Sunday, June 27, 2010

What A Week...

Damn. Has it only been 7 days since I wrote last?

Three major things:
1) Stats is done
2) New uke
3) Toronto's on fire


1) I wrote my Stats final. It was as difficult as I as I expected, but I can't really say I aced it or bombed it. I just have to wait until the final grades are released. I'm a little nervous, but I did really well on my midterm, so it buys me some leeway.

2) I bought myself a new ukulele. It's a little different than the standard soprano I was budgeting for - a factory second of a longneck soprano became available, so for a little extra dosh I have a soprano-bodied uke with a concert-length neck, i.e. more frets. That's great, since I'm getting better all the time, and I'm able to play up the neck quite a bit now. With my standard soprano, though, my hand get mashed up against the body of the uke at even a barred B (on the 6th fret).

Anyhow, I'm really wound up about it. It should arrive this week. I am so pleased with myself to have saved for over a year. It's very satisfying.

It was cool talking to the guy in Hawaii. He had the greatest accent. It's very soft, and sounds a little like a Canadian native accent, but more Pacific, if that's an adjective. And he pronounced it "oo-koo-lay-lay" and "ook" instead of "you-ka-lay-lee" and "youk." I asked him to forgive my mainlander pronunciation, but I'd sound like a poser if I said it his way. I think he liked me.

3) The G20 is underway here in Toronto, and what an effing shitstorm it is. It's so gutting to see the damage these scumbags are doing. (I'm surprising myself with feelings of "my city!") I hate that most times the media lump all the marching people together as "protesters." The legit protesters aren't running around smashing stores, lighting fires, digging up cobblestones to throw at police, and scaring regular Torontonians.

I was at a friend's condo at College and Yonge for the US-Ghana World Cup match, but we didn't watch any of the game. I was with three journalists (one being the oft-mentioned friend M), two of which work for the CBC. One had itchy feet and said he had to get out into it. He took a camera and his phone and headed down Yonge. He called a few minutes later to say a mob was storming up Yonge, and they'd laid waste to Yonge and Dundas Square. We looked out the balcony and heard them before we saw them.

Here's what I heard: it sounded like a thwang of an arrow being released from a bow, but deeper, louder. I thought maybe they were throwing stuff at streetcar cables, because it sounded like a deep resonance of a tight cable being struck with a hammer. But there are no streetcar cables on Yonge. I had no idea what it was. Then the shattering started. It sounded like dozens of story-tall storefront windows were being destroyed. That's exactly what it was.

Then I put it together - the thwang was the sound of a huge pane of glass being struck but not yet breaking. It was the glass buckling and recoiling, and punching out a burst of sound energy. It was so menacing and ominous.

The mob of black-clad assholes came into view a moment later. They surged into the usually-busy intersection and targeted a Starbucks that was on the north-west corner. People were still inside when they smashed the windows. I suspect they went in and smashed from the inside because there were suddenly chairs and a table being used to smash the glass. I even saw one prick throw something at Fran's window. "Not Fran's!" said M. (Fran's is a Toronto landmark - Glenn Gould ate there early every morning.)

They continued west to Queen's Park and were out of view, but that's where the police all headed, and where the mounted units were. People were worried because four major hospitals are very close to there, including SickKids.

So, my friend on the street called in every few minutes to fill us in, my other friend would tweet what he was telling us, CBC would pick up what she was tweeting and broadcast it! I guess they're a reliable source, being employees. M and I would describe what we were seeing out the window and she would monitor the computer.

We saw a coach pull up and c. 50 police in riot gear get out and stand in formation. We saw panicked crowds running east. We saw a Canadian Blood Services van idling for a long time, as if poised for a triage centre.

The TTC was not running, so I got a cab home after things seemed to calm down. The thing is, we were quite north in the city, so we didn't expect to see what we saw. Yes, College and Yonge is still downtown, but relatively north, really, especially considering where the G20 convention is actually taking place - way down on Front Street.

I'm nervous more shit'll go down today, but I live way over in Little India, quite east. I'm not nervous for myself, but for others and for the city.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Last Hurrah.

My Stats final is Wednesday. I'm having a hard time focussing. I have 3 full days to study, but I have a very ominous feeling that I'm royally boned.

My study partner and I had a very fruitless day yesterday. It felt like we were just going around in circles.

I wish they were these circles:Thanks to Liam for the heads-up on this one!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Surreal Uke Night.

Imagine you were in some sort of cello club and Yo Yo Ma casually walked in the door. Or if at your rec soccer league, David Beckham showed up to dribble for a bit.

It was a normal night at our ukulele jam. We'd all just played a song together and one of the organizers was talking about Arlo Guthrie, and he looked to the door and said, "I think we have a special guest." I only saw a woman, so I thought it was a friend of his or something, but then a man walked in with a yellow fibreglass uke case.

It was effing Jake Shimabukuro, who is a virtuoso ukulele player. He is widely considered the world's best uke player. He plays with a clockwork precision and heartfelt passion.

He said he was in town for a(n apparently pseudo-) Ted Talk and a couple of our members invited him to stop by. Bold!

