Archive for December, 2005

Saturday December 31, 2005

December 31, 2005 - 11:30 pm 2 Comments

“Simplicity of character is a result of profound thought.”

        Fortune Cookie opened at 2:42 pm at “Hunan Champion” (a misnomer, actually. The restaurant serves almost exclusively Taiwanese cuisine.)

The joy of being home is truly wondrous. Despite the fact that my days pass in simple fashion, nothing bests the redivivus happiness of spending time with my family, not even thinking about any obligations or responsibilities I need to fulfill. Everyday, there is so much to look forward to – even the lazy days in which I wake up late and stay completely at home, not bothering to change out of my pajamas.

I’ve spent a good few hours playing Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” on GameCube. Despite the fact that game critics disparagingly lampooned the game for being “super easy”, Grace and I have been making somewhat poor progress, attributed to our poor skills at button mashing. Nevertheless, there is some form of monotonous satisfaction in repeated premonitions of doom…

My mother painted a gorgeous still-life of a fruit basket. Despite having not painted in over twenty years, my mother has retained her artistic skill, shaped by art lessons and natural talent. I am ecstatic that she chose to bequeath the painting to me – I will hang it in my dorm room for this upcoming semester! In addition, I myself have painted quite a bit – today, I created an abstract figure of a man with sad eyes.

One of these days, I should have an entry dedicated solely to food, but I’ve had too many culinary delights to record. A few days ago, my family and I went to this wonderful sushi place in Annandale, in which I sampled at least over thirty variations of some of the most exquisite, delicate creations imaginable! Of course, my mother has been pampering me with my favorite foods – we had homemade dumplings tonight, chicken curry yesterday (cooked by my dear sister Grace), my favorite eggplant and Thai basil dish a few days earlier, and hot pot perhaps a week ago.

I wish time could be suspended now, for it seems that whenever I am extremely content, I can only think of how quickly – inevitably – everything good must end.

[NOTE: For those who would like additional commentary on the theatre performances I attended, you can check out the “comments” section of my last post to read the commentary that my father laboriously created, rivaling my original post in length. Perhaps you can leave a “comment” on his comments]

HAPPY NEW YEAR. May all your pursuits be rewarded with auspicious ends. 

Thursday December 29, 2005

December 29, 2005 - 1:11 am 3 Comments

Too much has happened since the start of Winter Break. I figure it’s about time for another long, list-like xanga entry of all the events that have occurred in the past week. As expected, this year’s Christmas outshone the Christmases of the past, an indication of how I view my life. To me, there is no greater happiness than to live each day a little bit more meaningful than the day before.

In no chronological order, my family and I have pursued the following adventures (not in chronological order, simply the transient sequence of my memory’s recollection)

1.      Christmas Carol at the Ford’s Theatre on Christmas Eve – This makes the second year that we have gone. Same cast, same script…but somehow, each time, I discover a new magic in the words and meaning of the play. We had third row center tickets (and the people who sat in front of us were toddlers) – I could see every facial expression of the actors and actresses so clearly. More so than any other Christmas performance, the Christmas Carol evokes the strongest sentiment of holiday cheer. Although my father claims that Dickens glorifies the happiness of the poor (of course, I’ve provided a plethora of empirical evidence on the contrary for the purpose of discussion. Obviously, since Dickens is known for producing plays of mass-appeal, thus catering to the tastes of the working class, the happiness of the poor provides a form of welcomed social opiate), the play nevertheless highlights the most important elements of Christmas cheer and family unity.

2.      Les Miserables at the National Theatre on December 27th – Dark, powerful, and emotionally captivating, in the words of my father, Les Miserables captures the unbridled idealism of the romantic era. (In my opinion, such a claim remains disputable, as with almost everything my father says. Nevertheless, we have fun arguing such concepts) Almost twelve years after my initial encounter with this musical in my elementary school, in which every female school talent show contestant under the age of 10 attempted to sing “Castles in the Cloud”, I finally got to see this musical in the last year of its circulation. Moved (almost) to tears in many of the scenes, I experienced the passion of a revolutionary cause, sympathized with the unrequited love of Epinonine, and most importantly, empathized with the humanistic motivation of Jean Val-Jean to create a new identity after years of undeserved hardship, live mercifully with grace in absence of bitterness, and to do as much as he can to preserve the happiness of his daughter and those around him. Stunning music, vivid scenery, a perfect blend of dark drama and humor…Les Miserables well deserves its reputation for being one of the best. 

