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Friday, November 19th, 2010

Time:5:40 pm.

Jeet Heer: Maclean’s article on Asians familiar to anti-Semites of old

National Post: November 15, 2010 – 3:15 pm

Throughout the 1920s, A. Lawrence Lowell, then president of Harvard University, was worried that his beloved school was becoming too Jewish. “The presence of Jews in large numbers tends to drive Gentiles elsewhere,” Lowell wrote in a 1925 letter to Harvard professor. “To prevent a dangerous increase in the proportion of Jews, I know at present only one way which is at the same time straightforward and effective, and that is a selection by a personal estimate of character on the part of Admission authorities.”

Lowell focused on the question of “character” because he believed that Jewish students might well be intellectually gifted but they lacked social graces. A Boston Brahmin and scion of a pedigreed WASP family, Lowell thought that too many Jews spoiled the educational experience of Harvard. Jews as a group, Lowell believed, didn’t assimilate easily into the Anglo-Saxon majority, they tended to cluster together, they’re too pushy and ambitious, they didn’t participate in sports and other extracurricular activities, they lacked the easy comportment expected of true Harvard men. Because Jews lacked “character” and threatened to scare off well-heeled Gentile students, Lowell was at the forefront of a movement among Ivy League universities to impose anti-Semitic quotas.

It’s easy now to see what was wrong with Lowell’s thinking: it rested on an implicit assumption of WASP privilege. For Lowell, Harvard was without question an Anglo-Saxon stronghold, and minorities such as Jews could only be admitted in such numbers that didn’t challenge the schools social composition. WASPs were by definition the essence of Harvard and Jews by definition were always aliens to be tolerated but only in small numbers. In another 1925 letter Lowell actually described Jews as “an alien race.” If meritocracy, admitting students based on grades and scholarly ability alone, meant too many Jews, then Lowell felt that meritocracy had to go.

Last week Maclean’s magazine published a disgracefully xenophobic article which updated all of Lowell’s arguments and assumptions, applying them not to the Harvard of the past but the Canada of today. The target of the article wasn’t Jews but Asian-Canadians. Written by Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Kohler, the article was titled “’Too Asian’?” and opened with this startling sub-headline “A term used in the U.S. to talk about racial imbalance at Ivy League schools is now being whispered on Canadian campuses.” (All quotes are from the original posting of the article, which was later taken down by the magazine and reposted in an edited and slightly less offensive form).

Just as Lowell worried that the WASP elite would avoid a Harvard that was too Jewish, Maclean’s raises the spectre that privileged white kids are staying away from universities that are “too Asian”. The article opens with the story of Alexandra and Rachel, two recent graduates of Havergal College, a hoity-toity all girls private school. When choosing upon their undergraduate education, both decided to avoid the University of Toronto because it had a “reputation of being Asian.”

What does “racial imbalance” and “too Asian” mean? Maclean’s offers this helpful explication: “’Too Asian’ is not about racism, say students like Alexandra: many white students simply believe that competing with Asians – both Asian Canadians and international students – requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make.”

The fist thing to note is the remarkably broad use of the term “Asian” which encompasses everyone from a Hong Kong exchange student who is here on a temporary visa to kids whose families have been in Canada since the building of the railways in the era of John A. Macdonald. In the eyes of Maclean’s magazine, all “Asians” look the same and are always (to use Lowell’s words) “an alien race” outside the mainstream of Canadian society (which is implicitly defined as white). The idea that white Canadians have a right to a university education without having to compete with “Asians” rests on a strong sense of white privilege and entitlement, a racial haughtiness which Maclean’s largely takes for granted although the article briefly queries it in very mild terms.

Much of the Maclean’s article is taken up with listing the faults of “Asian” students. The language the article uses would be utterly familiar to Lowell and the other Ivy League gatekeepers of the 1920s. Like the Jews at Harvard in the 1920s, “Asians” are portrayed as book smart but lacking in social skills. According to Maclean’s “Asians” are pushy and ambitious (“They tend to be strivers, high achievers and single-minded…”); unlike white students, “Asians” don’t appreciate that education involves “social interaction, athletics and self-actualization.” Because “Asians” have a “narrow” focus on academics, they “risk alienating their more fun-loving [white] peers.” Finally, “Asians” stick together and are balkanizing our culture by their failure to assimilate.

