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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Antoine Henri Giraud's LiveJournal:

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    Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
    1:58 am
    Introducing wordbit.com

    I have a new website up: Wordbit.com is where I'm going to be doing most of my blogging from now on. It's also a place to check out my on-line portfolio and participate in building a resource page for tech writers. Or any writers really. Anyways, it's an easy name to remember, so check it out and tell me how to make it better. I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback!

    Friday, December 29th, 2006
    10:21 am
    A sour Lululemon

    My girlfriend was telling me about her Bikram yoga class today and how you pay $20 a class to just sit there like a pretzel and sweat and feel nauseous and have acid bile rise up your throat at each contortion. Wow, what fun. Anyway, apparently all the other ladies at yoga sport Lululemon outfits. This was the first time I'd been introduced to this apparently wildly popular brand.

     

    Needless to say, inspired by the "yes men" video, I looked into the company and was pleased to see they were based in Vancouver and produced all their clothes here. Basically, the company seemed an ethical, homegrown success that supported the local economy and made Vancouverites justifiably proud of their stylish yoga apparel.

     

    I dug a little deeper and was dismayed to discover that Lululemon has become so popular that they have sprung up all across North America and started outsourcing all their production in China. Not only that, but according to this Tyee article, the owner, Mr. Chip Wilson thinks child labour is a great idea and that we should even implement it in Canada to give the street kids something to do.

     

    Mr. Wilson is hardly politically correct. Here's another example - The name Lululemon was supposedly chosen by Wilson because "he thinks the trouble Japanese people face pronouncing L's works as an extra marketing tool for his product in that country." "It's funny to watch them try and say it," he adds.

    Mmmmmm... All this leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Here's a little tongue twister for you Mr. Wilson: Lululemon is for losers.

    Saturday, December 23rd, 2006
    7:49 am
    You missed a few

    I don't really post in here as often as in wordspace, and when I do the entries are mostly duplicated. To be honest, I'm having a little trouble posting pictures and videos in this journal, but I'd like to keep it alive. So, I've decided to post updates periodically, but you're going to have to go to wordspace to read the actual entry. Sorry about that. If the entry is text only, chances are you can find it here too. 

    If you're into it, here's some permalinks to what you've missed this week...

    Longest place name in the world

    Grab some popcorn, grab your iPod

    Procrastination is good

    Rhetoric of threat letters

     

    And, yay! I've finished my 500 page textbook. Just in time for Christmas.

    Monday, December 18th, 2006
    4:03 am
    Longest place name in the world

     

    Welcome to another instalment of Toponym of The Day. Today's toponym is the longest place name in the world:

    Llandfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrudrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

    This is the name of a town in North Wales. It translates as "The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the red cave" in Welsh (Source: Web of Linguistic Fun).

    Friday, December 15th, 2006
    8:00 am
    Toponym of the day

    I'm currently writing a TOEFL textbook for Transglobal Prep school for some extra cash. Ironically I'll be using the money I make to buy more overpriced textbooks for next semester in Print Futures (It's going to be an awesome semester, I'm especially looking forward to the tech writing and document design courses). 

    Anyway, I've been hashing away at this 500 page book due next week and came up with some insights. First of all, let me give you some of the unobvious pros and cons of freelancing:

    Pros:

    • You can write all day in your pajamas
    • You never have to shave any part of your body...ever 
    • You can take as many showers as you want
    • There is no commute
    • You can sleep in

    Cons:

    • There's no gossiping around the watercooler
    • You have to be so self disciplined that...
    • you'll realize that you're the worst boss you've ever had
    • If you like leaving the house now and again you're out of luck
    • When you're done for the day you can't leave

     

    One slightly interesting thing I discovered while researching the civil war, the American revolution and the tourist attractions of Illinois and Kentucky (don't ask) was...toponymy. If you don't know what that is, go to Wikipedia. Also on the Wiki, here is a real example (WARNING: offensive language) of an unusual place name.