But it was so so so surreal. It was like we were all collectively tripping, mass-hallucinating Shimabukuro in front of us.

He spoke to us about playing and music and some theory, and he played three or four songs for us, including his arrangement of George Harrison's "As My Guitar Gently Weeps," the song he's most famous for on YouTube.

Here's the thing: Shimabukuro plays his uke like a virtuoso would play a classical guitar. I'm not aspiring to play as well as him, or his style, but by god can I appreciate it. In the meantime, I'm going to keep pounding out Nick Gilder.

My good friend Sunny nearly shat her pants when she saw him. The only thing I can think of that's analogous with Jake showing up for me is if Elton John wandered in off the street to sing with us. She got him to sign her Ohana - her primary uke. I gasped when I saw it - the black pen on the beautiful blonde wood - but she told me she has always said that Shimabukuro would be the only one she'd let sign that uke.

I also got my shitty uke signed. It only lights a fire under me to retire it sooner. I wrote Koaloha again today. Hopefully I'll speak to the guy tonight and have a new uke on its way next week.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Uke.

I have been saving my toonies for over a year now with the goal of buying a new uke.

They've really added up! Now I find myself shopping for a ukulele, which is a little overwhelming because of all the choice and options.

I got it in my head that I wanted a Koaloha, which is widely renowned to be a top-of-the-line uke. They're made in Hawaii, have a beautiful stylized sound hole, use beautiful wood (the traditional Koa), and have a reputation of sounding like butter.
The problem is, the standard soprano, which is the size I want, costs about twice as much as I have saved. Bah.

So, I'm faced with the quandary: do I get a darn good uke with the money I do have (probably a Kala or a Ohana), or wait for another year and buy the one I really want?

Well, my friends at my ukulele jam have come through again! One of them wrote to Koaloha about "factory seconds." They are perfectly fine instruments, but have some sort of superficial flaw, like a bubble in the finish, or a misaligned wood grain. I had heard about these creatures, but was timid about asking. I felt like I would be begging for a fine uke at a discount, as if I was pulling the wool over their eyes.

Of course, seconds are a totally symbiotic relationship. Koaloha gets some money for a complete instrument, and I get a slightly flawed instrument at a discount!

So, hopefully soon I'm going to get a call from Brian in Honolulu and we can talk about a new uke!

I should say: Duke is good. Well, not really. Duke was good enough. Duke (my present uke, a Hilo soprano), is actually kinda shitty. It was good enough to learn on, but now that I've improved and heard how good a quality uke can sound. Duke's sound is not good. It sounds like a shoebox with 4 rubber bands strung around it. The nut is too high, so the lower frets are out of tune. It's some sort of shitty plywood/glue amalgam, which resonates like a Birkenstock. I'm really ready to move on, and saving for over a year gives such a great feeling of delayed satisfaction.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thanks, Marianne.

Lovely Mare saw how shitty my day was on Monday and treated me to a movie. It was very nice of her, and it actually did make me feel a lot better. (And the movie holds up on second viewing.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Physiology!

Well, I wasn't wrong.

I was boned. So, I have to shift gears for the rest of the summer.

Here's my plan: I am now enrolled in a 2-credit, 4 month Physiology class and a 1-credit, 2 month Statistics class. I need to take the second half of Stats for my application, which is due in January.

I am managing to pull off a B- in my Stats class, with no small help from a classmate, but I am doing embarrassingly poorly in my Physiology class.

I wrote my second of four tests today and got a 50%. As if.

So, instead of just managing to do "OK" in two classes that are difficult for me, I'm going to not take Stats next semester and concentrate on bringing up my Physiology marks.

This means I have to do one more class this fall, and since it's a second half of a class, it might not be offered. Well, fine. Then I put on my SLP application that I'm enrolled in the January session and will send then grades when I'm done. That's what all the whipper-snapper undergrads do.

All I know is, summer courses are for the birds. They're so intensive, and I am so far out of my comfort zone. It was too much to take on.

Well, I have to go hit Stats now, so I understand what the hell is going on in class tomorrow night. Here's hoping...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Holly, Damn You.

I have to study, and then I tried to spend "a few minutes" playing with my blog template!

Expect more changes to come - for example, I did lose all my links, which makes me unhappy.

But come on... what kind of luck do I have to find a raw sugar background photo for my blog called "Sweet Nothings?"

Subterranean Homesick Blues.

One of my housemates is moving to Yarmouth for the summer, and she's hosting her big going away party tonight.

I'm currently exiled at T's empty apartment, studying for what will surely be an abysmal showing on my next Physiology test.

Last time my roommates threw a party, it went until almost 4am (and, from the sounds of it, mostly right over the ducts that rattle in my basement bedroom's ceiling), so, being a cranky old codger, I left. I really have to be able to cram tomorrow, so I need to be able to sleep tonight.

And yes, I do mean cram, not study. Dividing my time between Statistics and Physiology was unwise. I should taken one or the other, or paired one with a Social Sciences credit that I'd be more comfortable with, or taken neither and become a longshoreman.

