I learnt some upsetting and disappointing news this week that I will share below.
Entry #032 (Dec 19 2021)
On Friday this week, Dec 17, I received the following email,
Dear Winter 2022 Exchange Student,
By now, you will have received an email from <Name>, our Risk Management Coordinator, regarding the University’s updated travel policy. In his message, he states that effective December 15, the Government of Canada recommended the avoidance of all non-essential travel outside Canada. In light of this updated advisory, the university has suspended student and staff travel and updated the Travel Directive here; UAI has updated the COVID travel policies here.
Given all of this, I regret to inform you that we have made the difficult decision to cancel all outgoing exchange programs that are managed by U of A International. This decision was not made lightly; we examined all the options but given the exponential rate of infection with the Omicron variant, and the rates of infection in many of the destinations students are bound for, we felt it was the best option to ensure your safety and security. As well, we felt you needed a clear decision now before the start of the Winter term so that you can confirm your course registrations and not face any delays in the progress of your degree program.
<Name>, your Exchange Program Coordinator, will take care of the administrative work during the first week of January when the University reopens after the holiday break. This will include informing our partner universities and also ensuring that your $250 nomination fee is refunded to you.
I know this is extremely disappointing news, but probably not unexpected given the events of the past two weeks. If you have any questions, I will be happy to respond (<Name> is currently out of the office and will not be back until January 4). I will be in the office up to, and including, December 23 and will make myself available for your inquiries.
Thank you, and I hope you have a safe and happy holiday.
I did not receive the email from the Risk Management Coordinator, and still have not, but as mentioned, this was not unexpected in the least, with the only actual unexpected bit for me being that they decided to cancel all exchanges instead of doing some on a case by case basis. I personally think people and governments have overblown the Omicron threat out of proportion a bit, but once that started spreading, and governments began shutting their borders again, there was definitely no way that the exchanges were going to still be allowed to take place. Though it’s a bit odd since if the exchanges had started in October/November or something they’d most likely have been able to go through, but September failed and January-March failed.
Oh well, more work and thus more money for me! I’m not really on a timeline to graduate (other than growing old) so I don’t mind waiting a bit longer, since we’ve already been primed that this might happen again. And as mentioned in previous blogs, Singapore was never really an option for me to travel to before until it was too late to apply this time around for Spring — but it is an option on the table now for me to apply for Fall 2022, so I might well do that, and bump Japan/Sophia down to my secondary choice since their conservative government is very quick on the draw to shut borders. I can always still study the language myself and go there to travel for a month or two whenever I feel like it, or even teach there in the JET Programme (local) after I graduate, to say nothing about pursuing some sort of actual historian/archivist/blogger/diplomat job there in the future when everything is open and back in full swing again, rather than this halfway open-again closed-again thing of the past few years.
So all things considered, I’m not particularly beat up or upset over this news. You’ll have to scroll down further for the bad news I mentioned above.
In the meantime, because I do still have to maintain my student status to be eligible for exchanges, I signed up for a class that counts toward my 400-level requirements. They are “fourth year” classes, since they begin with a 4, and I need two of them for my degree and have taken only one so far. The one I signed up for is EASIA 441, Topics in Japanese Literary History, and also cross-counts for my CIL certificate. EASIA 441 is one of those courses where the topic changes each time the course is held depending on the instructor’s interests, and you can even take it multiple times if it’s about a different topic, and this time the topic in question is Haikus. This interests me due to a series of writeups I did on Reddit for one of my favourite anime a couple of years ago, which revolved around karuta, a card game based upon a set of 100 classical waka (old form of haiku) poems called the Hyakunin Isshu. I loved learning about the symbolism and all the writing tricks and histories behind each poem as part of research into the writeups, and am hoping that this course at least delves into that stuff at some point. And if not, I’m sure the knowledge will still come into use for future essays.