    I thought I'd start a toponym of the day, where I present the origins of a placename that I've come across in my research. Geeky, but what else can I do with all the useless facts that I'm learning? 

    So, without further ado, today's placename is...

    Winnipeg:

    Winnipeg, in Canada, owes its name to the Algonquins. Winnipig was the Algonquin word meaning dirty water, a possible non tribute to the Red River, which flows near Winnipeg (Source: Turnip Smith).

    I checked this out, and according to the official Winnipeg website, "the name WINNIPEG has its origin in the Indian Cree name given to the lake 64kms north, meaning "Win", muddy, "nipee", water".

     

    Either way, Winnipeg means dirty water. Sorry guys.

    Thursday, December 7th, 2006
    5:02 am
    With thunder in his voice

    This topic interests me because I lived for a year in South Korea in a little town close to the border. I went up to the border on more than one occasion and even have a piece of the barbed wire fence dividing North and South Korea. I'm waiting for re-unification. That piece of wire could be as momentous as having a piece of the Berlin wall. Anyway, if you have a minute to spare, check out this hilarious example of North Korean propaganda. In North Korea, legend has it that Kim Jong Il was born on top of a sacred mountain. The clouds opened up, and he came down from heaven...

    In reality, Kim Jong Il was born in a Russian military camp. I should point out that the above video would be taken quite seriously in North Korea. If you have more time, then be sure to watch this fascinating documentary on Kim Jong Il and the Nuclear arms conflict. What I found especially fascinating is the way he infuses spiritual determinism into his political platform. He has set himself up as a sort of deity who is a father figure to the North Korean people. This representation is entirely congruent with Confucian ideology on hierarchical family structures where the nation is equal to a family and the father must always be obeyed.

    Kim Jong Il started out in the communist party making propaganda movies and musicals and was said to have a lot of "girlfriends" in the industry. It's incredible that there are still dictators like this in the world.

    Friday, December 1st, 2006
    10:30 pm
    How to foil telemarketers...

    ...by using the power of social networking. Most of us living in today's low-trust world have call display on our phones. Yet, what do you do if the number is unrecognized? If you're like me, you just let unidentified numbers go through to your voicemail. But what if they don't leave a message? Doesn't the curiosity eat you up inside? What if it was your long lost uncle from Barbados? What if you finally won one of those quick getaway competitions you keep filling out entries for at your local grocery store?

     

    The answer can be found at an unobtrusive little website called Who Called Us. I've been using it for a while with excellent results. All you do is type in the suspicious number. Chances are, they've bugged other people who have recorded it here. I've done this to avoid calls from unscrupulous insurance companies and credit card companies who will call relentlessly for weeks until they give up. Unsurprisingly, most of the numbers in the database are from U.S. based companies (they are ruthless down there, especially if your number's listed), but it works for Canadian numbers too.

     

    But what do you do if your call display doesn't even provide you with a number? If all you have is an unavailable to go on, you may want to pick up. Imagine your disappointment when you here the dreaded "Good evening Mr/Mrs [insert mangled pronunciation of name here]". In that case, have this direct marketing counterscript form ready and give the telemarketer a taste of their own medicine. I haven't resorted to using this yet, but I imagine it would be great fun!

    Thursday, November 30th, 2006
    5:47 am
    The ice cage

    Well, here's my contribution to the let's - take - a - picture - of - the - scene - from - my - bedroom - window collection of Vancouver weather pictures. Not many people are willing to actually go outside and take a few shots. I don't blame them. Heck, I can't even go outside without jumping over the fence because the front gate is frozen shut. It's no joke. Do you have any idea how dodgy it looks when I have to scramble over the fence everyday to get to school?

    Here's a view of my lonely car from my icicle prison:

    And here's another view of the street:

    Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
    2:45 am
    Art, science, or just plain twisted?

    It's been a wild weekend for us. Record snowfalls hit the western seaboard, burying the lower mainland under two feet of snow. It's all anyone's talking about, and rightly so, Vancouver usually gets a light dusting, if that. I attribute these strange weather patterns to climate change, but that's probably because I also watched An Inconvenient Truth this weekend, which everybody must see. It just came out on DVD, so you have no excuses.

