookie...

It's going to want a glass of milk. Then, it's going to need a straw to drink that glass of milk with, so you'll have to go to the store to get a straw. Once you come back, you'll find out that the mouse isn't tall enough to drink the milk from the straw, so you'll have to get it a chair...

This pretty much describes the group project I'm working on right now. The more I think about something, the more I realize that I could go more in-depth on the subject. As I dig my head farther in, I realize that I should go refine my original assumptions about the problem. Then, I figure out that I need to change something. As soon as I change something, it changes all the other properties of whatever structure I'm working on, then I have to start thinking about everything again.... Every so often, I get e-mails from the rest of the team, who have been thinking about their respective parts of the problem, sending off a huge list of numbers and something like "Oh, the mouse no longer wants a cookie, it wants a carrot." "No, the mouse obviously doesn't want a carrot. Didn't we decide that the mouse wants cheese?" "Well, if you guys think back to the last meeting we had with the project co-ordinator, you'll remember that he clearly pointed to a picture of a mouse that wanted oregano."

Hooray for iterative processes! These projects are good for reinforcing that there is no perfect solution, or no best solution. You can't analyze everything, at some point you kind of just have to arbitrarily pick something, go with it, and see if things work out. I want to let go of my desire to analyze everything, but I can see the eight pages on my floor multiplying to twenty, thirty... must stop!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Lying to children is acceptable when it produces good results.
Case in point:

Right after getting my teeth pulled, I had blood running down my face and my head swelled up like a balloon. Also, I was still a little groggy so I was walking with a lurch. Zombie-like, I shuffled up to the prescription counter to get the prescription for the painkillers filled as I waited for the medicine they had already given me to kick in. There was a little boy waiting with his mother to get something filled, who knows what. He just couldn't stop staring at me, in terror. Finally, I said, "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T BRUSH YOUR TEETH!" and scared the living crap out of him. I might be a monster, but I'll bet that he's going to brush his teeth three times a day for the rest of his childhood.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

oh gawd, mah mouf

wisdom teef removed. mouf so swollen. bruises everywhere. no can chew. want cheezburger. halp.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I got so carried away that I forgot to post pictures. I finally finished painting, to a reasonable extent. Everything looks a lot better with paint on it :D It matched really nicely until I put on the clear coats, which sort of darkened things. Still, it beats no paint at all, and now the ball doesn't get stuck in divots while I'm playing! Woo!

Monday, July 21, 2008

TMI #1

Today I licked my armpit and it didn't taste bad at all.
See, it pays not to wear deodorant some days!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Oooh, ahhh dramatic transformation

This is a chunk of the playfield after my laborious spiffing up efforts. Oooh, ahh! Pretty!

In this next photo you can see the entirely white blob from the previous picture has now become a fairly decent copy of the "Advance bonus when lit" on the other side.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Arts and Crafts!

I had a brilliant idea that it would be really fun to paint my pinball machine. After all, I don't really have anything to lose, and I love to arts and crafts now and again. If it turns out really terrible, I figure I'll just strip the paint and get an Arts student to paint something really cool on it. It's been a couple of weeks since I began(30 bottles of acrylic later...) and I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.

For some reason I've been through 3 bottles of yellow already. Maybe the secret of aged dirty acrylic is yellowing. It's mildly disturbing though, I have a small container of yellowish looking paint that dries into pink, one that dries into orange, one that dries into white, one that dries into green, and one that dries into yellow (surprise!).


I think the ball wore a path into the game o_O

I'm just kind of ignoring this patch for now... I don't want to take stuff apart to paint, hehe. The last guy who owned this made rubber bumpers out of surgical tubing. How cool is that! I bought replacement rubber parts and replaced all of the rubber except for the surgical tubing. I think it adds to the ghetto feel. Ok, ok, it's not ghetto. Abandoned amusement park?

This is AFTER I cleaned it... wish I had pics from before, hehehe.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh Shit (literally)

One of my roomates had a birthday this week, so I made a Rubik's Cube cake. The cake on looked really neat and I couldn't help but give it a go. It's a pretty good set of instructions, but what they fail to mention is that you need to be SOME KIND OF CHEF EXTRAORDINAIRE to make the fondant.

I've only ever made 4 cakes in my life (on mah own), and each one of them was more or less a success. Two of them were made from scratch. Naturally, it was about time for an epic fail.

On the plus side, I only lit the oven on fire once, and the cake tasted great even though it looked like a mouldy poison mushroom from Super Mario Bros. (the lost levels, of course). It was really neat, the smoke actually rose out of the oven and started coming through the burners, just like a cartoon or something! I had always thought that it was just a bit of dramatic exaggeration, but no, apparently oven fires really do that.

Lighting an oven on fire is only really a fail in my books. What made it an EPIC fail is this:
Food colouring.
What's so bad about food colouring, you ask? Well, nothing, in the right quantities... but I decided that I wanted a REALLY BRIGHT Rubik's cube. No problems, so far. Everyone takes a different coloured mini-cube and eats it.

Fast forward to the next day.

Scene: Birthday boy and couch man are sitting on the couch. I walk in the door, home from a long day of work.

