Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wrapping Up The Best of 2010 - Happy Happy Happy New Year!

Dear 2010,

You, my dear friend, were a year of changes, life lessons, and great surprises.

I'm eternally grateful for each blessing, each opportunity I've encountered during your 365 day reign. On the eve of December 31, 2009, I had no idea you would be such a significant year, one that would ultimately change my life.

If you asked me where I was, who I was with, what I was wearing, what I was doing, who I texted, who I called, who I hugged first, who I wished first, when I rang you in on the eve of December 31, 2009, I could tell you everything in vivid detail. I'm told I have the memory of an elephant. It was a memorable New Years Eve. And yet, you, the year we rang in, proved to be even more fantastic.

You, 2010, were the year I applied to graduate school. You were the year I decided, with finality, that I would throw caution to the wind and commit 10 months of a life towards a Masters degree before moving on to law school.

You, 2010, were the year I moved away from home. To a strange new city away from my family, my friends, my relatives, away from my cherished city, my comfort zone, away everything I've ever known for most of my life.

You, 2010, were the year I obtained my first full-time job. A job where I learned about the realities and politics of the working world. A job where I met a number of accomplished individuals, where I travelled to places I've rarely visited. A job where I grew up, transitioning from naive student to shrewd employee.

You, 2010, were the year I started this blog.

You, 2010, were the year I discovered law school options beyond the borders of Ontario. The year I discovered that I'm more than capable of attending law school at institutions I wouldn't have previously considered.

You, 2010, were the year I met wonderful, incredible people. Many of whom I trust will be life-long friends. From those in my discussion group, to church, to school, to others I met during my activities over the summer. You, 2010, were a year I met friends I will forever treasure.

You, 2010, were the year I came face to face with the beauty that is Europe. Where I walked the streets of Paris and London, and wandered the piazzas of Rome. You were the year I fell in love with cities I (cross your fingers) hope to live in one day. You, 2010, were the year I discovered my travel bug.

You, 2010, were a year I learned more than I anticipated, academically and personally. You were a year I learned the value of maintaining and solidifying friendships, the year of experiencing the painful loss of losing a close friend.

You, 2010, were also the year I discovered research areas I've never explored, and opened my mind to ideas and perspectives I used to outright reject. 2010, you were the year I realized how narrow my political perspectives were. I was a narrow-minded academic, I hope I never make that mistake again.

And in the world beyond my grad life, the entertainment and sports world imploded with never-ending changes and surprises in 2010.

You, 2010, were the year of the Olympics. Of Sidney Crosby and Canada's memorable hockey win. Of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. And you, 2010, were the year I attended my first Grand Prix event, falling madly in figure skating love with the skating prodigy we call Patrick Chan. You were the year my figure skating fandom reached new heights.

You were the year Taylor Swift began dating Jake Gyllenhal. Let's speak of that no further.

You, 2010, were the year I re-discovered my love for all things Sandra Bullock. You were also the year I took up jujitsu so I could gear up to smack Jesse James in the face. Ha. Just kidding.

You, 2010, were the year I discovered How I Met Your Mother. Three years after everyone I know. Friends, I came to the party late, but I'm here. With bells on!

You, 2010, were the year and the summer of all things World Cup. Where my friends and I planted ourselves at a local pub and watched the Finals in anticipation. You were the year of Iker. And by association, Sara. And by association, the swoon worthy Iker Casillas and Sara Carbonero kiss after Spain won the World Cup. And yet you, 2010, were the year I fell in love with all things Oranje, and sighed dejectedly when the Netherlands lost the World Cup. No worries, I still wear Oranje with sweet memories of what could have been.

You, 2010, were a year of moments I will remember vividly (the memory of an elephant, remember?). The year of memorable family events, weddings, family picnics. The year of endless girly sleepovers, coffee dates, movie dates, dinners, ice cream runs, shopping dates. You, 2010, were a year so fantastic that it would be impossible to profess how remarkable you've been in one mere blog post.

And so, I'll end this here.