    I also got to see the Body Worlds 3 display at Science World. I can't say that it was my cup of tea. Can somebody please explain what is so artistic or scientific about a real corpse holding up his own skin? Or for that matter, an unfortunate body that has been neatly cut into three pieces from head to toe. Or a dead guy doing the splits while balancing his own innards and internal organs in one hand? Or a skeleton kneeling at a cross while cradling her own heart in her hands? 

    It's almost as if the scientist who did this is saying "See what modern man can do. Severe the skin so cleanly from a man that people will actually pay $30 to see it." The look of pride on the skinless man is palpable, but it is the arrogance of Guther von Hagens that shines through the dead man's plastinated eyes. In my opinion, the whole display was designed to shock, not to educate.

    Yes, you can argue that these folks donated their bodies to science, but nowhere on the consent form does it say mention what weird position your body is going to be contorted into. You can argue that it teaches people about the human body. I certainly didn't learn anything. I don't remember any of the Latin names for the various muscles that were printed on the little plaque next to the corpse. In fact, I don't recall anyone at the exhibition reading them. There is just no justification for putting corpses on display except for self-edification. Would you want to be immortalized as the skinless man? 

    Friday, November 24th, 2006
    2:19 am
    Stanley Milgram's unethical experiments on human torture

    We watched this video in our research course today. I managed to track down the original 1962 video and am posting it here because it is absolutely fascinating. Ever wonder wonder how much pain somebody will afflict on another merely because they were told to do so by an authority figure? Stanley Milgram, observed the Nuremberg Trials and wondered the same thing. How could so many Nazis, seemingly decent, ordinary people, justify the slaughter of others. They said that they were "just following orders". Stanley Milgram conducted the following experiment in the United States, confident that the results would show that Americans were vastly more humane than Europeans.

    That wasn't the case.

    The results are startling and a grim reminder that people will do just about anything, just because they are told to do so. Even more disturbing is that this kind of research was allowed to take place back then.

     

    Enjoy. And if you're in Print Futures, this video is on the exam.

     

    Stanley Milgram's 1962 experiment on the influence of authority figures.

    Tuesday, November 21st, 2006
    6:06 am
    Shhhhh! It's a Government secret

    I recently received a letter from the provincial government telling me that I was disqualified from receiving a student loan. You can imagine the horror this letter inspired at this point in the semester. Anyway, sleepless nights aside, I called up the Student Loan centre today and I spoke to a robotic young lady called Angelina. She told me that I was in good standing and that I should call the CIBC student loan centre to see if the restriction originated from there. So, she gave me the number and I called up CIBC, and guess who took the call? Angelina! So, I asked if we had not been speaking a moment ago and she mumbled something noncommittal and proceeded to give me the same drill we had just gone through. You know the one: has your address changed recently, has your phone number changed, etc, etc. I felt like protesting that we already had gone through this rigmarole a few minutes ago, but she wasn't having it. So, Angelina told me that there are no problems at CIBC. So I said "So, there are no restrictions on Canada Student loans and CIBC loans?" Then she said "CIBC is ok, but I don't know about Canada Student loans, you would have to call them."

     

    I just called them, and I talked to you there! Yes you! Angelina the robot girl. If the government student loan division and the CIBC student loan centre are the same entity, why do I have to waste money on postage stamps to two different addresses? Everyone knows government institutions don't communicate with each other, but did you know government employees are prohibited from communicating with themselves? What a schizophrenic bunch. 

     

    We were told that CIBC was taking over loans negotiated before 2000, but guess what people. It's the same damn bureaucratic department, they just don't want you to know about it. Think you're dealing with the bank?

     

    Think again.

    Friday, November 17th, 2006
    8:49 am
    Anyone for some Web 2.0?

    A couple of things.

    Firstly, I've been having some MySQL database issues with my Awardspace web hosting server. So, if you get the Wordpress error page when you go to w o r d s p a c e, check back later.