Me: Have you pooped today?
Birthday Boy (BB): *pained expression* Yes.
Me: I'm ... so ... sorry ... What colour did you eat?
BB: Green.
Me: Oh dear, that's disturbing.
BB: Very. I thought I was dying.
Me: At least you didn't eat neon blue.
BB: Ick.

So apparently... if you eat enough food colouring... It DYES YOUR POOP TOO. And I don't just mean tinge of blue, I mean I HAD SOLIDLY NEON BLUE POOPS THAT DYED THE TOILET BOWL BLUE. Now that I've shared that, I'm going to go.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pinball, pt. 2

I'd like to say that my pinball machine was shiny, pretty, and functional when I got it, but that would be lying. The paint had worn off the playfield, it was incredibly dirty, and as you can sort of see in the picture below, it was somewhat broken. I guess I melted the coil for that score reel and it wouldn't move anymore.

You know, I think I like broken things more than things that work. I'm not so sure I would have been motivated to poke around and figure out what was going on inside this thing if it had been entirely functional. I'm naturally curious about things, but not curious enough to willingly take a go at THIS...

Luckily I've been able to find some really cool people who are willing to explain the "what the hell is this?" and the "why is this broken?". It still takes an epiphany for me to figure out anything though, heh heh. Every time I fix something (even if it's incredibly minor), or it just starts working and I pretend like I fixed it, I do a giant victory dance. Mmm, sweet satisfaction.

Pinball, pt. 1

When I was little, we used to drive into the city to visit an arcade/jungle gym/center of everything fun center for a day. It was almost, if not equally as exciting as Christmas. To this day, I still love crazy climbing contraptions, laser tag, arcade games, and pinball.

Every winter, when I get bogged down by coursework and cabin fever, I tend to fantasize about these things. Stress just keeps building up until suddenly I find myself hanging upside down off of playground equipment outside of who-knows-where at 3 in the morning. Last winter, instead of the usual, more mundane stress relief, I ended up buying a pinball machine. Thank you, Craigslist, for fulfilling my childhood fantasies.

As soon as I saw the ad I knew it was destined to be mine. Apparently I called the poster 20 minutes after he put up the ad. He asked if I was sure I wanted it, or if I wanted to go visit and try playing it first, but I knew. This was destiny. So, one mooched truck later (thanks, pals!) and a drive across the city, I had a pinball machine. I think the best way of describing my feelings about this would be, "EEEeeeEEEeeeeeeeeEEEEEEE!"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why I'm the coolest nerd EVAR

This is my baby.

I had always been entertaining the idea, deep inside my mind, that owning a pinball machine would be AWESOME. My rational, higher brain told me that I was full of baloney and that I would get bored of it and disenchanted over time. I really need to stop second-guessing myself.

People on the Train, Part II

I love little old ladies. Well, not really, sometimes they're kind of terrible. But it's so adorable how they always put so much effort into their appearance, carefully preserving their perms so that they don't have to wash their hair all the time, powdering their skin, and wearing those horrifyingly matching outfits. You know, the ones where everything is made from the same eye-gougingly ugly material and there's a matching brooch, pair of earrings, gaudy necklace, and hat to go with it.

I've seen meticulously groomed old men, and dirty disgusting ones, but I have never seen a disgusting old woman. Case in point: There was an ancient drug addict at the train station this morning. I wouldn't have been able to tell that she was an addict, were it not for the fact that SHE MATCHED THE COLOUR OF PAINT SHE WAS HUFFING TO HER CLOTHES. Pink blazer, skirt, necklace, and paint stains on the face. Now THAT's co-ordination.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why nerds should stay inside

I walked home from work the other day because I felt guilty taking the train when it was so nice out. Hours later (ok, maybe just hour later), when I was nearly home, I saw a couple of little green caterpillars drop down from the trees, suspended by threads. And all I could think was, "Aww, they look just like Metapods."

Friday, June 6, 2008

Cut me a deal, yo

This afternoon I went to the mall to try and convince a telephone company to let me switch my old phone onto their network. It's a phone from a different company, but both companies are using the same standard. I'm sick of paying all these stupid system access fees and whatnot, which double my bill, for a cellphone that I only use a few times a month. Yes, you heard me correctly, a few times a month. Not a few times a day or a few times a week.

An employee flocked to me like a moth to a candle and started trying to pitch their new phones. Maybe I should cut in here and describe the employee before I go any further. She had cutting scars up and down her forearms, AND A FRESH CUT. A FRESH CUT. VERY RECENT. At the end of the day! While some of her coworkers wore long sleeves, she chose to wear short sleeves. Is this hygenic when you're BLEEDING? In most occupations, you have to cover up an open wound while you're at work. Regardless of how you came to acquire said wound, it's dangerous and irresponsible to bleed on other people! And wouldn't you want to hide the fact that you've been cutting from your employer? In retrospect, I hope her employer notices and helps her find a therapist or someone else who can help her with whatever problems she may be having that are leading her to cutting.

Anyway, I explained to her that I already had a phone, I just wanted to switch it to their network because their phone company offers employees from my company a special (read: awesome, no system access fee) plan. Long story short, she could not understand this. She explained that her phone company does not offer employee discounts to employees of other phone companies. I do not work for a phone company. Somehow in the conversation the word "Firmware" comes up, and she says, "Oh, your phone has no firmware because it can't take pictures."