3.      Visiting the national and state Christmas trees in Washington DC (twice, actually) – After missing the Christmas tree display for the past eight years (quite ironic that we actually visited more when we lived in Connecticut than when we moved to Northern Virginia), I found it a delightful surprise that we had the leisure to visit twice this year! Unfortunately, I have quite high expectations for the national tree, and found the decorations quite insufficient. In fact, I recollect that the Christmas tree outside GE headquarters in Fairfield, CT outshone the rather plebian design of the national tree this year. Nevertheless, the opportunity to savor the time with family compensated for the faults of the tree. The state trees ranged from remarkably representative of state culture to quite horrendous. New Mexico wins my vote for the best – the small tree was adorned with Native American handicrafts, financed by a law firm. The Virginia tree had little ornaments shaped like the state, earning some marks for effort. Other trees demonstrated a clear lack of creativity and screamed “generic”. I admit, of course, that my high expectations perhaps clouded my final assessment.  

4.      Painting – I once claimed Lauren to be a true Marxist in the sense that she consistently engages in “spontaneous creation”, finding delight in the process of shaping a creative object (utility is not a consideration). Now I fall prey to the same human impetus. I’ve painted so many things in the past few days, straying away from my proclivity towards eyes and abstract art. In fact, I focused on painting more realistically. Though it takes a lot longer and does not tantalize my creative senses as much, there is a gratifying sense of accomplishment at the completion of my project. I’ve painted a Grecian horse on an unfinished jewelry box for my mother, a mural of a dragon flying in swirling clouds for my parents as a Christmas present, and an abstract face for Lauren’s Christmas present. (Pictures can be procured upon request). I am especially proud of the dragon mural – a collaborative effort of Grace and I, combining elements of realism and abstract art, painted on a large piece of smooth wood. Moreover, my mother is a very talented artist – together, we worked on our projects! After going to Home Depot and Michaels, we picked up supplies to fuel our creative penchant. When my mother finishes her still life, she intends to give it to me as a present, which I will proudly display in my dormitory at Penn.         

5.      Christmas Presents – I must confess my childish partiality towards the joy of tearing apart an intimidating volume of presents…This year’s highlight, however, was the act of giving my parents the mural Grace and I painted! I received a wonderful assortment of both useful and useless, but nevertheless exciting presents. My sister gave me a Naruto T-shirt, Christmas socks, and an adorable good-luck cat that waves under light. My mother went insane with presents…scarves, hats, hair turbans, body lotions, Pilates bands, weights, holiday satin bags (everything is individually wrapped to lengthen my wrapping-paper tearing joy). Santa gave me a “how to relax” book and the customary poem about my yearly pursuits – one of my most treasured Christmas gifts. As for gifts that I gave, I procured a variety of pickled vegetables from an Amish vendor at the Redding Terminal Market for my father. To justify my choice of gift, my father explicitly requested this present. (Though it is quite embarrassing to remember that on the day of purchase, I accidentally smashed one of the jars, blubbering my apologies and insisting on paying for the jar. The Amish vendor refused to accept any payment.) For my sister, I purchased a hand-crafted set of large painted butterflies that can be suspended and a wooden piggy bank, all made in Africa. Since I could find no gift suitable for my dearest mother, I made her the main recipient of the mural.  

6.      Movies, Dramas, Games, the like – As a family, we saw Narnia on Christmas Day, and was stunned not only by the special effects (not too unlike that of the Lord of the Rings), but by its faithfulness to the book and to the original sentiment of C.S. Lewis. This movie is certainly one of the best I’ve seen this year. Grace and I have also been splurging in our passive entertainments – from playing Super Monkey Ball to watching “My Name is Kim Sansoom” (a Korean Drama) and The Sword in the Stone, we’ve made every day a highly enjoyable one. 

7.      Home-made food – My mother, who loves me best, has showcased her culinary talents in preparing all my favorite dishes…to the point at which I look forward to every meal to an unimaginable degree! I’m learning how to make some of the dishes so that I will be able to survive on a smaller meal-plan next year. As much as I would like to list out in detail the succulent foods she has prepared, I am afraid that delineating the details would only make me hungry at this inconvenient time of night (1:10 AM). Perhaps next time!

Wednesday December 21, 2005

December 21, 2005 - 3:56 am 2 Comments

Finished my FINAL FINAL!
After a grueling two weeks, I can finally claim that for the most part, I came out unscathed. Of course, I’m nervous about accounting, especially since it would be such a shame if my final exam destroyed all the good grades I have kept in reserve through midterms and homework.

Tonight, Lauren and Xiling switched rooms. Despite the seemingly impossible task, I can proudly say…we SURVIVED.