There is no way one should do a complete survey of the human body in 13 weeks. Yes, it is a survey, but it's the human body! The beautiful, complex-yet-simple, makes-men-consider-the-existence-of-higher-beings human body!

This exam is on the Adrenal System, Neurophysiology, and about a third of the course's material on the Cardiovascular system. Yup.

Ironically, I'm boned.

I only got a 60% on my first exam in this class, which is below what used to be my set academic goals of at least a 70%, and well below my current "Rah Rah, Let's Get Into Grad School" goal of 80%.

Well, I have tomorrow to really cram. I'm going to sit here until T's kind roommate comes home and takes back her keys. I hope something sticks. All I remember right now is there are actually something called the Funny Channels in the heart. And they're named that because the scientists thought they were funny! How am I expected to memorize shit about action potentials when I know these things? I would rather these people be very serious about this stuff.

Still, if I had free rein to name stuff in the body, I'd let myself have some fun. No long BS acronyms for me! Ugh... I got to get back to the long BS acronyms. Later.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Girl Girl Girl Girl Girl Girl Not Girl.

Elizabeth has broken the streak. She had a baby boy, Lucas, this week. Congratulations!

Well, that's it: no more preggers friends. They's all done popped.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Husband List Member?


I've been thinking about adding Jay Baruchel to my patented Husband List.

There are many criteria for becoming a member of the List. Modesty prevents me from going into too much detail, but take it from me: he fulfills them.

Plus, as a bonus, there's a guy in my Stats class that reminds me of him, and now when I see one or the other, I have happy, warm fuzzies.

What do people think of this? Before you answer, make sure you've seen at least one of the following:
a) Undeclared
b) The Trotsky
c) Tropic Thunder

with recommended but not required materials:
a) Real Time
b) She's Out of My League
c) Knocked Up

Monday, June 07, 2010

Attention Charlottetown Readers!

From June 14th to June 20th, "The Trotsky" is playing at City Cinema. I highly recommend this movie, and, let's face it: there is a real possibility that you'll never get a chance to see it, at least not without a fight.

Don't go into it with a "it's just a Canadian movie" attitude. I don't think there's any need. It's very good. The rating is good on IMDB, but Rotten Tomatoes is not as favourable as I'd like it to be, but it could have something to do with only gathering six reviews. Also: seeing The Trotsky might be the only time in cinema history that a Lada is a punchline, which is bit of a reversal of fortune, since in real life it's rare that a Lada is not a punchline.

For you mainlanders, City Cinema is Charlottetown's art-house theatre. It screens all the indie and foreign films that would probably never screen at the only other Charlottetown theatre - one of the Empire multiplex chain. It's got one screen and 81 (new!) seats and shows two movies a night. It has a competitive membership program and a loyal population of movie-goers. Besides that, it became a regular outing for the Confederation Centre box officers (i.e. B.O. Brigade), and I enjoyed tagging along from time to time.

Bye-the-bye: what is the gentilic for Charlottetown? Charlottetowner? Ugh. That's dreadful. Charlottetownian? I hope it's weird like Haligonian or Glaswegian. I vote for Charlottain.

Finally: have people seen this? It's a 2-minute Adidas ad, re-working the Cantina scene from A New Hope, doctoring it to insert people into the scene in a way that Lucas dreams he could have for those awful "remastered" editions. Besides the seamlessness of the insertion of, say, Daft Punk, Beckham, and Snoop Dog (?), it's really not very good. "Celebrate Originality"? Come on, Adidas. How can you not see the lameness of capitalizing on the institution of Star Wars, a movie that is over 3 decades old, while claiming to celebrate originality? How about calling flippin' OK Go? They make hella good videos with a 200th of the budget because they use their imaginations!

I am utterly baffled, though, as to why Jay Baruchel was involved in this undertaking. An Adidas ad? Really? Does this have something to do with him being in a new, huge Nic Cage movie? Was he tied to some contract to do it? Was it for "the buzz"? That doesn't seem like him...

Ok, I'll close. I could furrow my brow and raise my shoulders about this for quite some time.

GO see The Trotsky!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Hormoan System.

My Physiology class is on-line. Every week, 4 new video lectures become available, and the previous 4 disappear. A quarter of the screen is a video of my professor, another quarter is a list of what slides we have to get through, and the other half is the slides themselves. They scroll by like on PowerPoint, on cue with the progress of the lecture.

It's a good set-up, and it keeps you pretty on track. You can't fall behind, or the lectures will disappear.

Well, in the odyssey of super-fun learning that is my life these days, we're deeply mired in the Endocrine System right now. There are a lot of acronyms and cycles to juggle, but it's cool to learn about insulin and adrenalin et al.

Today, I started wading through the hormones of reproduction.

So, I find myself sitting inside on a rainy June day, carefully inspecting a testicle, trying to memorize its exact anatomy.

Sigh. If only my future career and weren't at stake and if only it weren't dissected.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Me, Too!

I so desperately want to be part of a group like this!

Anyone know of 10 other ukulele players (and one bass player) with similar musical tastes and talent who wants to play with me?