You, 2010, were a great year. And I'll remember you as long as I live.

I hope your good friend, 2011, will be just as memorable.

Yours truly,

A Grateful Optimist

P.S. Happy New Year, everyone! One day left in 2010, let's make it count!

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man."
- Benjamin Franklin

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."
- Oprah Winfrey

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."

- T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We're going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."
- Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Literacy Awareness In India - The DREAM Project

Tonight I had the pleasure of having a wonderful, girly dinner with my dear friends Lenita and Andrea (Spring Rolls, you never fail us). And towards the end of our dinner, Lenita informed us of the charity that the University of Toronto's Style and Profyle (SAP) student club is supporting this year: DREAM.

For more information about DREAM, please click here.

One of DREAM's objectives this year is to raise enough money to build six libraries in India. Honestly, the way Lenita described this project touched my heart. I remember visiting the Philippines when I was nine years old, and I could not believe how many young children were begging on the streets of Manila, many who have never learned to read and have minimal access to resources that would allow them to do so.

And yet, here we are. We're inundated with books, magazines, and a plethora of resources. We can borrow or purchase books on a whim and have no trouble reading its content. Rarely do we realize how much of a privilege it is to have access to as many books and resources as we do. Yet such privileges aren't always present in other countries. Books are valuable, friends. Let's not forget that.

Lenita, Vice President of the University of Toronto Mississauga's SAP, would like to raise $6,000 by the end of the school year to fund the building of at least one library in India. $6,000 Canadian dollars would be equivalent to a significant amount of Indian rupees, and would be a great contribution towards DREAM's project to establish educational facilities in developing countries.

I really encourage all of you to read up on DREAM and, if you so choose, to make a donation towards this valuable project. Every dollar counts!

For more information or to make a donation, please email for further details.

Thank you, everyone!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 1 - The 30 Day Blog Challenge

I'm too impatient to wait until March to start a 30 Day Blog Challenge. And so, as this month and year draws to a close, I decided to throw common sense to the wind and start a 30 Day Blog challenge on December 29. Rebel without a cause, you know?



This is a picture of me, ready to take on the world. What, you don't recognize me? It's the only cartoon of a little Asian girl that remotely resembles me online. Okay, I'll admit it. I'm too scared to place my actual picture on this blog, lest my students one day find it. It's all about caution, friends, so let's move on to the second part of this challenge.

I think this break is slowly transforming me into a lazy sloth. Case in point. I woke up at 6:00 am to continue reading Chapter 2 of The People's House of Commons. Because I'm crazy. And yet, after reading two pages, I woke up in confusion at 11:00 am, realizing that I fell asleep right in the middle of my reading. I hang my head in shame. Maybe I shouldn't have chosen to read in bed. Oh, these plans to be productive during the Christmas break. They're all in vain, I tell you.

I suppose the only remotely interesting aspect about my day today relates to my trip to Best Buy. After breakfast (consisting of fried rice and chicken. What? Who says you can't eat rice for breakfast?), my parents and I headed to Best Buy, on the hunt for a new iPod/mp3 for my Dad.

Okay, let me just say that I've never understood why people are so enamoured with Best Buy. I have friends who spend an insane number of hours at this store, staring lovingly at the 42" LCD they have no plans to purchase. So why waste so much time there? Today, I finally understood why. Today was a special day. It was the day I discovered the awesomeness that is Best Buy.

I don't know what it is about electronics that enamours people. But today, I fell under its spell. I spent the next hour fiddling with the iPod Touch that I previously had zero interest in purchasing, while my parents spent the next half hour distracted by the LCDs on sale. It's so funny how quickly these gadgets weave their spells on unsuspecting consumers. Case in point: I think I'm in love. Apple products are just so pretty.

Oh, gadgets. So awesome to live with, yet also potentially easy to live without.