Eventually we sort things out, or so I think. Sadly, I can't use my current phone on their network because it's GSM and the network isn't. So, I made the mistake of looking at phones in a store full of salespeople on commission. They actually refused to sell me the cheapest model to protect me from myself because if I bought such a plain, simple phone I would inevitably end up miserable and unpopular and forever resent myself for making that decision. Is it really so strange to want my phone to make and receive calls, my Ipod to download and play songs, my camera to take and share pictures, and my computer to surf the internet? I don't want some overpriced stupid thing that does all of those things poorly.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

For reference purposes

Some day, I plan on going somewhere. This is more exciting than it sounds, I've only ever been on a plane 3-4 times in my life, and always within North America. To help me decide where to go, my plan is to play Carmen Sandiego (Deluxe!) until I catch Carmen, then go there.

Just so I don't die, I decided to check out international travel advisories and cross off some destinations. I'll just have to come up with a plan B if/when I catch Carmen in one of those countries. I also crossed off a couple of places I don't feel like going to yet. This is my list of Carmen Sandiego travel destinations, for reference purposes.

Here's a list of possible travel destinations(thanks, Wikipedia!):
ACME HQ (San Francisco)
Kabul, Afghanistan Conflict Situation
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sydney, Australia
Vienna, Austria
La Paz, Bolivia Civil unrest? Violence against foreigners? Meeep.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Montreal, Canada Not boring but I want to go international
Santiago, Chile
Beijing, China Olympics might be kind of nutty... Err and human rights?!? This could be a no.
Havana, Cuba I might even have friends to stay with!
Copenhagen, Denmark Remind me to tell you my Cophenhagen Dutch cabbage story some day...
Quito, Ecuador
Cairo, Egypt This would be super cool, but a bit dangerous
Paris, France A little cliché? I might get a job there next term!
Berlin, Germany 1: I don't like beer 2: I would go to all the museums and get depressed 3. I'm not cool enough
Athens, Greece
Guatemala City, Guatemala Might have to cross this one off, there's a warning against using public transit.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Reykjavík, Iceland Woo volcanos!
New Delhi, India What if I get lost?
Jakarta, Indonesia
Baghdad, Iraq
Jerusalem, Israel
Not so interested in religious tourism
Rome, Italy
Kingston, Jamaica
Tokyo, Japan Oh, this would be extra nerdy <3
Phnom Penh, Kampuchea "should have comprehensive medical and travel insurance policies that include provision for medical evacuation by air" Iffy!
Nairobi, Kenya
Bamako, Mali
Mexico City, Mexico
Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Yangon, Myanmar I don't think they'd let me in, anyway.
Kathmandu, Nepal Kind of a bad situation right now.
Wellington, New Zealand Birds! Vacation full of birds!
Lagos, Nigeria Armed attacks against foreigners.
Oslo, Norway
Karachi, Pakistan
Panama City, Panama
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Lima, Peru
Manila, Philippines
Warsaw, Poland
Kigali, Rwanda
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Cape Town, South Africa
Seoul, South Korea
Moscow, Soviet Union Hm, not exactly what I would think of as a tourist destination, but I bet there's lots of neat architecture
Madrid, Spain I kind of want to watch a bullfight... yeah, morbid.
Colombo, Sri Lanka Avoid non-essential travel
Stockholm, Sweden
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Bangkok, Thailand
Istanbul, Turkey
London, United Kingdom Kinda pricey
New York City, United States Broadway + wallet = death
Caracas, Venezuela A little too close to Columbia, maybe...
Hanoi, Vietnam
Kinshasa, Zaire Is Zaire even a country anymore?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Best. Day. Ever.

The other day I was walking back from work and a bus drove by with an ad for Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. I LOVE that show (the British version), but I don't have cable so I rarely get to watch it. As I opened the door to my house, I saw some friends on my couch, drinking beer and watching Kitchen Nightmares! TV on psyhic demand, that's better than Tivo. And it gets better, they had just ordered pizza! Friends, pizza, and British TV... life doesn't get much better.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Too much beer

A drunken engineer was trying to convince me that it was impossible for a person to lift more than their own weight due to the laws of physics. I can't recall the details, but I do remember finding it absolutely hilarious. He even drew a free body diagram. Dork.

What do other people talk about when they go drinking? Does it involve free body diagrams?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pokémon OCD

Here's my dorky revelation of the day:

I can't stand having a Pokémon party where the Pokémon are at different levels. They have to all be at the same level, or at least within 2-3 levels of each other. Also, I can't have more than one of the same Pokémon in my party, and it has to be properly balanced between types to minimize any weakness. I even go so far as to level up my friends' Pokémon if their party is really unbalanced (starter Pokémon or a tank at a really high level, all other Pokémon at low levels).