    Secondly, wasn't that storm yesterday insane? It took out the power grid south of the Fraser and now the Vancouver Water Board has issued a warning not to drink the muddy discoloured water that bears a resemblance to weak tea. Duh. 

    Thirdly, the web 2.0 buzz, like it or not, is here to stay. Here is a super-sized representative directory of over a thousand websites, sorted by category. I found some really useful links here, such as places to publicize your feeds and grass roots employment sites and all sorts of cool stuff. Even if you don't know what the heck web 2.0 is, you'll find a whole lot of goodies here.

    One more thing. On a somewhat related topic...

    As overhyped and ridiculously pedestrian as it is, I've finally given into the pressure. I've set up a myspace page.

     

    I know, I know...

    Thursday, November 16th, 2006
    6:58 am
    Handsome is as handsome does

     

    I've just finished a 20 page research project that scientifically tests the proverb "handsome is as handsome does". I did this by administering a fictional survey to 3421 fictional women online. I showed the control group some profiles of accomplished men and asked them to rate the profiles. I then showed the experimental group the same profiles, this time with ugly headshots attached. The men's ratings fell.

    Check out this website to see a cool face morphing video showing a hyper-masculine man turning into a full blown woman. Awesome.

    Thursday, October 26th, 2006
    5:50 am
    Wednesday, March 29th, 2006
    12:15 am
    Join the fray!
    I am extremely grateful to my good friend in the U.K, Adam, who sent me a delightful critique of my article. I reprint it here  (edited for content) including my follow-up, without his kind permission, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind. I invite other South Africans to share their opinion on the issue!

    Adam wrote:

    " Seems to be written (very well I might say) for an academic audience of Liberals.  That would be my conservative tendencies coming through (possibly fostered in the politically right wing climate in which we grew up, but tempered in my experiences since).  Not something I'm ashamed of either - I take pride in it, especially after being witness to the disastrous effects of a liberal ideology on this country’s education system!

          I would certainly not wish to be cynical or jaded by our experiences, but you paint a rather perfect picture of something which is even today (12 years after democracy) still far from perfect.  'Colour fell away'? - this is just as much an issue in SA today as it was then!  Some would say more so, as a society tries to come to terms with itself, the present regime’s social engineering, political correctness and a 'corrected' view of History.  And I am talking specifically about the classroom environment from my experiences of teaching there as recently as 2003.

        As for my part, I certainly have never felt any 'hot shame' - that would be a pointless regret, especially as we were not even of voting age during any stage of the Apartheid years.  That doesn't mean to say that I would have voted for the NP.  No.  Perhaps you could clarify who you mean by 'us'?  What about shame for leaving?  Do you ever feel any of that?"



    My reply:

    In my defence, the article was never intended to be more than a puff piece. At the very least I wanted Canadians to realize that racism is not a black/white issue. I wanted to illustrate through my own experience that racism sits in a socio-political context and that it is a dynamic and three-dimensional issue, so dynamic that I am not ashamed to have once been 'racist' in the technical sense of the term. Yes, I skirted issues, yes it was intellectually flaccid and was not supported by any research whatsoever. However this article was anecdotal only and thus you can forgive me for the numerous oversights. Also, you are entirely correct in assuming it was written for an entirely liberal audience. Perhaps it was the gay couple making out on the front page that gave it away? I was very sensitive to the fact that I had to oversimplify and omit certain facts in order to be overly positive and to fit within the format and rhetoric of the magazine. I freely admit this.

    And now to concede some points to you. 

    >   I would certainly not wish to be cynical or jaded by our experiences, but you paint a rather
    >   perfect picture of something which is even today (12 years after democracy) still far from
    >   perfect.  'Colour fell away'? - this is just as much an issue in SA today as it was then!

    Point conceded. You have experience with this, whereas I do not, so I concede that implying racism is no longer an issue is not only erroneous, but a gross simplification of a complex dynamic. However, implying racism is still rampant in South Africa, or perhaps even worse, runs counter to the tone of my article. Saying "colour fell away" may be sentimental and trite, but is just so poetic! Remember, from my point of view, open interaction between the races was a vast improvement over segregation in the post 1994 era.

