Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The house that mint built

Ever since I was a kid, any time I got any kind of little burn, bug bite, or bee sting, my parents would give me some ointment out of a little metal jar that has a picture of a baby dressed up as a nurse on it. Judging by the label, the stuff was called Mentholatum, but I could never conclusively confirm nor deny this. It looks and feels more or less like thick Vaseline, and as you might expect from the (hypothetical) name it reeks of menthol and burns like it too.

Then, a few years back, my grandma got some of that deep heating cream for her feet. I was amazed to find that it too was made by Mentholatum, which I now understood to be a brand name. With a name like Mentholatum, though, it couldn't just be any brand name; no, it must be some kind of menthol monopoly.

Growing up in a Chinese family, I always thought that there were only two paths to a career in which you make money: accounting/business and computers. Of course, this might have to do with both of my parents working in computers, but I don't think this was an isolated case. Some of our family friends were recently very obviously proud of themselves for getting over their own reservations and finally accepting that their youngest daughter liked to draw and wanted to go to (and eventually got into) the Emily Carr Institute. Note that they didn't sound proud of their daughter, but proud of themselves, because it appears to be a real feat for old-school Chinese to accept things like that.

But as I grew up and became interested in computers again, the dot-com bubble burst. More than that, I started to see that a good portion of arts students don't starve after they graduate. Some of them actually make more than the not-so-sweet cash made by underappreciated code monkeys living with their parents. And they don't all become teachers. No, they find weird jobs not directly related to English/sociology/economics/political science, like rating porn flicks for the Film Board, or supervising sanitation of Safeways all over the province. I was aghast.

Consider Mentholatum. Three generations ago, someone in Wichita wanted to open a business. I bet (s)he grew up being told to invest in gold, or oil, or... no, probably oil. And yet somewhere down the line, this person decided that no, the family fortune would be built on mint. Does it sound crazy? (Maybe, I don't know what the state of medical science was at the time, but for the purposes of this argument, let's say) Yes. And yet they've grown into the (probable) world leader in menthol related ointments.

(What would it be like to grow up in that family? I imagine they have a very green-themed house. They don't settle for any crappy after-dinner mints, instead importing their own -- or even making their own! They drive their neighbours and visitors crazy talking about the soothing powers of menthol. Their kids rebel by dressing entirely in red and extolling the wonders of cinnamon.)

The moral of the story? People pay money for things other than accounting and computers, which is something new generations of Chinese should remember. Just ask Mentholatum: the house that mint built*.

* This title may actually belong to the makers of YORK Peppermint Patties, I don't know.

Current Music: Spoon - Gimme Fiction

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What's Wang This Week

It looks like I'll be sitting in with a little informal jazz combo on New Year's Eve. Plus, they want to play some rock songs. I feel so professional. Unfortunately, feeling professional obligates me to be professional, so I guess I have to learn a few songs in the next day or two. Does anyone have a copy of "You Shook Me All Night Long"?

Tonight, after failing to find Derek, the rest of us LUGs strolled into town and had some sweet mussels from Brussels (thanks Victor) at Stella's, on Commercial. They also had some very fancy-sounding -- and good, mind you -- Belgian beers there. After drinking them, though, Jowen and I both decided that we'd be better off saving $6 and sharing one $10 Unibroue beer instead, such as the awesomely named La Fin Du Monde, or the almost-as-awesomely named Trois Pistoles. Those were some excellent mussels, although they've got nothing on these bad boys! (Picture me flexing as I say that, it works best that way.)

Then, miracle of miracles, Derek was there when we returned to his apartment. Thank you, Santa! In all the excitement of finding out Derek is still alive, though, I totally forgot that I had to return a DVD, and now my mom has late charges. Pfft, as if the guy who drinks $8 Belgian beers is supposed to remember that.


Current Music: Van Morrison - Moondance

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Xmas

We had both turkey and ham tonight for dinner -- we truly live in times of great affluence. Also, I remembered that you're supposed to add ice/water to ouzo which makes it more palatable.