Even in very tiny details, Maclean’s article echoes the anti-Semites of old. Lowell took notice of the curious fact that Jewish students were “much less addicted to intemperance” than Gentile students. The Maclean’s article repeatedly notes that “Asians” drink less than whites. Maclean’s could have saved themselves money on this article if they had simply reprinted one of Lowell’s speeches from the 1920s, replacing the word “Jews” with “Asians”.

Near the end of the article, Maclean’s explicitly raises the historical parallels, noting that “to quell the influx of Jewish students, Ivy League schools abandoned their meritocratic admissions processes in favour of one that focused on the details of an applicant’s personal life.” We’re told that so far, Canadian schools have remained meritocratic and “rely entirely on transcripts.” Then we get two curious sentences: “Likely that is a good thing. And yet, that meritocratic process results, especially in Canada’s elite university programs, in a concentration of Asian students.” As a student of weaselly rhetoric, I very much admire the use of the word “likely.” The suggestion being made here is that a quota system, like the one that limited Jews in the Ivy League schools, might possibly be a good idea, since the current system leads to a bad result (“a concentration of Asian students.”)

I’ll end on a personal note. I’ve had the privilege of teaching at Canadian universities and working for the Canadian media. I’ve never experienced a “racial imbalance” at Canadian universities: I’ve met students and colleagues from every conceivable ethnic background. But I have noticed a “racial imbalance” in the Canadian media, which often seems as white as the ideal Harvard Lowell was trying to create in the 1920s. In fact, arguably Lowell was progressive compared to the Canadian media since he was willing to allow that the student body could be 15% non-WASP.

If the masthead of Maclean’s magazine is to be trusted, there is not a single “Asian” working in an editorial capacity for that publication. There do seem to be one or two “South Asians,” like the excellent Sarmishta Subramanian, but not any “Asians” as Maclean’s defines the term. To put it another way, students who don’t like to compete with “Asians” would be perfectly comfortable working for Maclean’s.

National Post

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Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Time:12:50 am.
1) The topics in this post may or may not have a common theme.

2) If I have no street cred left, that's ok because I am already too cool for you.

Last Friday was my 26th birthday. I have officially stepped into my late twenties.

That triggered a very minute panic response. I haven't done anything so far and yet look I'm already closer to 30 than I am to 20.* But it's not like I know what to do about me being stagant in life.

Anyway, on the beautiful morning of my birthday, I got braces.

As what I have told some people, I am trying to capture the fleeting fountain of youth. Ha ha. I make myself laugh but really joke is on me. I should have gotten braces YEARS ago - for this I blame my parents 100%, not because they didn't know what I know now about orthodontics, but because she brushed it aside when she was made aware of the problem. So now at the tender age 26, I mark my birthday by having metal teeth. Yay. (I got an ortho prof to help me out - he agreed to charge me for half price, but I forgot how outrageously expensive he charges regularly).

I am hating them every second. I can't eat (and you know how much I love food). Eating has become A CHORE, believe it or not. I look different, especially now because I have yet to get my premolars extracted (34, 44, 15, 25 exo) and my canines have nowhere to go and yet they have to bear the bulge of the bracket. I can't talk. My gums hurt. I spend a long time just to floss/other OH activities. UGH. The only two advantages are: in two years, I will have solved the attrition/general wear problem, the unstable occlusion problem, the crowding problem, the off midline problem etc etc; and also I finally know what it is like to get ortho, for my patients' sake. (I am rather excited for ortho clinic next year)

I am now in a new lab. The new kid, but now I am back to being the lowly undergrad who knows nothing about everything, since my project involves cell culture and microscopy. On the side, I go back to the old lab to help. Well, the old lab pays me and the new lab doesn't. What can I say?

Instead of reading papers and protocols, I've been fangirling for the last two weeks. Obsessively. I have been quite useless. This is coming from the girl who doesn't like pop and Asian music (kpop/cpop/jpop) in general.