Me engineer. Must optimize ALL!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

English for Enginerds

I had to write an essay about how trebuchets make me feel. Seriously. I appreciate the effort to umm, tailor English to engineers, but seriously... The feelings I have for my trebuchet are private. PRIVATE.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I fully expect a zombie invasion by Tuesday

Wow, what a strange week. People say I have ADD because I'm always off on a tangent and coming up with non-sequiturs (even though that's not really what ADD is all about). It's not that I don't try to pay attention to normal things, it's just that there's usually something more interesting going on that other people might miss out on. Or, it's that I'm a product of my environment and some days my environment is screwy. Case in point:

Saturday: A gangsta got on the bus, sat down next to me, put his arm around me, and started smoking a joint.
Sunday: Dug up a road sign in my garden.
Monday: Watched police find a dead body
Tuesday: While riding the bus, watched a man kick in the window of an apartment building and steal a TV.
Wednesday: Saw someone subdued with pepper spray after trying to assault a police officer who asked him to stop sitting in the middle of a busy road. Can you say craaaaaack?
Thorsday: Saw what was nearly the world's first roller disco casualty (but ended up only being a concussion and an ambulance ride).
Friday: Went to a Rocky Horror screening, hehe. On a related note, bought lingerie from a Salvation Army and a Goodwill store. They give you weird looks.

I manage to find something strange and amusing in every day, and this pleases me.

Unspoken rule: Whenever there's someone crazy, and I mean absolutely mental on the train/bus, they will ALWAYS come sit next to me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I quite appreciate the free hot chocolate mix in the company kitchen, and the continuous supply of boiling water. As delicious as it is, I always secretly long for a bit of milk to make the hot chocolate with. Then I realized that the company stocks the fridge with enough creamers to make coffee for a small army of continuously caffeinated engineers. I just made the most delicious hot chocolate OF ALL TIME. If only it didn't take 20 little creamers to make a whole cup...

For the sake of my arteries, I only put in a couple of creamers, and the rest was 2% milk, with just a bit of boiling water to heat it up to deliciously warm but not painfully burny. I might actually start enjoying mornings if they involve free delicious hot chocolate.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More people on the train

I saw Hercule Poirot on the train today. Seriously. The only thing missing was a French accent (or Belgian). Instead it was Hercule Poirot with an Australian accent, which was almost bizarre. He had a waxed moustache and a lot of hair gel (pomade?) that made his hairstyle look really... ummm.. old? Antiquated? Out of place? Also, he was wearing a meticulously clean suit, and he swept off the surface of the seat before sitting down. I'm just waiting for an unsolvable mystery to show up in the paper, and then summarily get solved by a visiting foreign super-detective.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I rawk

I made an R2D2 cake for my birthday. Ok, I had some help from friends, but it's not like any of us knew what we were doing. My plan kind of worked. Sweet (and delicious)!

P.S. This was enough to feed 6 people for 2 days. Srsly.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Funny conversational snippets

Funny snippets from my last week

"Why do 50% of engineers end up in management? Because as we get older, we start to forget all that technical stuff."
-Engineering Manager

"I am NOT empire building"
-German engineer

"So let me get this straight... you don't like coffee, and you don't like tea, so logically you must also dislike hot chocolate because it is also a hot beverage. What? You love hot chocolate? YOU DON'T MAKE ANY SENSE"
- Co-engineer

Apparently I don't follow the logical rules of beverage preferences.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I'm *still* not the secretary!

I keep on having to go to a giant pile of archives to look for things at work. Very important things... *cough* Yeah. It's such a huge pile of things that there are multiple secretaries that dual-class as librarians taking care of it. Their job is to help you find things and then photocopy them for you so that you have a nice big productive looking pile of tree to bring with you to meetings.

Well, apparently their job is to find things and photocopy things for EVERYONE BUT ME. This is the second group of people I've met at (large engineering company) whose brains physically can't lump me into the engineering pile. Even though I've been introduced to them on multiple occasions as an engineering intern, it doesn't seem to stick.

One of the secretaries went ballistic on me this morning because I dared to ask for her assistance in finding a file and photocopying it. She more or less called me a stupid lazy bitch and told me it wasn't her responsibility to train me to do my job. I ended up being late for a meeting when the printer ran out of paper and I couldn't get the copies I needed. Instead of doing something nice, like showing me how to refill the tray, she decided to rant about how stupid people are these days and then gave me an instruction manual for the printer.

So shoot me, I've never worked in a large office before, and I really don't have innate knowledge of which tray (A, F, B145, or Quillbert?) the 11X17 paper goes in. Or where the paper is stored. Or even how to use the damn machine, really.

It actually got to the point where I was wondering if I really had missed out on some big "change the paper in the printer" training day. But then male student in my office walked in, asked her to find a binder and copy it, promptly received copies, and left. Grrrrrrr.
I wish there was a polite way to say, "I'm not a fucking secretary and I in fact have NOT been trained in the ancient traditions of making copies, fetching coffee, and booking appointments!" Because it would really help clear up this situation a bit. Grrr.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Steampunk Laptop

I.... I... I think I'm in love!

Steampunk laptop

Monday, March 17, 2008

Idle Minds

Today I got to go look through piles of old drawings to look for old records of stuff. It wouldn't be so bad, except the records are in different places depending on who you ask, and some people maintain that they don't exist at all. While waiting for one of the librarians (sooo many drawings, sooo many records) to do a search for what I was looking for, well, there was nothing for me to do. Me, 10000 binders full of drawings that don't really interest me and are probably things I shouldn't be snooping around in. Oh, and boxes upon boxes of binder clips, erasers, rubber bands, paperclips, and the like.