I was once told that X is the symbol for Christ in Latin, which makes the "crossing out Christ" argument moot. I wish I were famous enough to have Bill O'Reilly slam me for saying that. I suppose it's impractical to wish for fame for Christmas, especially at this stage of the game, but maybe for next year.

Anyway, Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Olympic team announcements

Why were kids standing in for the men's players during the announcement? Were they the players' children/sisters/brothers/next of kin?

Good lord, did Gord Stellick get Botox injections?

Current Music: Spoon - Metal School

Okay, that's it

I don't have the energy to decide whose blog I like the best. I have to take care of this somehow.

You have three days to vie for position, by changing your name to Aaron Aaronson. Then: I sort.

Current Music: My Morning Jacket - Wordless Chorus

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What's Wang This Week

I just remembered I owe several among you cashews. I'll buy a big tub of them and have it with me when I see you, if you remind me.

I have to get a new passport, as my current one expires in April. It's a lot more work than I expected... well, no, it's about exactly as much work as I suspected. I hate paperwork. I can't even print out the forms myself because I don't have bond quality paper, which according to the website is a must. If I get to the office and find out that my form isn't valid because I crossed out the parts where I didn't print in block letters and because my signature doesn't stay in the small box on the 2nd and 3rd pages, I'm going to be pissed.

And why does it cost so damn much to get a passport? We're trying to exit the country; they should be grateful that we're consuming fewer Canadian resources.

After a week or so of planning we crashed Derek's place to force the issue and make him spend some time with people, and to use his GameCube. Unfortunately, he wasn't there. I'm still not sure why none of us even considered the possibility that he might not be there, but it just seemed like a given; don't we have egg on our faces.

I've also been watching a bunch of Arrested Development. If I had one of those "Dickolas Recommends" columns on the sidebar, I'd put it on there.

Current Music: Oasis - Talk Tonight

Friday, December 16, 2005


I just waited 50 minutes watching MuchMusic waiting for Green Day's cover of "Summer of '69" to come on. Just before the commercial break after which it was to come on, they played another bit of the video and I realized "Hey, that's not Summer of '69." It's just some song that rips off Bryan Adams.

I was genuinely disappointed. I really wanted to hear Green Day play "Summer of '69". I wouldn't care to hear their version of the Broco Auto Glass jingle though.

Current Music: Green Day - Jesus of Suburbia

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Poor Wade Flaherty

Today's casualty of the new salary-capped NHL is Wade Flaherty.

Flaherty, a relatively seasoned NHL veteran who took over the starter's job from Alex Auld last season in Manitoba, is stuck there for what looks to be the long haul. Why? Because he refused to renegotiate his contract to below $75000/yr, he cannot be called up and sent back down without being exposed to waivers. Because of this, the Canucks have been forced to use Rob McVicar as their backup during the oodles of time Cloutier has been injured. Wade Flaherty, meanwhile, is in Manitoba, aging.

Maxime Ouellet has now essentially replaced him on the depth chart so the Canucks no longer have to risk calling him up, killing whatever hopes he might have had of being claimed on waivers by another team. Now that Cloutier is out for the season, you better believe the Canucks and Flaherty would have been better off had he taken that pay cut.

Do we call it ego or principle that led Wade Flaherty to what has turned out to be such a ridiculously bad decision on his part? To his credit, I suppose I'd say principle, since I probably wouldn't like the idea of taking a 40% pay cut myself. However, it's funnier all around if we just say it was ego.

Good job, Flaherty. Hope Christmas in Manitoba is cold and unforgiving.

Current Music: Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better

Note to self

Don't forget Potsie's birthday.

Current Music: My Morning Jacket - Z

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What do TAs do during office hours?

I for one am blogging, as no one has come. I should have realized 10:00AM is early for graduate students.

At the beginning of this year, one of my students was shocked and probably not a little bit disillusioned to see her probability TA giving a huge wedgie to another graduate student.

This same graduate student (who mysteriously lost a piece of fish in my desk drawer) also was forced recently to do an online orientation in order for the stats grad student association to get funding. He answered C to every question on the final quiz and failed; he passed after going through and changing some of the answers to "Some of the above".

My probability TA last year failed the sexual harassment module of his online ethics course.