*Whoa. I reread this sentence again and it's hard to see it typed up in black and white.

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Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Time:5:50 am.
So I've always had this plastic box that my mom gave to me for "emergency" purposes. My grab and go box. In fact, I store everything hard to replace in there, excluding the laptop for obvious reasons.

4.50 a.m. in the morning, the fire alarm went on. I knew I wasn't dreaming because I heard the dog from the guy upstairs shuffle. Ten seconds went by telling myself it wasn't real. Then I threw on some track pants and a sweater and walked out of my apartment.

By no means am I a fast person, but nobody was outside at the time. I was at a loss of what to do. Years of nonchalant fire drills were nothing more than a nuisance, or an unscheduled coffee break. I felt like I should be doing something, almost irrationally anything. It was primal - bell rings, danger, run. I was looking for a red panic button that wasn't there.

Soon enough 3 out of 4 tenants from our side of the circular building came out. One guy opened the door to fire exit and I smelled it. If the blaring of the alarm was associated with DANGER, the combined efforts of smoke spelled REAL DANGER.

I went back in, grabbed the emergency box and the laptop, throwing in the cell phone and wallet. I was alone when I walked out. It struck me then, now what?

The smoke travelled fast. I could smell it on the hallway - it must have travelled up the elevator shaft. The super said on the PA that it was coming from the 11th floor, stay calm.

Stay calm, ...and stay in your apartment? That went against all those hours I spent shivering in the cold in fire drills.

Stay calm, and run... up? I would be more likely to pass out from that, realistically - I live closer to the middle than to the top. Run down sounded stupid because it was coming from the 11th floor, which is below my floor.

And isn't the fire hall up the street? What is taking so bloody long?

I went back out the balcony. Looked down, saw nothing aside from few people in their robes. The fire trucks came, and they were not running. That was a good sign until more fire trucks came blaring down Church St.

That was when I was told to stay in the apartment by Toronto Fire.

It must be minutes away from sunrise. I think my body only pumped out so much adrenaline to sustain me for so long that I'm starting to get drowsy now.

To sum up, I do not know what to do in a somewhat realistic situation, and that's alarming. And I'm glad to not have to drag myself to school/work in the morning.

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Monday, March 1st, 2010

Time:9:11 pm.
I am having anxiety attacks about tomorrow. My Second Patient Ever loved me, I think I've told you that. Last time I was in the clinic though, I was with the Third Patient Ever, and everything came crashing down. It was not pretty. I was thoroughly destroyed.

Without going into boring emo details, just know that I felt that instructor was picking nits and the whole situation was made worse by the general massive chaos in the faculty clinic and certain peers. I fully accept that I am stupid and inept, but please don't undermine and belittle me in front of my patient, especially during the first appointment.

I was on the verge of tears by 5 pm that day. No, I did not cry. No sense in wasting tears on people who don't matter.

...besides, I didn't really have time to be upset, because we had to write a micro test the following morning at 8 am.

Reading week and research day came and went. Two weeks without clinic were a relief, but really my nerves are all but calm about tomorrow. I just called the patient to confirm and my heart rate shot way up.

I blocked off this evening such that I can look up all the tutorials and clips I can find. I read her chart again on the electronic patient database. I am doing everything I can to prepare.

My grandmother says, if they are being super picky, shut them up by being even more picky than they are.

Being at the clinic feels like going through a minefield. Yeah, that's the kind of positive learning environment where we get our world class education.

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Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Time:6:02 pm.

I thought I was going to have a heart attack at the end of the third period.


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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Time:10:36 pm.
(Canadians won the ice dance!)

That looks so pretty. Why can't I do something like that?

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Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Time:11:35 pm.

Obviously, it's up to the women to win gold.

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Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Time:9:42 pm.
My apartment smells heavenly right now. I have a habit of saving recipes that I find on the interwebz and never using them. Well, in the spirit of procrastination, I browsed through my collection and found a recipe for potato rolls. I was making sweet potato wedges tonight, so I figured, hey why not.