It would have been a crime NOT to build a statue of a man riding a donkey out of office supplies. I've seen books that tell you how to build cool things out of your office supplies, that's cheating. Plus, you never know what's out there for you to commandeer on a given day. And, I'd feel bad using ALL of something (all the Post- Its, all the ink, all the whatever) to make a project. Hopefully the next poor soul that gets trapped in there finds my artistic contributions amusing.

It's not like I can help myself, either. My brain is always thinking. Always. About anything. If it can't find anything good to think about, and doesn't feel very imaginatory that day, then it starts worrying. Usually it's thinking about several things at once and humming a song in the background.

Lots of people think that nerds are bad at social interaction because they're shy, or because they 'just don't get it'. Sometimes, it's quite the opposite. Imagine driving your car and having to think every few seconds to check if you were driving at the right speed, in the right lane, going to the right place, looking at the mirrors to check for other traffic, etc. Incidentally, this is how I drive. I can't automate anything, I have to constantly think about every little thing I do in the car. The same goes for some people and social situations.

Some nerds, instead of being completely oblivious to the nuances of social interaction, are actualy hyper-aware of it. They might be wondering, "Should I be making eye contact? Did I make eye contact for too long? Where do I look if I'm not looking at them? Am I mouth breathing again? Shit, I need to stop leaving my mouth hanging open. What's my posture like? Am I slouching? My arms are crossed, do they think I'm angry? I'm not angry. Should I smile to show them I'm not angry?" ad infinitum. Then on top of that you have to actually carry on the conversation, and try to censor out (depending on who you're talking to) dorky things that you'd rather talk about, like recent upgrades to the GPL. The plus side of this is that hyperanalytical nerds can be really good at manipulating people, if they can just concentrate hard enough to project the right images of themselves during an interaction and predict the flow of the conversation.

I think I had a bad week for being social this week :(

Friday, February 8, 2008

D is for C was too hard

Well, that tanked pretty fast... C was too hard for a NES review (too many good games), on to D. The letter D will be represented by Dance Aerobics, which shares its initial with one of its descendants, Dance Dance Revolution.

Exergaming always seems like such a good idea, burn calories while you have fun playing a game. The problem with most of them is plain and simple: the games suck just as much as real exercise, and you probably burn less calories playing them, too. Sadly, the actual aerobics component of Dance Aerobics falls neatly into that category. After the initial novelty of trying to follow the 8-bit dance instructor and failing miserably wears off, doing aerobics on your Power Pad really isn't any fun. Although the instructor does a nice job of yelling, "1, 2, 3, HAIIIII!", she's no replacement for Richard Simmons. What makes this game great is all the little extras that they threw in with it.

My favourite extra is simply a free play mode where each button on the Power Pad makes a different tone, conveniently starting on C and going up an octave 'n a bit. You can play SO MANY SONGS in the key of C. WITH YOUR FEET. Yeah, I'm a music geek. It isn't possible to play chords with your feet, but it's still fun to get together with your music geek friends and see who can play the most complicated song with their feet. It's kind of like playing the bagpipes, you only get a limited set of notes so you have to throw in a bunch of embellishments to out-play the other guy and make your songs sound harder. This could keep me entertained for hours, but then again, I was the kind of kid that watched Fantasia three times a day and actually enjoyed it every time. I may not be a good indicator of entertainment value.

If you're really confident in your musical ability, there are 5 songs that the game will teach you to play with your feet. Unlike DDR, this game simply shows you the musical notes of what you will be playing, plays the song once for you, and then expects you to be able to play it. Like DDR, if you don't achieve a certain standard, you fail. So sad. Although there are only 5 songs, I'd say it still provides a lot of entertainment, even for people who have played extensive amounts of DDR.

For the lonely geek, this game also includes a solo version of Twister. It will tell you where to put your hands and your feet (although it can't tell if you cheat, ha ha ha), and you have a limited amount of time to move them before you lose points. If you don't get enough points, you have to repeat the round.

This game isn't going to help you lose weight. It isn't going to encourage you to exercise more. Nonetheless, it still provides a lot of entertainment value for DDR fans and music nerds.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I'm a morning zombie

I'm not a morning person, I'm a morning zombie.
This morning I got up for work, went to eat breakfast, and spilled my cereal on my shirt. Still hungry, I went to change shirts and then made myself a piece of toast. Result? Jam on clean shirt. Changed again and went to work. Got scarf stuck in train doors. Tripped up an escalator. Shocked self on workstation. Just about started grunting and hitting things.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Little girl!?!

I broke my no swearing at work rule today.

Most people at work are fine, it's just the exceptions that piss me off. A few people asked me if I was a new secretary (what does mechanical engineering intern mean to you?), which made me a little grumpy, especially since they received an e-mail saying who I was and what I would be doing at the company. And an introduction from my boss. One person, Mr. Y, despite repeated corrections, keeps referring to me as "the secretary for the engineering interns". Perhaps somewhat ironically, most of the work I have been doing thus far would be better suited to a secretary, but things are looking up.

Other people insist on holding doors open for me. Why is this a problem, you say? I don't know about you, but I feel awkward when someone sees me coming from far down the road and holds the door open for a good 5 minutes waiting for me to get there, like I should tip them or something. And they get this look on their faces as though they've done something amazing and I should be super thankful. Or maybe I read into it too much. Point is, it's awkward and uncomfortable when taken to such an extreme. Also, if there are 20 people in an elevator,all going to the same meeting on the same floor, and I'm in the back of the elevator, nobody else will get out until I leave first. It feels pointedly awkward, as though I'm being singled out for something. I actually tried waiting for a while to see what would happen, and after the polite coughing and "Ladies first!" proved ineffective, I actually had someone PUSH me out the door first, from the back of the elevator!