    >   As for my part, I certainly have never felt any 'hot shame' - that would be a pointless regret,
    >   especially as we were not even of voting age during any stage of the Apartheid years. 

    Point conceded. I too, do not wake up every morning filled with guilt for being even remotely connected with the politics of oppression. That would indeed be pointless.  

    >   Perhaps you could clarify who you mean by 'us'? 

    Ah, the crux of the matter. By 'us', I refer to the collective consciousness of post-apartheid South Africa. By this I mean all the self-reflexive post-modernist literature out there which proves a "hot shame" does exist. Or at least exists on paper. Think of J.M. Coetzee's superlative "Disgrace". The metaphor of the sacrificial rape of a nation and the almost benign acceptance of a rapist's child. Think of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Yes, I admit there was a telling lack of interest in these proceedings by the South African public, but in the international arena, we are almost compelled to bear a yoke of some sort. We are expected to feel shame, even if individually we do not, and thus it must become part of the collective consciousness.

    >   What about shame for leaving?  Do you ever feel any of that?

    If I believed for one second that staying in South Africa would have been beneficial for the country or myself, then yes I would. I do not, however, believe this at all. I am not that idealistic. I don't believe I could have had any say in a "rebuilding process" because I had no power in that regard, especially as a young punk fresh out of high school. I am painfully aware that a prosperous and "developed" country like Canada is built on inequity and exploitation but I cannot deny that I love living here. I am grateful to live in a place of such peace and beauty and I feel no shame in it. I suspect you too share these sentiments living in the country that started all that colonial BS in the first place.

    Current Mood: nerdy
    Friday, March 24th, 2006
    12:43 pm
    Article published
    I haven't had anything published in a while! Here is an article I wrote entitled "Unlearning Racism" and it deals with growing up in South Africa. This is something my S.A. friends might find interesting, although I hope you guys from "die moederland"  will appreciate it was written for a North American audience. It was published in a magazine entitled "Think Equity" which is distributed on the U.B.C. campus; there is a PDF version available on-line, if you're interested follow the link and check out page 4.

    Current Mood: okay
    Tuesday, March 21st, 2006
    2:57 pm
    Seattle
    Here is a link to some pictures I took while in Seattle recently, enjoy.
    Tuesday, February 14th, 2006
    1:39 am
    Prairie culture
    I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet but it seems even school administrators are "jumping on the bandwagon", excuse the pun. I was wondering why one of my students was upset about some required reading for English class. That was before I saw the book:



    I was so amused by it I searched around for alternative covers, but with little success:



    This Cowboy looks like more of a stud, but his hand gesture suggests he is preparing to recite a monologue on the apparent emotional dangers of being a horse wrangler.

    I know I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, it's probably a darn good read.
    Monday, February 13th, 2006
    2:07 am
    Sunsangnim returns
    I'm back on-line again, which is really cool. I think it's been about two or three years. Anyway, I'm typing this right now on my Deepest Sender extension for Firefox, which is my new favourite browser! Internet Explorer has already become a distant memory.

    Look for more to come soon!

    Current Mood: calm
    Thursday, October 27th, 2005
    1:34 pm
    What would you do with 54 Million?
    I never buy lottery tickets. What a waste of money. Yet, I succumbed yesterday to all the hype surrounding Canada's largest lotto jackpot at a staggering 54 million dollars. The odds were 1 in 14 million, which means I had a better chance of being killed on the freeway than winning, but when I thought about all that money, my feverish imagination started dreaming up private islands, planes and yachts as well as round the world vacations every month...Apparently I wasn't the only one as Canadians contributed over $90 million dollars to the lottery fund, almost half of which lines government pockets. What a waste. Imagine if everybody chipped in 2 bucks to a good cause twice a week, what an impact we would make as a collective society bent on goodwill rather than greed.

    Current Mood: contemplative
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