Monday, February 26, 2007

Vegas, baby, Vegas!

Well I'm gearing up (literally) for our March break Red Rocks climbing expedition. We leave on Saturday morning, drive down to Boston and from there fly direct to Las Vegas. We arrive in Vegas at 11:00pm, and probably head out to the campground on Sunday morning. I can't wait! Yeaaaaaaaaaah!

Some amongst us have even shaved their heads in anticipation. You know who I'm talking about... :P

So much to do before we leave!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Rose WIP

Walla! (somebody gag me...)

I've noticed a word massacre perpetrated by our southern friends of late. Everytime I hear it (or see it in print for that matter) I want to puke. It goes something like this:

The magician showed us the empty hat, and then Walla! He pulled a rabbit out of it!

Its a blatant corruption of the word Voila, which not only sounds more appealing, it also looks more aesthetically pleasing than Walla. Please do me a favour. If you hear someone say this abomination punch them in the face. The world will be a better place for it....

Incidentally I wonder if this corruption began around the time "french fries" gained the name of "freedom fries"...

Monday, February 12, 2007

prudes, pervs, and personal space

Last year I was a teaching assistant in one of the fourth year electrical engineering labs. These labs were often quite busy as they were mandatory, and the class itself was a prerequisite for other important classes, so two TAs were needed. My fellow TA was a married man with children in his 30s from Bhutan. For those of you who don't know where Bhutan is, you can find it to the east of Nepal, wedged between the Indian and Chinese borders. People from Bhutan tend to look like a cross between an East Indian and someone who is Chinese, for the obvious reason. Bhutan is a very mountainous country with a blossoming Electrical Engineering industry. Unfortunately, people interested in persuing graduate studies in electrical engineering must leave the country as education to that extent is not available in Bhutan. As a result someone who is both academically and patriotically inclined usually leaves to persue further education elsewhere - and then returns to make his experience available to the people in his own country. Such a one is Andu Dukpa - my fellow TA, and also a PhD candidate in EE with the University of New Brunswick.

Andu is a very friendly, open, and warmhearted kind of guy. He's honest, upfront, and always a pleasure to talk to. In fact he's one of my favorite people that I've met at Head Hall over the years. I still run into him occasionally, when I go down the hill to buy a coffee, and he always stops to say hi and ask how I'm doing. Since he's from a different culture and geographical area he is always full of questions about Canadians, Canadian customs, wildlife, climate, you name it. We had some interesting discussions about all of the above when the labs got slow. Being from a small foreign country with a high population density the way in which he interacts with other people is quite different than we frigid canadians are used to. I remember one day in the lab there were many students there, and the lab space itself was almost full. He had to pass behind me, and as he went by he put his hand on my back, said "excuse me" and moved through the narrow space between me and the person behind me.

As you can imagine at first I was quite startled. In this country people do not touch each other casually like that, and if someone was to put their hand on my back when it wasn't absolutely necessary I would be a little disturbed. As was the case when Andu did it. Because it was so unusual, I started thinking about it. I realized that our society is quite sterile in terms of human contact - and becoming increasingly moreso all the time. If one of my students was to touch me like that, I'd be extremely uncomfortable would be thinking of making a complaint. This no-touch policy is wide ranging. If you watch people interact with their friends they rarely touch each other, unless its grinding together at the local gay bar. I think though that this is a primarily North American English phenomenon - stemming perhaps from the people who settled here originally: the puritans and the British. The puritans were all about abstaining from sins, and had strict views regarding sexual morality (thanks, Wiki...). The British are, well, closet pervs but on the outside very prudish. I think the excessive concern with human contact being outwardly proper and non-sexual (given to us by the first immigrants to North America) has led to increased social problems of a sexual nature for us. Consider - its perfectly ok for Janet (aka Flash) Jackson to bare a nipple at the superbowl halftime show, but god forbid anyone show a nipple while breast feeding... Gross! Everyone knows breasts are for sex! No one wants to see one used for any other purpose because it detracts from the sexuality of it! I think the Europeans have a much more relaxed attitude about things like that. Janet who? Nipple? So what?

Consider also all the problems we as a society have with sexual offenders... rapists, pervs, peeping toms, pedophiles, etc. I would be interested to find out some statistics of rate of incidence of such sexual offences in continental Europe, where human touch is far more frequent, and where sex is objectified less so than here. It wouldn't surprise me if sexual offences were less prevalent. I think its no coincidence that we touch each other so infrequently and yet objectify sex to such a huge degree. So everyone lets have a group hug! :)

PS. Watercolours all done by me, 2004-2005. The only watercolours I've ever done and liked! ;)