Tonight I'm off for a Starbucks coffee date with Lenita and Andrea, which I'm incredibly excited about. Other than that, I hope to devote the rest of my day to reading the books I should have finished last week, according to my reading schedule. I'm slacking. If I had to rate my productivity during this Christmas break, it would be a -10. Let's cross our fingers that I'm more productive with the rest of my day, shall we? Canadian politics field course readings, I won't fail you.

"If there is any possible consolation in the tragedy of losing someone we love very much, it’s the necessary hope that perhaps it was for the best."
- Paolo Coelho

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Dear Readers!

It's Christmas Eve, my friends! It isn't everyday that we get to celebrate Christmas. Of my twenty-three years, I've only experienced the holiday season twenty-three times, and I only remember about fourteen of those times (who really remembers Christmas when they were two? I thought so). We don't get to celebrate the holidays often. Christmas comes once a year, and passes as quickly as the season came.

This may be one of the last Christmas days I'll be spending at home for a long time. Who knows where I'll be next year for law school? Who knows if I'll be able to fly home for the holidays next year? And so, dear friends, as we go through the grad life so laden with unpredictability, I hope we enjoy and appreciate this Christmas with our families and friends: the ones we love and adore. As we grow up, a time may come when opportunities like these don't come as often as we'd like.

And now, I hate to be cliche (actually, who am I kidding? I'm as cliche as they come!), but I'm off to bake gingerbread cookies and figure out the ham and turkey situation with my parents, in preparation for tonight's (and this weekend's) festivities.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May you all have a wonderful, memorable Christmas Eve and Christmas weekend!

"The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss."
- Thomas Carlyle

"It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling--the season for kindling, not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart."
- Washington Irving

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home For The Holidays - A Taste of Toronto's Hospitality

Christmas in Toronto

I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me. Sing it with me! Actually, scratch that. I'm already home! I know, exciting, right? My Coach bus departed from Kingston's bus terminal around 11:00 am this past Thursday, carrying a number of excited students heading home for the holidays. I was so excited, I could hardly contain it.

Except I had a little conundrum. Actually, it was a fantastically terrible dilemma. It's no secret that I'm a chronic overpacker. Case in point. There was nothing more horrifying than packing for my Eurotrip this past summer, where I had to succumb to packing a mere 3 or 4 outfits to accommodate Air Transat's measly luggage weight restriction while leaving (a significant amount) of room for Europe purchases (a topic I've gone into many times, dear readers).

Packing for the holidays was no different. I stood in front of my closet on Wednesday evening, coming to the conclusion that I would be lugging a suitcase, an enormous duffel bag (bigger than my actual suitcase, unfortunately), my laptop bag, and my purse home. That doesn't sound like too much, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, these bags were Huge. Enormous. Astronomically large. And I'd be lugging these monsters from the bus terminal, to Eaton Centre (where I scheduled in lunch with a friend and shopping), on to the subway, to Union Station, up the flight of stairs to the GO train terminal, into the train, and finally, home.

It was quite the trek. You know those people you see on the street, lugging enormous packages? Slipping and panting as they make their way through the crowded streets of Toronto? That was me. You were feeling sorry for me.

I was in quite the bind. And yet... Toronto, oh Toronto, you never failed me. I've never understood people's complaints about Toronto. Accusations about the rudeness of city dwellers, the indifference, avoiding those in need, too engrossed in their own affairs. I've never experienced that. And in my luggage plight, it was no different.

ENCOUNTER 1: As I stood at Bay and Dundas, pausing for breath, lamenting the aches and pains shooting up my arms as I carried my huge Queen's University duffel bag on my shoulder, an older woman paused and asked if I needed help rolling my monstrous suitcase into the mall, down the escalator. Gratefully, I nodded. And together, we wheeled my suitcase into the mall.

ENCOUNTER 2: As I stood in the mall, staring forlornly at the bruises on my arms from the weight of my duffel bag, an elderly gentleman asked if I needed help lugging my suitcase up the flight of escalators. Gratefully, I nodded. And together, we wheeled my suitcase through the mall.