Notable quotes from tonight:
Xiling: “Let’s light things up. Does anyone have matches?”
Lauren: (*in between bites of cereal*) “I have got to stop eating this.” (*takes another bite*) “It’s not even appetizing” (*takes another bite*)

Monday December 19, 2005

December 19, 2005 - 1:21 am 1 Comment

Accounting tomorrow. I’m quite afraid that poor execution, careless mistakes, and a cascade of wrong assumptions built off of one another will destroy my otherwise pristine grade. I won’t let it happen to me. Granted, I didn’t have as much time to study as I would have liked, but it seems as if the material is beginning to congeal in my brain.

Alas…I have until 6 pm tomorrow. I hope that gives me sufficient time.

Wednesday December 14, 2005

December 14, 2005 - 1:10 pm 1 Comment

Ahh…the start of the season of finals. I don’t think Christmas would be as sweet of a reprieve if it were not for these grueling standards of assessment…

GO GRACE =). Whatever the result, we will always be there for you! You did your best, and that’s all the matters!

As for me…Spanish paper (longer than what I expect to write in an English-based course), Finance, Statistics, Accounting, and Legal Studies. Not too bad, I suppose. I’ll just try my hardest, and see how things turn out.

Wednesday December 7, 2005

December 7, 2005 - 12:55 am 3 Comments

[Look at this conversation. It makes me sick. It seems that we lost the appeal for circumstances that are innately inane. I bet the attitude of the person below is quite common for almost all SAC recognized club representatives.]

[22:59] malady rancor: hey
[22:59] malady rancor: this is joyce
[22:59] malady rancor: you voted against DI today!

[00:42] XXXXXXXX: yeah i know
[00:43] XXXXXXXX: i figure the SAC board knew what they were doing
[00:43] malady rancor: that’s so idiotic.
[00:43] malady rancor: they obviously don’t
[00:43] XXXXXXXX: you can always get approved next time
[00:43] malady rancor: well, we lost our funding for te trip
[00:43] malady rancor: cause in order for us to get it
[00:43] malady rancor: we needed to get approved this semester
[00:44] XXXXXXXX: oh
[00:44] malady rancor: we got 3rd at worlds
[00:44] malady rancor: half of us has done DI for 10+ yeras
[00:44] malady rancor: it’s an INTERNATIONAL organization
[00:44] malady rancor: we don’t hold meetings in the fall obviously cause the competition is so far away
[00:44] malady rancor: and we shelled out 1000 each last year to compete
[00:44] malady rancor: we needed 8 votes to get approved
[00:45] malady rancor: i was really disappointed
[00:45] malady rancor: you have no idea
[00:45] XXXXXXXX: sorry
[00:45] malady rancor: i don’t understand why people just always follow w/o thinking
[00:46] XXXXXXXX: b/c half the people (including me) dont want to be there in the first place and so if we have to be there, we think as little as possible
[00:46] malady rancor: well, thanks a lot to the population like that
[00:46] malady rancor: we’re kind of screwed for this  year
[00:46] malady rancor: financially
[00:47] malady rancor: we needed the funding
[00:47] malady rancor: and we’re to osmall to get a corporate sponsorship
[00:47] malady rancor: and a bake sale isn’t enough money
[00:47] XXXXXXXX: well, was that clear to the sac board when you brought it up
[00:47] malady rancor: yes
[00:48] malady rancor: it just makes me angry. i hope you were an exception not the common example
[00:48] XXXXXXXX: sorry about that, i don’t really think when I vote during SAC meetings
[00:49] XXXXXXXX: if it helps, this was my last meeting cuz im stepping down to allow someone else to do it
[00:49] malady rancor: =(
[00:49] malady rancor: well, i bet you’re not te only one
[00:49] malady rancor: but i know you
[00:49] malady rancor: so i wanted to just talk to you about it
[00:49] malady rancor: cause you have no idea how disappointed we are
[00:49] malady rancor: and we’re way more legitimate than almost all the clubs that did get approved
[00:49] XXXXXXXX:  yeah, i cant feel your pain but im pretty sure its damn serious
[00:50] XXXXXXXX: just to let you know, ANY appeal against SAC prob. will not work, its just how it is
[00:50] malady rancor: that’s such a horrible attitude, though
[00:50] XXXXXXXX: in OCT. we had the President of the debate team appealing for a bit of money and got rejected
[00:50] malady rancor: cause that means the stupid status quo will always be stuck
[00:50] malady rancor: well, they had bad arguments
[00:50] malady rancor: quake got approved
[00:51] XXXXXXXX: yeah, that was a mistake
[00:51] malady rancor: if someone holds a vote
[00:51] malady rancor: then they should be responsible
[00:51] malady rancor: esp since the future of other people are on the line
[00:51] malady rancor: what is sac did something totally wrong?
[00:51] malady rancor: are you complacent enough to just sit there?
[00:52] XXXXXXXX: good thing for me, i wont have to worry about it, but in most cases, yes i would just sit there b/c its shit i dont want to stress over, i got other stuff to take care of
[00:52] XXXXXXXX: if you really have an issue with SAC, run for exec board once you get approved(which you will)
[00:53] XXXXXXXX: then you can faciliate change from the top down
[00:57] malady rancor: well, obviously changing sac wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the people who comprised its members were a lot more accountable
[00:57] malady rancor: i apologize for venting on you
[00:57] malady rancor: but we only needed 8 votes
[00:57] malady rancor: and i knew so many of people in the audience
[00:57] malady rancor: who could hvae really made a difference
[00:57] XXXXXXXX: have you tried faculty sponsorship?
[00:57] malady rancor: we’ll try everything that we can
[00:58] malady rancor: but it’s just so much harder now
[00:58] malady rancor: i mean, i love DI so i will do just about anything
[00:58] malady rancor: but SAC recognition lends us the legitimacy we need to appeal
[00:58] XXXXXXXX: true
[00:59] XXXXXXXX: hey, i have an early class so i have to go to sleep, sorry for any frustration i caused
[00:59] malady rancor: no hard feelings
[00:59] malady rancor: but i just wanted to make it clear
[00:59] XXXXXXXX: yeah, no hard feelings,
[00:59] XXXXXXXX: see you later