The classes run every Wednesday afternoon from 3pm to 6pm, and I’ve gotten clearance from my supervisor and his supervisor to take it, since it’s remote and online. Still waiting on things like the syllabus to be actually released before I commit and pay the fee though. I could always swap to another class if I feel like this one won’t work out.
Our team is going to be merged with another team in the new year, with our 9am morning standups replaced with an awful and much larger 11am one, and a couple people have taken the last week (next week) off work and thus already left for their winter break, so it feels like an era has begun to come to an end at work. Everyone on the current team will still be on the new team, but we have never traditionally worked very well with the other team that we are going to be merged with, though relationships aren’t bad or anything, so we’ll see if my supervisor can pull the combined teams together and make them gel. I think the combined team is too big though, and as my supervisor points out, we’re basically the joint biggest team in the department now after this merger, so I think we’ll be targetted for cuts the next time budget cuts roll around to the University. 15 or 16 people or so is way too many people to have a 30-45 minute weekly meeting with every week as well.
What will the future hold? We’ll wait and see I guess. My one regret about the exchange being cancelled is that I’m extremely jaded with my job, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do a bad job while I’m working here. I do like mentoring the three new (well, only one is truly new) members of our current team, that’s been really fun gradually easing them into harder and wackier tickets and seeing them make WTF faces at some of the nonsensical tickets that pass our virtual desks.
I’m still getting these little sores and some itching on my legs and sometimes arms and stuff, so at this point I think I can safely rule out bugs being the cause as well, since this has been happening even after the heat treament. They go away completely without leaving so much as a trace after an hour or two if I ignore them and/or wet them and/or put one of my anti-itch creams on them though, so I’m not even sure what it is anymore, unless it’s some kind of reaction to dry skin or something. That, or it’s to do with sitting down at the computer too long, since I tend to have them in the evenings and nights.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had failed some blood tests to do with kidney issues, and I went for a retest on Monday this week, and they came back completely fine, even though I was still having those bumps and mild itching issues. I passed every single blood test we took this time, so my doctor didn’t even bother calling me. (That or maybe she’s on vacation, but still.) I’m still going to go in to talk to her at some point though, maybe in the new year.
On Monday, I also went down to the University to give my old Japanese textbooks to someone who was requesting them. He’s one of the (ex-)organizers of the Japanese Conversation Club at UAlberta and was asking on the JCC server for the books to help formulate lesson plans and stuff for something or other, and I had no real use for those books any longer, so I gave them to him, even though they were written in in places. All in pencil though so if it really annoys him he can always erase my scribbles. I didn’t ask him for any money in return since he had helped the JCC community so much, but he brought along some pens in return as a small gift, which was really nice. He said he was an international student here and was returning to Japan next week after exams to take a gap semester off. Lucky guy.
On the train on the way home from that exchange and the blood test, I noticed a phone on the LRT seat next to me. It had a slightly cracked screen and its battery was dead, so I took it home to charge it and waited for the owner to call me so I could return it to them. The owner never did call, apparently because he lacked another phone, but his sister and his father did, as well as something like 10 other people over a 24 hour period (including someone trying to get into the apartment lobby of wherever he was staying to deliver pizza to them), all looking to talk to him. In the end, his father dropped by my apartment’s lobby to pick up the phone. He drove in from outside the city, and I think he said they were from Grande Prairie or something, although I’m not certain, since that was too far for him to travel from the time when he called me that morning to when he arrived a couple hours later, unless he was already en route at the time. His son’s name was Abdullia or something like that (I know the pronunciation but not the spelling). The whole experience was odd but somewhat interesting.
My apartment baseboards are still removed and sitting there on the floor, and I hope someone comes by next week to reattach them. There’s been no news on scheduling a time to do that yet. I’ve been eyeing them to see if any bugs are crawling out of the holes in the wall, but nothing yet either. Hopefully it stays that way.