A salesperson at a lunch meeting started making jokes about how few girls there are in engineering and kept on bringing it up. Yes, it's true, there aren't a lot of girls in my program, and some of them are butch, so what? Why bring it up? You wouldn't go up to a black employee and ask, "Were you the only black person in your class? Are there other blacks in your classes? You don't seem to be as much of a thug as the others! Boy, I didn't think a lot of black people went into XXX field! Sure weren't a lot when I was there. Man, I bet you're going to get hired right away when you graduate! Y'know, equal employment..." Thanks for discarding the notion that any of my accomplishments are due to merit.

While these things don't always bother me on their own, it's slowly been getting me for the past few weeks. This week was a week full of awkward stares, awkward building entrances, awkward elevators, and awkward conversations about why I chose engineering as a career. I guess everything just adds up until a bunch of small things feel like people don't take me seriously and like I'm being singled out for something. But anyway, back to today's adventure.

Mr. X walks into the office. He asks for Mr. Y, another student, who is clearly not there. I offer to tell Y that he stopped by. X asks what Y's schedule looks like this week, where Mr. Y is, and when he'll be back. Mr. Y is in a different department, so we don't share schedules. I mention this to Mr. X, and suggest that he ask someone in Mr. Y's department because I don't have access since I'm in (unicorn engineering group). Nonetheless, he gets angry when I can't tell him when Mr. Y's next free slot is, and makes some comment about how I really need to learn how to do my job better. I hold my tongue.

Mr X then starts politely coughing while gesturing at a sheet of paper. Unfortunately, I can't see all the way across the room to other student's desk where X is standing. Then, X was so kind as to take the pen and paper from Y's desk, walk across the room, and thrust them in my face to demand that I write down a message from him to Mr. Y. Word for word. I don't say, "Write your own message, you lazy ass." or, "Why don't you just e-mail him or leave a voicemail?" or, "I'm not his secretary, dammit." After I write down the message, he smiles and says, condescendingly, "There, that wasn't so hard, was it? That's a good little girl." And then he gets the pleased with himself look for putting a woman in her place and doing the woman a favour and teaching her how to do her job (which is, incidentally, NOT to be a secretary for the other engineering students).


I'm above the median height for men. I am by no means little. I spent the better part of a decade playing "enforcer" in sports, and when I'm in good shape I can keep up with anyone on the field. My calves can crush diamonds (seriously, they're amazing). And he's lucky that my calves didn't activate my leg muscles to crush his face in.

I'm not even sure what I said, but I think it involved the words "fuck", and "yourself". Oh, that's right, I told him to go fuck himself! Yeah, not my best moment. But the funny thing was, the same part of his brain that won't let women have man jobs, also won't let women swear, so he just got a funny look on his face and walked off. I'm pretty sure he couldn't process what I said properly or I'd be out of a job. Although I'd kind of like a job right now where the other employees had seen a girl before.

Productive Snorting

I was at a really long training seminar today. Somewhere along the line, it went from training into life coaching. Wasn't expecting THAT! Basically what I took away from this was that I never ever want to reach the point where I'm one of those people that needs to go to training sessions to learn to schedule time for my personal life using common office applications. It was sad, because I think some of the people there actually needed to be told to plan time for their personal lives.

Anyway, that's not the story I meant to tell. There was one guy there who kept on challenging everything the presenter said with, "That's not how we do it!" "That's not going to work at my company!" "You don't know how I should run my day!", etc, etc. He was pretty old and had been working in construction for a long time. Pretty much your stereotypical set-in-his-ways older guy who isn't familiar with technology, is over-worked, and is thuroughly disenchanted with life. Or so I thought, that is, until he sneezed and said, "Sorry, that must be the cocaine."

I couldn't stop wondering for the rest of the day whether or not he was serious.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

B....lades of Steel!

B is definitely filled with good NES games. Burgertime (a port, but still good), Battletoads (a classic), Bubble Bobble (another port), and many more. There are also some tragically horrible movie games, Blues Brothers and Back to the Future. However, I'm going to step a bit out of my bubble and talk about my favourite sports game, Blades of Steel.

In my opinion, Blades of Steel has a great fun factor. There are some extra touches that make it stand out for me, for example how the players skate in a pattern around the rink before the beginning of the game. I was actually at a hockey game recently watching the players skate around, thinking, "This is just like Blades of Steel!". That's how much of a dork I am. Also, you can sometimes see a zamboni driving by in the background while you pick your teams. Another great touch is the announcer. I always appreciate some good voice clips on a NES cart.

Since way-back-when, I've played several newer hockey games, but I never seem to enjoy them as much. I think that the newer games almost suffer from too much sophistication. I don't want to pick my lines, I don't want to make trades, I don't want to draft players, I don't want to learn the buttons for each kind of physical aggression, I just want to play some hockey with my favourite teams, dammit! Every once and again, I need to punch something. Blades of steel lets me do both of these things. With multiple difficulty levels, I can enjoy creaming Toronto over and over again, or I can try to challenge myself, depending on my mood. Everyone who has ever read "The Hockey Sweater" will probably enjoy destroying the Maple Leafs 20-0 playing as the Canadiens.