ENCOUNTER 3: As I stood at Dundas Subway Station, fumbling with my change, I got stuck in the turn style. Oh, how embarrassing. That was me. I was the Girl Who Got Stuck In The Turn Style. Face, meet palm. And yet, about 4 or 5 people stopped to push my luggage through the turn style and waited patiently until I was able to break free.

ENCOUNTER 4: And as I fumbled with my change, balancing my duffle bag on my suitcase, my aching fingers slipped, and all the change in my wallet went crashing all over the subway station floor. FACE, MEET PALM. I was so embarrassed. And yet, right in the middle of busy Dundas Station, about 10 people paused to pick up all my money. And as I counted my change later, there wasn't even a dime missing.

More of these acts of courtesy happened all through my trip back to Mississauga. Women and men of all ages stopped to help me carry my luggage up flights of stairs, up escalators, helped me balance my suitcases in the subway, helped me carry my monstrous, weighty packages through the GO train terminal, helped me lug my luggage onto the train. Contrary to what I originally thought, my luggage plight wasn't too much of a dilemma at all. I was so incredibly grateful.

Who says Toronto is a bastion of indifference? A site of city dwellers engrossed in their own affairs, too busy to lend a hand to someone who needs help? From what I've experienced most of my life, it isn't.

I'm home for the holidays, Toronto. And I'm so excited to be back!
Christmas break, here we go!

"The universal joy of Christmas is certainly wonderful. We ring the bells when princes are born, or toll a mournful dirge when great men pass away. Nations have their red-letter days, their carnivals and festivals, but once in the year and only once, the whole world stands still to celebrate the advent of a life."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Organizing My Christmas Break - Grad Student Style


Free from what, you ask? I handed in my LAST essay of the semester today, folks. And to top it off, I'm also done marking student exams! What! I know, what a day, right? Picture sixteen Politics TAs and a professor locked in a room together for about 9 hours straight marking exams. That, my friends, was my day today. It was a marking party that boggled the mind. And as 5:00 pm rolled around, and as I marked that last exam, I felt a huge weight fall off my shoulders. I officially have no other assignments left for the semester, nor do I have any other pending responsibilities. I'm officially... done!

And yet, I still have that nagging feeling. That feeling to do something useful with my time. I don't know if it's because these past three months have been devoted to incessant work, but I do feel the need to be somewhat productive over the holidays. And so, dear friends, as I've begun to organize my Christmas break, I've put together a Christmas reading list for myself. Don't laugh. Who knows how productive I'll actually be when I find my way to Holt Renfrew (after three months of separation), never to be seen again? Behold are the titles I hope to read during the break:

1. The Powers To Lead by Joseph Nye
2. The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama
3. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
4. Towards Juristocracy by Ran Hirschl
5. In Defense of Global Capitalism by Johan Norberg

I have three weeks of holidays. And five book titles. I don't think I'll be adding anymore to the list. Let's not kid ourselves, I think five is enough, yes?

Let's hope I get through most of these! I'll be spending tomorrow packing, running errands, organizing my office, lounging/reading at Starbucks and Common Ground (I can't go a day without loitering in a coffee shop, obviously), and picking some of these books up at the library.

Exciting times, my friends. In addition to creating a reading schedule for these books, I also have to organize my holiday social calendar and list all the places I want to visit when I get home (I miss Square One. And Panera Bakery. And Sherway Gardens. And Holt Renfrew. Too many to list, really).

Two days till I leave Kingston for the holidays, it's almost time! Hurrah!

"Even as an adult, I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age."
- Carrie Latet

FLJS Annual Lecture in Law & Society 2010 - Online Podcast

Oxford University

Please bear with me, I'm about to endorse a supplementary academic source in the midst of exam season. But I promise, it's interesting!

I don`t typically post links to podcasts, videos, or other external resources, but for this, I'll make an exception. You've all heard me gush (too much?) about my professors from the University of Toronto. My undergraduate experience was fundamentally shaped by the influence of these individuals. So much that to this day, I still either a) keep in contact with them or b) stalk them online to my heart's content via their online blogs, UofT news sites, etcetera.