I finished uploading my Dunman High yearbooks at some point and they’re all archived here on Mega.nz now. I think I have a few other things that I’d like to scan and throw up there as well, but I’m not sure if people would appreciate that (I used to maintain an address list/roster for both classes, for example, that I do have copies of and will eventually scan/could throw up there eventually. But for the sake of a yearbooks link that my former classmates can download and possibly even share with others, stuff like that probably doesn’t belong in there.)
Oh, and the upsetting news I mentioned at the top of the blog post? I suspect Santa doesn’t actually exist. He was supposed to come by my apartment on the 15th but never did. Boo hoo hoo! Although with all the slippery ice outside, and then a weather drop to -20C and wind chill that apparently hit -40C this week, and this poem (local), I don’t really blame him for deciding that Edmonton was too cold for him either.
Mood piece for the week:
Genshin is great. Still heavily playing it, although this might subside next week with the advent of the Steam Winter Sale on Dec 22nd. I’m now just about Adventure Rank 40, which means the enemies are going to get a level bump and become more painful again. The stories and zones are great though, and I really love the little slice of life hangout scenes that you can do and redo with each recruitable character, kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure branching path thing, complete with bookmarks that you can jump to so you don’t have to redo content you already did just to see new scenes. Just hang out and chill with your team members on your days off, and unlock really sweet end scenes with them, like these:
My character is the slightly taller one, while the girl in pigtails is my main healer. In these three endings we’re just hanging out together on a day off, enjoying some drinks. The art is so pretty!
Other than that, we played a bit more of Satisfactory, and here’s a screenshot of our spaghetti factory. We’re pretty much winding down at this point though, we’re on the last tier and I don’t really have a drive to finish it because there’s nothing else beyond it (for now) and we’ve seen almost everything there is to see, because one of our members is away on holiday through the end of the year, and because the Steam Winter sale is right around the corner.
I also dabbled in a bit more Epic Seven, and it’s overwhelmingly.. okay. The most interesting thing about the game is that some quests have branching side paths that you have to explore in order to unlock new exits and new quest nodes on the map, so that’s cool, but it isn’t particularly cool, because it’s so simplistic. The game gives you a top tier character, in my case the villain that was unmasked in the first chapter, as a member in your party, and he oneshots just about everything we face anyway, making an autoplay game even more autoplay.. ey. And what’s the point at that point? It’s not going to survive the next week, I think.
Plushie of the Week #30
Plushie of the Week this week was a random pick up when I was in San Jose, when I travelled south across the San Francisco Bay on a day trip from SF on Nov 10 2021. I wasn’t actually planning on picking up a plushie on this stop because it wasn’t an official stop on my itinerary, but I did stop by a Japanese stationary and gifts store called Mai Do on Santana Row in San Jose during the evening of the day that I was there, and found this little critter in there, so I rescued him and enlisted him into my plushie army.
This plushie is a Pusheen with a mermaid’s tail, riding on a seahorse, and I don’t know if I should give this one a name since it’s actually a licensed character. I don’t actually have many licensed character plushies, especially not from the Japanese product line as I’ve never really fancied them, but this one was cute. A bit expensive though, especially for his size, since he ended up costing me $24.01 USD, but he was my only souvenir from San Jose besides a reusable bag that I got from the same store, so using that lens that was justifiable.
This plushie doesn’t really stand up, and is wafer thin from the front, so I didn’t do a “front” or “back” view per se, but here are side views of him and his steed:
And then tags:
Photograph(s) of the Week #18
This segment might be coming to an end soon, or at least be something that I do every few weeks instead of every week, but for this week I wanted to highlight another dear friend that I met on my journey to where I am today. Two weeks ago, I highlighted one of my five muses that I met through gaming, a friend who helped guide my way through the early days of the Internet. I won’t be doing the same for my latest three (yet) as I’m somewhat still in contact with them and it hasn’t been long enough yet, but this is a picture (circa 2007) of my second muse, a lady named Jill from New York who was my first ever MMO guild leader, and someone I respected very much.