This brings me to the last thing I really love about Blades of Steel, the bright 80's teams. It adds so much to the classic, nostalgic feel. And, without having to pick your lineups and choose your players, you can imagine that anyone you want is playing on your team. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go pit my team of Gretzky clones against the worrrlllddd!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A is for... ?

Shoot, this alphabet thing was a bad idea. I mean, as far as blarbling about some of my favourite NES games. There really isn't a definitive NES game out there for me. Instead, I'll review two games that I got on a multicart.

The thing about most multicart games is that they have a very small filesize, and it's not too hard to make a cartridge with, say, 70 of them on there. So, none of them are going to have a large level of depth, a lot of variety, or a whole lot of replay value. What I picked my A games for this time was.... Adorableness! I guess I am a girl after all.

Game number one, Antartic Adventure, features a penguin travelling Antartica. Why? I don't know, my multicart is in Japanese. The penguin itself looks a lot like Tux, or maybe penguins in general look a lot like each other. Along the way, you can catch fish, and pick up flags. One of the flags gives you a beanie hat which temporarily grants you the power to fly WHICH IS THE CUTEST THING EVER! Also, ebil sea lions pop out of the ice and try to... smile at you.

Other than the incredible cuteness of a flying penguin with a hat, the only thing that stood out to me was the end of the level. Each time you successfully finish your one-person race, a random country's flag pops up out of the South Pole. The first time I got to the end of the race, an Australia flag popped up. Second lap, it was France.... what the heck? I stuck around and played some more races just to see what flag would pop up next.

Game number two : ASCII. I'm guessing this isn't the actual title of the game. The real title is something in Japanese, which I guess couldn't be converted into an ASCII character set? Ahh haa haa. Anyway, this game is all about adorable little animals throwing things at each other. Really. You stand on opposite ends of the court and just whup balls back and forth at each other as fast as you can. A good strategy is to knock the other furry out, then keep on pounding him while he's down, because the recovery time from being hit is a lot longer than how long it takes to get a ball and throw it at someone. It's kind of fun, for like, two minutes.

These being multicart games, I wouldn't recommend buying either on their own. I would recommend finding a couple of multicarts, you never know what kind of interesting things you'll find on there. Why, I once bought a multicart that had 10 different variations of Contra, and Mario Bros. with a level select option and updated fancier graphics (no it's not the lost levels). I'm not an expert on legal-y stuff, but if people can sell those crappy 200-in-one systems at the mall that look like Nintendo 64s and come with weird controllers and play a bunch of old NES games, then I think it's perfectly fine for me to go and buy a Famicom cart with 70 games on it. You'll need a pin converter to play the game with. There are almost always several of these on Ebay. Basically, these are like the retro version of cellphone games. Now there's an interesting idea.... a Nintendo Virtual Console for cellphones?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My car has Windows!

We (the rowdy ragged roomies and their slanty shanty crew) were watching TV together in the living room. This is rare, as

A: We only have peasantvision
B: We rarely like the same shows, except the X-Files which we revere.
C: The internet. Seriously, the internet.

What was even rarer was that we stuck on the same channel during a commercial break. And what we saw during this commercial terrified us. There was an ad for a car that for some reason had Microsoft Windows installed. I'm not sure what kind of Windows, and what it does, but all I can say is, "WHHYYYY!?!?". This led to a conversation about what would happen if all cars ran entirely on Windows.

1- Whenever the roads were congested, Death would appear with an hourglass (representing your time left on Earth) and spin it around. If the hourglass froze over, you would die in a horrible traffic accident, or at least end up in a coma with a 50/50 chance of recovering your memory.

2- Your car would come with wheels, axles, an engine, headlights, a fuel tank, and seats. Anything else, such as air conditioners, radio, vents, etc would be a 'peripheral'. Sometimes the car would fail to identify a peripheral properly and insist that an air conditioner was a cigarette holder. You could purchase a car with a factory windshield that did an OK job of keeping most stuff out of your car (and face), but anyone with half a brain would install a third party windshield.

3- The message "Fatal Error" would suddenly be much, much worse. The meaning of "Blue Screen of Death" would become literal.

4- Instead of being locked out of your car, you would merely be "Denied Access". Anyone with a Linux car could just say, "Sudo unlock car" and their car would open for them.

5- Your car would drive itself. There would be an option to drive the car yourself, but it would be hidden behind several buttons and every few minutes the car would ask you if you were really sure that you wanted to be driving.

6- Your car would decide for you what you wanted to put in the trunk. If it thought you were smuggling immigrants, it would eject the contents of the trunk, even if you were just trying to ride in your own trunk for fun.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

7 Degrees to Hitler

While I was back home for the holidays, my brother taught me a new game that you can play on your computer while you should probably be doing work. It's called 7 Degrees to Hitler.

How it Works

1. Head to Wikipedia.
2. Click random article.
3. Count how many clicks it takes you to get to the page about Hitler.

Simple, yet entertaining.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Let's do the time warp again!