A few months ago, I discovered that one of my favourite professors from UofT delivered a prestigious lecture at Oxford University: the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society's Annual Lecture. Ran Hirschl, renowned constitutional scholar, presented a realist approach to the the current trend of constitutional supremacy.

How excited was I that Hirschl was delivering this lecture? I can't even describe the depths of my excitement. Hirschl (along with Peter Solomon) are the reasons I decided to pursue law school. To this day, I still consider Hirschl and Solomon as the best professors I ever encountered as an undergraduate student. They are absolutely phenomenal instructors and academics, and I was lucky to be their student.

So as I was getting ready for the Politics Department`s End-of-Semester party last week, I discovered that an online podcast is now available for Hirschl's lecture. And so as I went through the motions of getting dressed up for the semi-formal last week, I listened to the podcast in its entirety (Because who needs to listen to Katy Perry when you can listen to Ran Hirschl? I know, right?).

CLICK HERE for a link to the lecture's ONLINE PODCAST.
CLICK HERE for Ran Hirschl's biography.

Excerpt from the lecture:
"Why is it that some constitutions live much longer than others? While constitutions are written to last, they vary considerably in terms of their endurance... Sweden`s 1809 Constitution was replaced in 1974, the 1874 const of Switzerland was replaced in 1999. Only half of all constitutions last more than 9 years, with an overall average of 19 years. Thus, the average citizen should expect to see her country go through 3-4 constitutions in her lifetime..."

If you have the time, I really encourage you all to listen to his lecture. It isn't too long! It's enlightening, and can encourage all of us see constitutional development (worldwide) in a new light. It's a fantastic lecture. Looking forward to reading his book over the holidays!

"You can teach a student a lesson for a day. But if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives."
- Clay P. Bedford

"It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it."
- Jacob Bronowski

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good Luck With Exams!

This blog post has no purpose other than to wish you all well in the midst of exam madness. As I sit here at the Tea Room, chomping on a delicious piece of carrot cake, editing my last essay, I spy a number of students running up and down Union Street, pencil cases in hand, anxious expressions in tow, heading to the PEC for their exam.

But take heart! For those with exams today and this week, don't forget that the holidays are just around the corner. With many of us going home this week, there is so much to look forward to. Good luck with exams, marking, and essays, dear friends! And don't worry, I doubt Assange has made a considerable dent on your chances of getting what you'd like for Christmas!

"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
- Thomas Edison

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The LikeALittle Phenomenon - A Queen's Student Weighs In

A new "social networking" campus phenomenon has developed very recently, my friends. And it's more entertaining than you can possibly imagine. Until a couple of days ago, I had no idea what LikeALittle was. Apparently, it was just launched at Queen's this past Sunday. And while it's barely a week old, Queen's students have jumped on the LikeALittle bandwagon overnight. It's ridiculously amazing how fast people have started using it! Think Craigslist Missed Connections in real time, within the confines of a university campus.

CLICK HERE to check out LikeALittle and find your university campus.
CLICK HERE to check out Queen's LikeALittle page.
CLICK HERE to read an article about LikeALittle at the University of Toronto.

What is LikeALittle? According to its founders, it's a forum for real-time anonymous flirting on a university campus. Remember my previous post on Craigslist's Missed Connections? LikeALittle is just like that... only in real time. This means that LikeALittle is a website you can go on right away to describe the individual you're presently staring at. If you see someone who catches your eye, you can automatically log onto LikeALittle, type in a quick description of the person you're spying on, offer a compliment, and voila! The person sees the message right away and can begin looking around for you. Missed connections? No more of that!

For example, you could be sitting in the library, checking out that student in a Queen's Law School sweatshirt (What? Don't tell me you haven't done it). And because walking up to a total stranger can potentially be interpreted as a little on the creepy side, you have another option. A more anonymous option to curve potential embarrassment or rejection. An option to test the waters before actually approaching the individual you have your eye on. Behold, shy friends, you have a tool to pre-flirt (is that even an actual term?). You can log onto LikeALittle, write a complimentary description, and pre-flirt with the individual you're currently staring at, wherever you are on campus. I suppose that's the beauty of LikeALittle.