My first ever MMO was Dungeons and Dragons Online, which I picked up at the urging of my at-the-time boss at work, and we rolled on the Fernia server, although we never really played together much. I eventually struck out on my own and looked to join another guild, and after running with a group of people from her guild for several evenings, she invited me to join the guild where I eventually rose to an officer and helped organize them and their raiding efforts while having a great time playing through the game with them for a year or two. The name of the guild was Face Stabbing Misfits, which was something they made up to fit the FSM acronym, which they took from the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
She was the guild leader through my entire time there, and her character name that I remember the most was Althenna (She had Althea too, but I’m not certain on her other names). She was happily married to someone else from the guild, but we got to hanging out a lot in the game, and we would spend our time in game climbing or jumping or flying to the top of various buildings in Stormreach and just sit next to each other for hours, chatting the evening away until one of us had to go.
I never told her about my transgendered status, as I presented to the guild as a female (which was what I needed from them at the time, a safe place where I could just be the myself that I wanted to be the most), but we chatted a ton about our real lives, and this made me enjoy and look forward to coming home from work every day to spend the evenings with her, so it was a big boost to my mood and productivity while I was stuck in a department and job at work that I didn’t fully like at the time. She was awesome and everyone in the guild liked her very much, and we ran many group dungeons and the smaller raids together as well,. although our guild was only really big enough to field juuust enough members for them.
At any rate, she made my first MMO experience really enjoyable, and was a bright light in a dark period of my life as well, so she was definitely a big reason why I kept on playing MMOs and eventually met my current group of lifelong friends in the end. We eventually drifted apart when the Lord of the Rings Online beta launched though, as she and her husband tried out the game and didn’t really enjoy it, and then got busy in real life anyway and (I believe) stopped playing DDO as well. I send her occasional happy birthday messages through email, but we don’t otherwise chat any longer, and I wish I had more logs of the days that we did spend chatting with each other, but that was around the tail end of a time period where I hadn’t really started logging things yet.
Song of the Week #7
Title: Tenshi no Yubikiri
Artist: Mai Fukuda
Album: Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou OST (1998)
This song is from an old anime from 1998 called Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou, or His and Her Circumstances, a show which was pretty good, but suffered from a host of production and other problems that made it a little bit weird, especially nearer the end. Still, I love its music — its main opening song (this one) and ending song are both in my top 5 Japanese songs currently, and represent neuron links to several really important memories for me.
The title of the song, Tenshi no Yubikiri, can be translated as The Promise of an Angel, and the reason why I love this song can probably be boiled to how it sounds, it has a sort of melancholic 80s/90s melody for me that penetrates deep into my heart. Although I had never heard of it until much later, and never watched it until Dec 22 2018, the show itself would have been serendipitously airing on television while we were still in Singapore, preparing to fly out and migrate to Canada, as Wikipedia has its airtime running from Oct 02 1998 to Mar 26 1999. As such, I have always mentally linked it to our family’s move to Canada, and while the show’s plot eventually unravelled, the songs themselves were great and cemented themselves as anthems of the “old days” in Singapore.
To that extent, the mental images that this song invokes for me are old sepia-coloured Singapore memories, things like old HDB apartment blocks that I remember walking/passing through and looking at when young. The promise aspect also put me in a huge longing to return home again and see the changes that have happened to the city and the neighbourhoods that I grew up in, and until recently were a source of pain because I thought that that was something that I would never be able to do. This is no longer the case, however! It also reminds me of my old schools, specifically a mental scene or two where it’s late in the evening and I’m waiting for Dad to swing by the roundabout at the front of the school on his motorcycle to pick me up and drive me home. This is an extremely precious memory figment.
A second thing that this strongly reminds me of is the anime group watch that I have been doing with Satinel and Nak, and we’ve kept this going for three years (almost to the day, we started Dec 07 2018) now, which is insane to me. We take turns picking an anime and watching it, and we do three episodes a day every day except Monday. We start our 166th show/series/movie this evening, and that number does not generally even include most sequels, which get lumped together with the original, unless they were watched in a separate pick later on. This is a very precious event that has generated an extremely high number of good memories for me over the past three years, and this song is emblematic of the group watch because it was Nak‘s first ever pick and the first song/show that I really, really liked from our group picks.