1. Proof the yeast.

2. Mix in flour, egg, sugar, and water you boil potatoes in.

3. Shape them.

4. Wait.

5. Bake.

In other news, school is as busy as ever. Last week I wrote three midterms. I will have two more next week.

The Second Patient Ever loved me to bits.

When I finished the appointment, he turned to me and said, "Well that's it, huh?"

"Yes sir."

"Listen, before I go, I just want to tell you that you are a great person and you are going to be a great dentist. You are meticulous and careful, and you interact very well with people..."

I laughed, as I often do when I don't know how to react (bad, I know). "Thank you. That's the nicest thing anyone has said to me lately." That's true. Especially in the school setting. I often go about my life at school hoping I don't get into trouble/don't get yelled at/don't piss anyone off.

(But yes, my heart swelled for quite some time that evening.)

The Second Patient Ever needs some restorative work done, and I referred him to CCP (upper years), but he said he would wait for me until September so I can do it for him.

Whether that actually happens or not doesn't matter. I actually did something to someone and they like me for it.


Back to studying I go.

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Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Time:11:06 am.
I realized that this is the last opportunity I have 1n 2009 to wish you happy new year.

Happy new year!

As for personal reflection,

I understand and appreciate my future job much more than I used to. And despite how little I have come across in health care, I understand it much more, like how it works, and how it doesn't. I no longer see it through rose tinted glasses. There is the gross inefficiency, the noncompliant patients, the general despise and mistrust from the public. But I appreciate it immensely for what it's worth. I'm just more realistic, that's all.

I know who I love. I'll always come back to my friends, although I did feel quite isolated during the month of exams, right before the holidays. They remind me of who I actually am. Sometimes I really need these reminders, especially while I'm away at school.

I'm at a greater loss at what to do about my parents, especially when they don't want to do anything themselves. I'm deathly afraid of turning into them. There is so much unhappiness inside and between them. The older I get the more I see, and that it was never about me. To be honest, it's just...unpleasant to come home. How this got evolved to this is a mystery.

I moved into my apartment. Like Matt says, It's my little tower!

My plans for today:

Going to see Sherlock holmes with my sister.
Heading back downtown.
Dropping the liquor store to get some bubbly.
Make cheese puffs for Sarah's party tonight.
Off to Sarah's.

Happy new year!

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Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Time:8:45 pm.
The feeling of being inadequate overwhelms me. Once again, I was a bundle of nerves this afternoon before my second appointment with the First Patient Ever. I'm totally fine with interacting with the patient - in fact, I like it much more than I anticipated - but I. Feel. So. Dumb.

So dumb. So not up to par. Clumsy, and stupid. I'm not asking for mad skillz, but like I said to JH outside of Sick Kids tonight, even if they don't give out NIs (needs improvement) this year, it doesn't mean much to me nor to the patient because I'm still a fuck up, regardless of the degree of fuckedupness. I don't want to let myself down. I don't want to let my patient down. And I just want to do the right thing. And I want to do it faster. I don't think that's too much to ask for. In fact, if I were the patient, I would not only demand but EXPECT that, like it's a god given right that it really is. I mean, you are there in the chair because you trust me (or my designation) to first do no harm and to second give you treatment for whatever ails you. That's what it means to be in that role. A responsbility. And somehow I need fulfill that. How?

I don't want to hide under the excuse of "I'm in second year. I know nothing." Because nobody cares. Once the patient is in the chair and you are holding instruments in their mouth, nobody cares about how much you whine about the world because all you need to do at that time is to deliver.

With every flinch, every comment, every gesture, I take it to heart. I do. It doesn't matter whether I should or not. I just do. With every little thing I did or did not do, I run it over my head, a billion times, and hope next time I will do differently again. I burn it into my memory. And it hurts. And it's tiring. And frustrating. But it hurts most of all.

JH says this feeling will prevail at every stage that we go through. Because it never ends. As much as I want to shed it, I know that it keeps me humble, and I'll need to remember it as I go on. But now, there is nothing like it to crush your self worth to bits.

Ok. More to chat, but I need to study for my ortho midterm tomorrow.