I was walking around the library yesterday and could not believe how many student computers were logged on to LikeALittle. It's exam time, folks. Are we not studying?! Almost every laptop I passed by had a LikeALittle window open. Hordes of students were discreetly typing in descriptions on LikeALittle's "Anonymous Flirting" description box.

Here are a few descriptions I found amusing on the Queen's website:

"At Stauffer Library 4th Floor: Female, Redhead. You are really cute, and your laugh when i embarrassed myself trying to get my friend's attention was adorable. Send a smile in my direction."

"At Stauffer Library 1st Floor: Female, Brunette. We were trading glances at 4am a couple nights ago near the stairwell on the first floor. I wish I had asked you your name :)."

"At Stauffer Library: Female, Brunette. You are sitting in a cubby next to the atrium - you have beautiful brown hair and a pretty completion, are immersed in your macbook with a coffee on your desk. Can I get lost in your eyes?" (Awwww! Corny, but awww!)

"At Tim Hortons: Female, Brunette. We were waiting in line together at Tim Hortons - you were wearing a black coat (lululemon?) - and we smiled at each other. You look really cute! Just thought you should know."

(And my personal favourite): "At Stauffer Library: Female, Brunette. Worst fear: flirting with a girl on LikeALittle, finding out she's the girl of my dreams, and having to make up a story to my kids." (I laughed at this one for ten minutes).

It's all anonymous. And quite honestly, despite how creepy some people may find it, it's also incredibly entertaining. If you spend a few minutes reading some of these descriptions (minus the creepy ones that make you barf), you'll laugh at the entertainingly cute, witty comments some people have posted. I know I'm not the only one who thinks some of these comments (the legitimate ones) are absolutely adorable. These people have the cutest descriptions of their anonymous crushes! LikeALittle isn't a tool for everybody, but it can actually be quite useful for those who are too intimidated to approach a complete stranger at the library, in class, at the coffee shop on campus. A pre-flirt. I guess that's what they call it.

Honestly, I can't help but marvel at the ways in which technology can be manipulated to suit our personal needs. But I suppose if its objective is to help students with their personal lives amidst the bustle and workload of everyday university life, what's the harm in that? I don't know how long LikeALittle will stay a fad at Queen's, or at other university campuses in general. But while it's around, I suppose it's a tool for all of you to use when you're liking... just a little!

"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, only to return home to find it."
- George Moore

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
- Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The End of My Fall Semester At Queen's: A Sequence of Events

Queen's University, Kingston, ON

Folks, I've reached a milestone. I've officially completed one third of my Master's degree. Hurrah! Actually, let me re-phrase that. Today was the last day of my Fall semester classes, which means that once I hand in my last essay next Tuesday (which, really, is pretty much done. Who knew writing about neoliberalism could be so easy? Double hurrah!), I will be officially done one third (one semester out of three) of this graduate degree. Oh, how time flies.

As Janice just noted, "It was our first and last Fall semester of grad school. We'll never have a Fall semester at Queen's again!" Oh Janice, how wise of you.

So how was my first semester at Queen's as a graduate student? It seems just like yesterday that I was blogging about my first week of classes. And yet here we are, three months later. It's funny how life works out. I like to think about the sequence of events like this....

If my 13-year old self hadn't attended the Gordon Graydon Memorial Secondary School information session ten years ago, I wouldn't have known about the IBT program, applied for the IBT program, was interviewed for the IBT program, and ultimately accepted into the IBT program.

If I hadn't spent four years in the IBT program, I wouldn't have met the three most influential teachers I've ever had in my life. If I hadn't enrolled in the IBT program, I wouldn't have taken an Introduction to Law course with Mr. Mike Ford (RIP), which was one of the defining moments of my high school career.

If I hadn't taken Introduction to Law, I wouldn't have participated in Graydon's provincial mock trials and debates.