Tuesday December 6, 2005

December 6, 2005 - 11:25 pm 1 Comment

Tragedy struck…I am truly very indignant and angry. I haven’t felt this way in at least a few years.

Tonight’s heated battle with the Student Activities Council (SAC) ended with a devastating loss. Our appeal for SAC recognition for Destination Imagination ended 33-48. If we had garnered only 8 more votes, we would have been approved! Although I’ve been told that nearly none of the appealing clubs ever pass (all the representatives of the clubs are sycophantic followers of SAC executive board recommendations) and that we were one of the closest, this small concession does not mitigate my deep indignation.

After this episode, I have no respect for SAC whatsoever. Their only reason for rejecting formal recognition of DI was that we were not “sustainable”, meaning that they expected DI to dissolve quickly. In my two minute appeal speech, I gave the following persuasive arguments:

  1. We have over 40+ members on our list-serv who have expressed genuine interest in competing in global finals. This large base of people means that DI is unlikely to suddenly disappear. In fact, many students view DI (formerly Odyssey of the Mind) fondly as a program that they are intimately familiar with through past participation in elementary and middle school. As a result, there is a huge interest on campus.
  1. We have a core group of board members, some of which competed last year and some who have been in DI for 10+ years who will continue to promote DI, regardless of the circumstances. The commitment of these individuals will ensure that DI is a program that lasts at Penn.
  1. We competed under Upenn’s name at Global Finals last year and got 3rd place, and intend to compete again this year. We deserve formal recognition for all that we have done. Last year’s performance is a strong indication that DI is not just a passing fad. In fact, UPenn lags behind other universities for its failure to recognize DI.
  1. DI is one of the largest, fastest growing, and most recognized international programs in the world. Especially compared to the average SAC recognized club (EX: XX culture club – we hold “dinners”), DI has exponentially greater legitimacy and impact. As a team-based creative problem solving program that appeals to engineers to theatre people, DI is an universally adulated club.

SAC countered by saying that we don’t really hold meetings, we don’t have a large membership base, and are not truly “active”. I gave the following persuasive arguments.

  1. The best DI chapters have focused teams. It’s not our intention to build up a huge list-serv, but rather, to get our members deeply involved. Due to the nature of the competition, we expect our core group of members to be active and follow through. A large membership base is not the right criterion to prove “sustainability”
  1. The Global Finals competition is in the spring; hence, there is no reason to meet in the fall. Moreover, our volunteer activities of judging in high school, middle school, and elementary school competitions also take place in the spring. Thus, we need SAC funding now to finance and prepare for those events.
  1. Since competing in Global Finals necessitates a rather substantial financial obligation, students are deterred from committing fully to the club. Hence, we need SAC funding to enable interested students to go to the tournament in Kentucky, which may cost up to $1000. In short, we need funding early so that students can make the commitment to compete in internationals, and thus enable us to set up teams. Once again, winning the Global Finals competition is prestigious to Penn – hence, Penn should finance us for our triumph.