Last year my friend was my applied statistics TA, and he occasionally had to adjudicate tests for us. Recently I found out that most of that time he was chatting on MSN with his friends in Greece -- and here I thought he was doing some computer-intensive analysis.

Also, last year during our final exam, afterwards he came up to me and said, I have to tell someone about this: the guy sitting behind you in the test was picking his nose. Like, not just casually picking it; he was really givin' it, you know? (He demonstrated.) And he'd always look around before he'd do it, to make sure no one was looking... but I was. And then he'd eat the results! Later that day, the same TA referred to me as Robin to his Batman, and about a week prior he had explained to us all multiple times that PhD stands for Pretty Huge Dick.

I think I'll check out the daily Bullz-Eye girl.

Current Music: The New Pornographers - Sing Me Spanish Techno

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What's Wang This Week/Note to self/Note to selves

This morning I cooked up some bacon. My whole apartment smells like bacon now, which sounds like something that might have appealed to me two years ago, but no longer. Even my bedroom smells like bacon. I'm gonna have some pork-y dreams tonight.

Actually, it wasn't the morning; it was 1:30 in the afternoon. I slept in, which I am doing a lot lately on account of my working late these last few weeks to get the last (well, the only) of my schoolwork done and handed in. On top of that, I've gone a little overboard with my regained ability to read and I've read the first four Harry Potter books in the last 10 days, most of the reading occurring between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00AM. I've just bought the 5th, and at this rate I won't have anything left to read on the plane home. On the bright side, it's almost 1000 pages, so maybe I will. Even if there's nothing to read, I can still amuse myself with two games of Tetris in preparation for the Christmas season's pwning of all your asses.

Yeah, that's right. Snap.

After upwards of 9 years of good service, and a handful of close calls, my eyebath finally shattered today when I dropped it on the floor. Those of you who have lived with me will recognize this as the small shotglass-looking thing I would always carry to the bathroom in the morning and in the evening. I remember when I went to buy ol' Bathy, I was deciding between a cheap plastic one and a more expensive glass one. Even then, I remember thinking that I couldn't think of a single benefit of buying the glass one instead of the plastic one, and yet I still went ahead and did it... and I'd do it again. Maybe I'll try a plastic one this time, but I'm afraid that it'll have two little edges on the rim where it got snapped off of the plastic mold, like every other plastic thing in the world. Anyway, it was sad.

My flight home is next Monday. I'm looking forward to some rest, some relaxation, and some fucking Japanese food. I have been barely able to find one decent Japanese restaurant in Berkeley, and this will just not do. I ate at one place tonight and it was okay, probably the second-best I've had around here, which isn't saying much. But the chopstick wrapper said that this place had been rated Best Japanese Food in the city, as well as in the whole Bay Area. It wouldn't even be the best Japanese food in the basement of the Village!

Anyone know of any good concerts during the time I'm home? Anyone want to get together soon? Drop me a line, you know how to reach me.

Current Music: The Postal Service - Give Up

PS: Don't forget Jim's birthday
PPS: Look here

Saturday, December 03, 2005

... and now a random fact about Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris is 1/8th Cherokee. This has nothing to do with ancestry, the man ate a fucking Indian.

Current Music: Destroyer - Your Blues

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What Was Wang This Year

Today I, Dickolas Wang is one year old.

Rather than trying to be clever (and succeeding, because I'm just such a card) with my anniversary post, I'm just going to reflect on some of my favourite blog-moments from this year.

If you have a favourite I, Dickolas Wang moment, I'd like to hear what it is and why. I really enjoy blogging, you know, and I'm proud of what I have written, so I'm grateful that some of you even enjoy me blogging too.

Who knows what craaaaazy adventures lie ahead? Well, I might have an advisor soon; I will no longer be a real TA with students who I am responsible for, so I can write WWTWs more; one of these days, I might even win a LUGs poker game; I've re-learned how to read, which can only help; and I plan to lead an attack on the Priscilla Platter. The possibilities are endless! Stay tuned...

... I know I will.

Current Music: Nada Surf - Blankest Year (Hey, I didn't even intend that. How about that!)