If I hadn't been encouraged to participate in mock trials, I wouldn't have realized (so soon) that I had an interest in (logically arguing?) attending law school.

If I didn't have (such an early interest) in attending law school, I wouldn't have started looking into Political Science programs at Ontario universities.

If I wasn't interested in studying Political Science in high school, I would have chosen a Journalism program and would have obtained a (professional) undergraduate degree elsewhere. I wouldn't have attended UofT.

If I hadn't attended UofT, I wouldn't have met the most incredible professors that fundamentally shaped my academic career and research interests. If I hadn't met these incredible professors (read about one here and the other here), I wouldn't have taken the fourth year Constitutional Law course that ended up being the highlight of my undergraduate experience.

If I hadn't studied with these particular professors (who were the most encouraging individuals I have ever met in an academic setting. Who says UofT sucks?), I wouldn't have considered obtaining a Masters degree before law school.

If I hadn't considered obtaining a Master's degree before law school, I wouldn't have taken a look at the program at Queen's University.

If I hadn't researched Masters programs at Queen's (the London School of Economics, Western, etc.), I wouldn't have applied and wouldn't have been eventually accepted at these schools.

If I hadn't accepted my offer from Queen's, I wouldn't have moved to Kingston this past September (and I wouldn't have started this blog! What!).

If I hadn't moved to Kingston, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of taking some awesome courses in the Fall semester of my Master's program. I wouldn't have taken a course that pretty much shifted my research interests away from Comparative Politics towards a more Canadian Politics focus (Oh, Canada). I wouldn't have realized how much I enjoyed reading about and researching the dynamics of political parties. I wouldn't have had the pleasure of realizing how much I enjoy research the politics of multi-level states and the implications of federalism in Canada.

In short? As this Fall semester comes to an end, I can honestly say that I have no regrets, my friends. My first semester here at Queen's was everything I imagined it would be. Actually, it was more. I've taken some wonderful classes, taught a great group of students as a TA, met some incredible friends, and had the pleasure of living in a city that I've grown to love.

One semester down, two to go! Here's hoping next semester is just as great!

“To be yourself, in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
- Albert Einstein

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Merits of Female Competition - Another Defense

Dear friends, I don't know if it's the stressful exam season triggering an inclination to write another passive aggressive blog post. And yet, here we are. And here I am, about to embark on my first semi-feminist rant. Ready?

On Saturday evening, I went out with several members of my dodgeball team to play laser tag. Fun, right? Actually, overall, playing laser tag was fantastically fun. I hadn't played laser tag in years, and I had a great time (minus the incidents below). Plus, I wanted to pretend I was pseudo-Robin a la How I Met Your Mother the first time she plays laser tag with Barney. What? I love that show.

Anyway, my dodgeball friends had invited a couple of male friends I didn't know. Once we were ready to play, we had to divide ourselves into two teams. But we had a problem. An insurmountable amount of guys showed up, but there were only 3 of us girls. Not a problem right? We didn't have to play guys vs. girls. And so we attempted to divide ourselves up into two teams, regardless of gender. Yet an exchange with one of the guys I didn't know irked me.

I was donning a Blue Team vest, as did the 2 other girls, when the guy noticed the team colour we belonged to. He paused, then hurriedly took off the Blue Team vest he was already wearing. "Why are you switching?" I asked casually. "Oh, I don't want to be on the same team as you guys. I actually want to win, and I won't if I'm on a team with girls in it," he replied with genuine honesty.

What? What now? I realize that it's common to joke about sports that males are potentially "better at" than females. But his statement wasn't a joke. He honestly believed that female team members would bring his team down. Frankly, I was quite ready to throw courtesy to the wind so I could reach over and smack him. That was downright mean.

And so as the night went on, we were shot plenty of times. Female weaklings are targets to gain points, didn't you know? However, in our defense, I doubt our (lack of) laser tag skill was a result of weak physical ability or competitive merit. Perhaps it's because I haven't played laser tag since elementary school? Versus guys who play it all the time? Who says I can't learn how to shoot a gun? I read for a living. But it doesn't mean I don't have the capability to learn or the capacity to be competitive at a particular activity or sport.