As the president of SAC himself mentioned during the executive board meeting, the last point creates a “catch 22”.  I pointed out during my short speech that SAC gleefully creates this difficult situation for student clubs. Instead of being accommodating and recognizing the true worth of a club (come on…there are some rather ridiculous clubs out there which don’t do anything substantial), they judge on vague, inflexible criteria.

I AM SO MAD. I seriously feel as if I can just kill something. ARRRRRGGGHHHHH!!! I find it absolutely disgusting that SAC is this bureaucratic monstrosity absolutely irresponsive to legitimate student concerns. I find it horrific that SAC would create a catch 22 and acknowledge it happily.

Sure…I made a spectacle of myself. Perhaps the accusation that SAC creates the “catch 22” gleefully was a bit out of place, but I will fight to the end for this club.

You watch out, SAC.


Saturday December 3, 2005

December 3, 2005 - 12:35 am 3 Comments

Joyce Meng’s week in review:

Monday – I morosely arrived at Penn at approximately 11 AM after a fantastically decadent Thanksgiving Break. Frantically scurrying around in preparation for Tuesday’s Wharton Asian Exchange Professional Event, I performed a spectacular example of manic flyering. Afterwards, I went to the Global Interdependence Center for approximately three hours, where I wrote an organizational strategy guide for the board of directors. On my short walk to GIC, I accidentally discovered the hidden docking base of the oft-adulated food trucks.

Tuesday – After almost two weeks of biting my nails, the WAX event passed successfully with approximately 58 attendees at the max. The eminent Mr. Kenneth Wong of SmithWong Associates (a China Consulting firm), despite bearing an obvious affiliation with President Bush as director of the Asian American and Pacific Islander commission, was a dynamic, charismatic speaker who did not disappoint. The professor, however…After the event, some of the MBA attendees, deeming our society to be a potential worthy partner, turned on the “networking charm”. Since it was my first experience feeling the effect full blast, I honestly question the lavish use of undeserved compliments as a means to win affection. Quite scary, actually.  

Wednesday – I let go of constraint in legal studies, and ended up starting a debate with the student presenter over the social contract applications related to the moral responsibility of corporations to provide countries with a necessary public good in the instance of an emergency. In my opinion, the use of “business citizenship” implies a long-term relationship with the host country, and thus implies a moral obligation to provide aid in both long and short term emergencies. Evidently, he didn’t think so. The debate got so heated that even after class ended, no one dared move from their seat. As a result, the class ended almost thirty minutes later, when a fellow classmate made the clichéd comment of “agreeing to disagree”. Overall, I think the professor was pleased…

The debate meeting was the best in the school year – call me somewhat abnormal, but debate meetings are generally the highlight of my week, in which I can just immerse myself completely into the issue at hand. We brainstormed arguments against the ludicrous Lafayette case, summarized below:

Afghan warlord control has been financed largely by poppy production by poor farmers. If the United States buys up the poppies from the farmers and removes the existent policy of eradication, then the warlords would lose power, the farmers would get more money, and the poppies can be sold to pharmaceutical companies to create pain killers. Thus, human rights are protected on all sides.

Quite horrible, isn’t it? In terms of logic and reasoning, our team is superior – unfortunately, we don’t have tubs of evidence. Seriously, why should an empty quotation that says something like, “buying poppies will lead to world peace” trump our careful economic analysis?

Thursday – Stat quiz and finance problem set passed peacefully. At 7.30 pm, I went to the Globe Theatre’s Measure for Measure performance, featured on NPR! Straight from London, the troupe was amazing at recreating the original flavor of Shakespeare productions, and I had the great fortune of obtaining very good seats at a highly discounted price. Overall, Measure for Measure presented an amusing debacle of a meddling Duke and hypocritical authoritarian figures, replete with complex misunderstandings and bawdy humor. To be frank, however, I found the men playing the female roles to be somewhat disconcerting, especially since the main female character was played by a man who distinctly emanated the aura of Ernest! (The same facial structure, creepiness, method of movement, odd manner of speech, and tendency towards cross-dressing) The villainous Angelo powerfully commanded the stage, while the idiosyncratic mannerisms of the generally soft-spoken Duke and the flamboyant antics of the comedic Lucio made the comedy shine through.

Friday – A more or less typical day, comprised of the following chronological events. Accounting recitation, work at the Global Interdependence Center, an unfruitful visit to the career services counselor and sophomore internship seminar, and ice hockey practice.

Next week is the last week of school! With renewed vigor, I am eager to study!