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Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Time:12:12 am.
Just because I have a tub of ricotta milling about in the fridge, just because I have the time to, and just because I can, I made ricotta gnocchi tonight. I was originally planning on making a big batch and freezing most of the dough, but B called and asked to go out for dinner, so I invited her over instead. After an hour of zipping around the apartment, I had most surfaces vacuumed and/or scrubbed. The gnocchi, though, took longer than I thought to prepare. But that was fine - when she finally came over, we just talked in my kitchen as I was cutting and shaping the little pillows of dough.

It somehow came out to be a raging success (I've been wanting to use the word raging all day - forgive me). I say somehow because I somehow forgot to brown the butter and add some fresh sage and top with parmesan. I just served it with pesto and red pepper flakes and -- there, dinner's ready.

Now I'm in a sweatshirt (a U of T one no less) in bed with my laptop and a Leffe Blonde. It feels so sinfully satisfying to be not looking at a book tonight. There was actually a party (entitled "Put your body in good hands: interhealth professional students club night") going on but really, that doesn't sound enticing in anyway at all.

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Time:2:01 am.
I bumped into my super in the elevator today. I had my scrubs on as I was rushing home after school. He said I should take it easy - that I looked tired and that I must have had a long day. I said, try a long week.

In fact, it's going to be another long week coming up. Midterm after midterm after paper after assignment and god knows what else. Freeman talks about the bankers running on empty and stress contributes to progression of aggressive periodontitis. Hey guess what, I feel like I am running on empty too. Oh wait - that's not true - my system has been pumping on caffeine for the past week and a half. And over the past few days I had doubled/tripled my caffeine intake and halved and thirded my sleeping hours. Well, at least at this point I can still call that plural instead of a singular hour.

School is not good for my health.

Speaking of which, guess what, my FIRST EVER patient is coming in tomorrow!!! It's going to PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC, compounded with the microbiology exam that I am going to write (the test will need to somehow write itself because I have been studying pharmacology which is on Thursday) immediately before the patient walks into clinic. How is the sequence of events going to work out? We'll find out.

Back to the patient. The patient will pay 76 dollars for three appointments - 7.5 hours - with me. Oh god. I think I should be paying HIM 76 dollars. I feel sorry for him. Well - possible damage tomorrow is minimal, as I will "only" be taking history and conducting intraoral/extraoral examinations.

Anyway. It's 2pm. The earliest bed time I've had in a week. Tomorrow is a Big Day.

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Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Time:8:54 am.
Promptly after posting this, I fell ill. I haven't been this sick in ages. And it's only now that I mustered up the strength to turn on my laptop and check my email. The first day I couldnt stay awake for more than five minutes at a time. Right now I'm on my third hour.

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Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Time:4:44 pm.
I am determined to get the h1n1 flu shot as soon as possible. I'm going to see my first patient incredibly soon (which is incredibly daunting) and I'll even ditch class or line up for hours if necessary. Don't get me started about why the faculty isn't arranging a vaccination day for all DDS students or why certain classmates already got vaccinated.
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Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Time:11:37 pm.
The murder of the graduate student at Yale hits incredibly and uncomfortably close to home.

She was one year younger than me, but because I graduated in Ontario and at that time we had grade 13, we both graduated high school at the same time. Her undergrad was in the life sciences, as was mine. I don't know whether she did a masters, but she was apparently doing her PhD in pharmacology. The basement of that building housed the animal facility. Her thesis was on mice. Her background is too eerily familiar.

We always joke about how creepy the sub basement is in Fitzgerald. It leads to the entrance of the new animal facility at CCBR, the basement of the pharmacy building, the basement of the medical sciences building (which then leads to the old animal facility at MSB).

So sad.

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Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Time:10:03 pm.
Obama moves forward and Canada moves backward.
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Monday, September 7th, 2009

Time:12:43 pm.
Spell to Be Said Upon Departure
by Jane Hirshfield

What had come here to do
having finished,
shelves of the water lie flat.

Copper the leaves of the doorsill,
yellow and falling.
Scarlet the bird that is singing.

Vanished the labor, here walls are.
Completed the asking.
Loosing the birds there is water.