And finally, because this song has been on my MP3 player for so long, it also has picked up other connotations for me from just collateral damage from walking around with the song playing in my one good ear. In particular, this song reminds me of the Rutherford Library at the University of Alberta, and taking a lonely walk through (and smelling the mustiness of) the shelves of the quieter, higher-up floors of the library, trying to find some book or other to help with my research into something. To a lesser extent, it also reminds me of walking through (and smelling the mustiness of) the halls of the Tory Building in the University, where my Japanese classes was, but this isn’t as strong.
The memory is specifically linked to walking through these places while they are mostly deserted though, with that factor of loneliness added in, particularly just prior to the University shutdown at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and noting that all the halls and libraries were already really empty, and how strange that was. This and the initial note about waiting for Dad in a largely-deserted school in the evening, together combine to create a song that I strongly associate with Liminal Spaces in general.
The most popular uploaded Youtube version of the song is listed below, whereas the creditless OP version (90 seconds long) can be found here, and the lyrics with translation can be found here. “Yubikiri” is the specific pinkie promise that the two main characters do at the end of the creditless op video, and that video, with its occasional use of real life stills (the ED song does this too, and I will soon feature that song as well), definitely plays into why I link these two songs with old Singaporean memories.
For whatever reason, this week was very bad for dreams, and I didn’t have much captured and written down at all. Multiple days had me waking up knowing that a dream was on the tip of my tongue, but unable to summon it before it was gobbled up by memory monsters. Oh well!
Dec 14 2021
- This dream took place in a foreign land, and I was there with my family, although it primarily featured Mom and Dad. The main plot of the story was that early on, our rental car got caught in a crossfire between rival drug gangs and was dragged into a car junkyard. To escape, we had to quickly switch cars and drive out, leaving my bag and some of our things in the old car.
- The next day, I wanted to go retrieve the remainder of our things, but Mom was against it, saying that it was dangerous and that the car was most likely looted and crushed by now. I disagreed, but agreed that if we waited another day it would certainly turn out that way.
- Luckily, Dad was on my side, so long story short, while exploring the city on foot, he beckoned me and Jon to follow him and we walked quickly so as to outpace Mom and Kel, before heading across a little desert area toward the street with the junkyard on the far side.
- We briefly stopped at a campfire and noticed several $1 and $2 dollar coins on the floor, I picked them up and gave $8 worth to Dad.
- We also passed by someone at another camp who started harassing us, asking us to entertain him, and then giving us a countdown before he would start shooting at us with a gun. I had a couple remaining coins that I had picked up but not given to Dad yet, so I threw those down on the ground by him to distract him while the three of us hurried on. He eventually did start shooting but by that time we were out of his gun’s effective range and nothing hit us.
Dec 19 2021
- I remember being in my current apartment, except the apartment had no roof and was on ground level in the middle of a field or something. I had a number of Singapore friends over visiting, they lived nearby but had all gathered in my place and were either in my apartment for a party, or just outside of it taking part in some odd activities.
- An example of an odd activity was some sort of race where two of my friends (a guy and a girl) were racing with each other along a road toward a wall with a large green mask symbol on it. The green symbol emanated some sort of force to keep people away though, and so the two friends found it very exhausting to move toward it, and both of them had to stop every few feet. They both stopped on top of a zebra crossing to catch their breath.
- There was another guest at this point who was not invited but had saw the group of friends coming toward my house and wanted to come along as well, so he had slipped along with the group and now decided to crash this race in a full body costume with a mask that matched the symbol on the wall. That didn’t help, and he also ended up stopping on that zebra crossing next to the other two to pant and catch his breath. The host/emcee of the race noticed him and came in to greet him and give him a badge, officially welcoming him to the party.