Sometimes I work internships so I can afford to go to school. Officially the reason is because I want to develop my technical skills and build a portfolio of diverse .. stuff... and yeah... actually I did build a bit of a nice network in an industry I'm totally not interested in working in. I'm fortunate enough to attend an institution with a pretty decent 5-year plan for students who want to work (ie pay for school). Thus, every once and a while, I apply for a billion jobs and go out on about a million interviews. Or something like that.

Here are questions I'm used to hearing:
"What are your strengths?"
"Can you describe your past work experience?"
"What was your favourite course?"

Here's an interrogation session that threw me right for a loop:

"You're in engineering? I thought girls liked Arts, nursing, you know... maybe teaching? Why would you go into engineering? Don't you get lonely? What was wrong with teaching? It's a very stable career! Do you hate children? Seriously, why would you go into engineering?"

I'm sorry, I thought we were living in the 21st century. I'll study engineering for the same damn reasons as anyone else, or no reason at all, but I don't think that I'm required to justify my motivations to anyone just because of my gender. Obviously, it makes a lot of sense to ask me about why I'm interesting in working for your company or in your industry. But to validate my mere existence? Piss off! Unless you'd like to stay around for the 2 hour saga of my lifelong dream to be a camp counsellor, drifting from summer to endless summer, running around outside, living in cabins, and having my food cooked for me.

But back to that interview... This was the very first thing the interviwer said to me when I came in the room. Well, actually, the first thing he said, incredulously, was, "You're.... a... GIRL!?!?" No joke. Then he asked if I was the first girl that had gone into engineering. I'm certainly not the only one, although I have been in some smaller classes of 30-40 where I was the only representative of my species... err gender in the room.

So, the interview keeps going. I talk about my last job designing and building equipment. Lots of design, lots of grungy shop work, and lots of mechanical skillz going into action. I also mention something about my old old job hauling dirt bales. After all of this, the interviewer looks up and says to me,
"I'm wondering if you would be able to handle all of this job. Some parts of it involve working in the shop. Sometimes people get dirty in the shop. Have you been in one before? Are you ok with being dirty?". So, at this point, it's pretty clear that this guy isn't listening to a thing I've said. I keep talking about my experience to try and quell any doubts he may have as to my qualifications. Then he apologizes, and says (more or less, I can't recall the exact phrasing), "I'm sorry, I just can't hire you for this. There is lots of dirt and heavy lifting, and it is not a proper environment for a woman. It is too noisy and too dangerous and you don't want to work there."

I should note that the job (apparently) involves carrying about 20 pounds, on occasion, across a shop floor. Which isn't a particularly deadly or evil machine shop floor, it's just a shop floor.

Finally, at the end of the "interview", he turns to his more linguistically gifted counterpart, who asks his big question... "So, uhh, like.. do you think you have any mechanical aptitude at all? Y'know like, uhh... guys like to fix cars and stuff. That's mechanical." Great. And that's coming from someone who apparently is a recent graduate of the university. I know it's not exactly polite to call out your boss for something, but seriously, THROW ME A FREAKING BONE HERE and tell your boss that he might not be reflecting the company's (supposedly friendly) hiring policy. Don't play "Play along with the boss and insult the woman's competence."

Also, no, I have no mechanical aptitude at all, and I hate machines with every fibre of my being. Thank you for reminding me of my one true calling, gold-digging. Say, are you single? How much are you carrying in student loans? Oh, nevermind...

Long story short, I called HR some time after the interview. I basically said, look, whether or not this guy is serious, I definitely didn't come away with a good impression of your company after that interview, and I'd appreciate it if you'd remove me from the list of candidates as I wouldn't feel comfortable working in that kind of environment. The HR person hemmed and hawed and said, "Oh, he's only been here for 8 years, his English isn't very good, I'm sure he didn't mean that." Basically, "You must be overreacting, I don't believe you." Thaaaanks.

Otherwise, the company was fairly nice about it and offered to consider me for a position in a different department. They said they would have a meeting with the interviewer and go over their company's tolerance policies . Wait, this guy has been conducting your hiring interviews for students (3-4 students a term, 2 terms a year) for several years and you've never been over this before? Or nobody has ever said anything? Or noticed?

How did he manage to avoid seeing a girl? Seriously, wtf!?!? Plus, if he hasn't ever interviewed a woman... that suggests that the likelihood that he hires them is fairly low. How has the company not noticed this? This is a fail at every level, if the company even remotely tries to pretend that it's interested in supporting, promoting, hiring, or even interacting with women in technical positions.

My co-ordinator at the school suggested that I push really hard to get the job, then be the female pioneer or something. I don't think that eight months of working in a shitty environment to only, at best, have someone say that I did just as good a job as the male students they've had, is really a worthwhile experience for me. Realistically, a single summer student isn't going to radically change a large company's attitudes or policies about anything. And, there's always the possibility that if I mess up anything on the job, they'll attribute it to me being a woman and not to me being inexperienced or anything, or just generally incompetent.

I'm not a fan of sit-there-and-take-it, but I also don't believe that this particular endeavour is worth it. Once I've graduated I think I'll be in a better position to go and revolutionize the revolution that should have happened 5o or so years ago for these companies. Until then, I'll be satisfied with shooting them dirty looks every time I see their booths at hiring fairs.
I tend to veer off on tangents. Pick your tangent from the menu on the right.