Having eaten the pears.
Having eaten
the black figs, the white figs. Eaten the apples.

Table be strewn.
Table be strewn with stems,
table with peelings of grapefruit and pleasure.

Table be strewn with pleasure,
what was here to be done having finished.


Just to warn you - I'm going to be whiny again.

Tis the end of summer. I told my sister to brace herself for an inevitable but unpredictable panic attack. Yes, I've come home, for most of the Labour Day weekend.

You know the feeling of an alarmingly light pressure boring through your chest, hollowing it out, and you suffocate just a little? - I know. I'll admit to some/a lot of exaggeration that probably is fueling my anxiety further.

Three more years. I can handle this. The faster this comes the faster I can be done with school and get on with my life. It comes and it goes. I can't say first year didn't come and go like a blur.

It's going to take some time getting adjusted, again. I am used to waking up whenever I want (though at a reasonable hour as I am an early riser) and stroll into the lab whenever I am done preparing lunch for the day. Or running errands. Or visiting the grocery store. I am used to leaving for home at three or four, depending on how well words flew out of my fingers and into MS word (though I continue working from home until dinnertime - then it's strictly fun or just quiet down time). I have been having trouble recalling classmates, let alone their names when I bump into them on the street.

Yes, I had also taken to turn down invitations to meet up during the summer. The way I see it is, since the summer is so short, and the school year is so long, during which we see each other all day anyway, is there really a need to "catch up" in the summer? Really, my summer was spent either with my friends or my family, shamefully and admittedly the first more than the second.

I'm looking forward to visiting Cyn in Ottawa. The date is still TBA. But at least somebody is finally getting the ball rolling in the organizing department. That's not me. I can't organize group activities. Completely out of my boundaries of capabilities.

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Friday, August 14th, 2009

Time:8:38 pm.
Hello from my new apartment! This is the second official day of me having internet - I had been stealing internet from an unsuspecting neighbour for the last two weeks.

I love it here so far. I love being on my balcony. I sat on the ground (I have no patio furniture) and ate my grilled cheddar and spinach pesto sandwich and my cherries for dinner last night. It felt amazing. You know what else is amazing? Being able TO HAVE MY OWN KITCHEN ESP WHEN IT"S NO LONGER TWO LEVELS BELOW. I can get changed in the morning and make breakfast at the same time. It's mindblowing.

My building is full of straight women and gay men, with a healthy smattering of young families and old people. which is great. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. No longer are there wannabe hipsters and frat boys and their scantily dressed girlfriends in tow. I still like the Annex and everything - but I was ready for a change.

And a change it was! I have huge windows, all around the apartment.

I'm tired tired tired. I'm running late to meet Jovana and Jen for a movie. I just came back from a free salsa lesson with Sandra R and Jen. I left school/work early today with Sandra S and had a drink with her at Hair of the dog - finally I can call it my neighbourhood hangout. Tomorrow is a trip to centre island and maybe a birthday party at night. My parents are coming on Sunday and I'll convince my sister to stay next week.


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Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Time:11:16 pm.
My life is now contained in nine garbage bags, three plastic bins, and a range of boxes.

I'm at my last night here in the Annex. I'm moving tomorrow! To an apartment! To a new neighbourhood!


I went to get a beef shawarma at Sarah's on Bloor. It was a... farewell.

I'm so tired from packing. Also, previous night's drinking (I really like Leffe ... and the honeydew one that I tried) and eating didn't help. For some reason I was abnormally social and, later, emotional last night.

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Monday, July 13th, 2009

Time:8:27 pm.
I haven't been posting much. It is a statement.

It used to feel cathartic. That after typing away for awhile, things seemed to be better. That maybe writing out a thought then reading it makes it more legitimate and comforting.

I no longer feel this way. I bore myself. Posts seem even more trivial typed up than they are inside my head. I end up deleting more than typing, so usually I end up not posting at all, and such is so for days and then weeks and then months.

But. This is not a goodbye post.

I am confusing, myself, a lot lately. I don't know what things are happening or what I should do about them. I don't know what I want, let alone how to get it. I feel somewhat empty right now - and I don't mean to sound emo if I do.

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