I overheard these snide comments throughout the night by the same particular guys. At one point, he asked me what program I was in, laughing that I was "probably in the Arts." Um. What's wrong with the Arts? Or Social Sciences? Are we equating academic disciplines with gender? And no, I'm in Politics. And you? Oh, you're in Engineering? Do me a favour? Could you build a bridge and jump?

The merits of female competition shouldn't be gaged simply by the clothes you wear, and the type of girl you're assessed to be. Nor should your competitive merit be based on your gender or the capabilities (or lack thereof) associated with your gender. Am I overreacting here? Because, dear friends, you have no idea how annoyed I was at those particular comments. Actually, I'm still annoyed. And it saddens me that there are still a number of individuals who inadvertently underestimate how capable women can be at a number of activities. And you wonder why women aren't in politics as much as we hope?

Overall, it was still a fun night. And I will take this opportunity to admit how much I absolutely love my dodgeball team. I'm grateful that my team has never discriminated against female team members, and have always had faith in our capabilities. I absolutely adore every single one of my teammates.

And so, friends, what can we take from this? Women can be just as capable at winning laser tag. Remember that.

"We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders."
- Maya Angelou

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

I have an exam tomorrow. And yet, I am blogging. Because I have my priorities straight.

And so behold, dear readers, is an ode to my excitement about the holiday season.

I can't even convey in words how excited I am about the holidays. Family reunions? Family dinners? Going home to Mississauga/Toronto for three whole weeks? Reuniting with friends? Celebrating in Kingston after exams? I am so, so excited, I can hardly contain it (insert 20 exclamation marks here).

But there's a downside to all this (holiday) excitement. Unfortunately, I have an exam tomorrow. And yet I can't focus. My mind is clearly elsewhere. Dear face, meet my palm.

Tory, Belinda, and I sat at Starbucks for hours this afternoon, attempting to study for our exam (Macro-Political Regulation of Ethnic Conflict. Exciting, right?). And yet our conversations weren't centered on the benefits of consociationalism (yes, I really did just mention Arend Lijphart on my blog. What's up?). Instead, the hours were spent seriously discussing the merits of short sleeve or long sleeve dresses for a Christmas party we're attending. Or the direction we should walk on Princess Street to maximize the number of stores we can visit for our shopping date on Friday.

Really, who could blame us? Santa Baby was blaring in the background at Starbucks all afternoon. (Along with Josh Groban, but that's another story).

This holiday excitement is both a benefit and a detriment. There's just so much to look forward to! And plus, Kingston looks beautiful. Decked out in decorative splendor, the streets are flooded with lights, store windows with absolutely exquisite displays. Kingston's small-town charm is so incredibly picturesque, I can't wait to walk around town to take pictures. Honestly, I love the holiday season, simply for the environment, and the togetherness we experience with those we've grown to know and love.

Oh, this excitement. I'm too excited to do anything productive, and yet I know I have to. Lest I flunk out of grad school. Alright, friends, it's time to buckle down and focus. Let this blog post serve as a motivator to help us realize that working hard will allow us to enjoy the fruits of our labour after - time earned to relax and enjoy the holiday season in Kingston before we all go home for Christmas. There is so much (celebration) to look forward to!

So back to studying I go! I just have to get through the next 24 hours, study for this exam, and write it. Because tomorrow night's post-exam plan involves Christmas movies and dragging our professor out downtown for a ~celebratory drink~ or two (or ten, whatever works). (ETA: I just realized how highly inappropriate that sounds. I promise, it isn't! Let's pause while I giggle for a few minutes. Because I'm twelve).

And I promise, dear readers, after this exam, I will actually blog about something provocative and interesting (can someone say WikiLeaks?) No more grumblings over how much work I have to do (for now), I promise!

"There are many things in life that will catch your eye. But only a few will catch your heart."
- Ben Crenshaw